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Week 5 Game Preview: Iowa vs. Michigan State

Big Ten Championship Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Is it just me, or does it seem hard to believe that it is already Week 5 of the college football season?

Regardless, it is indeed Week 5, and the Michigan State Spartans are gearing up to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes at Spartan Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

This will be the first meeting between the two schools since the 2015 Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis — where LJ Scott’s strong effort to stretch the ball across the goal line (and ability to actually hold onto the football) won the game for the Spartans with less than 30 seconds left on the clock. The Michigan State defense then forced and recovered a fumble to ice the game.

But it’s now a new year and a new week. This is the first conference game of the year for the Spartans, and second for the Hawkeyes, so let’s preview the contest and determine expectations for tomorrow afternoon’s game.

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
Record — 2-1, (0-0 Big Ten)
Offense — 472.7 total yards per game, 252 passing yards per game, 220.7 rushing yards per game, 27 points per game
Defense — 254 yards allowed per game, 132.3 passing yards allowed per game, 121.7 rushing yards allowed per game, 20.7 points allowed per game

Record — 3-1 (0-1 Big Ten)
Offense — 367 total yards per game, 211.5 passing yards per game, 155.5 rushing yards per game, 29.5 points per game
Defense — 396 yards allowed per game, 249.5 passing yards allowed per game, 146.5 rushing yards allowed per game, 19.8 points allowed per game

Quick takeaways: Michigan State has significantly out-gained Iowa at every facet on offense — total yards, passing yards and rushing yards — and is averaging 105 yards more of total offense per game. The Spartans also have the advantage on each defensive yardage category. Iowa’s advantage comes from the scoring aspect, as the Hawkeyes’ offense is currently averaging more points per game and the defense is allowing its opponents to score less points against them than the Spartans.

Series History

All-time record: Iowa leads 23-21-2

Last Spartans win: Dec. 5, 2015 (16-13)

Last Hawkeyes win: Oct. 13, 2012 (19-16)

Current Streak: Spartans have won the previous two meetings

Biggest Spartans win: 56-7 (Nov. 5, 1966)

Biggest Hawkeyes win: 41-0 (Nov. 22, 1980)

Longest winning streak: Five-straight wins for Iowa from 1979-1983

Interesting takeaways: This is the first regular season matchup since 2013. The Spartans have won two in a row counting the postseason game, three out of four overall and two of the last three in the regular season. Dating back to 2007, the two programs have split the last eight games with four wins a piece. It has been a closely contested series with more than half of the matchups since 2000 being decided by seven points or less. Iowa holds a two-game edge overall.

Last week’s matchups

Michigan State: Lost 38-18 to Notre Dame at home. Turnovers and penalties were the story of the game. The Spartans had three devastating turnovers, including a pick-six and a fumble by LJ Scott right before he was about to cross the goal line. The Spartans also committed nine penalties for 97 yards. Michigan State out-gained Notre Dame 496 yards to 355 yards, and easily controlled the time of possession, but the Fighting Irish capitalized on Sparty’s mistakes. MSU will have to be more disciplined, hold onto to the football and covert long drives into scores if they plan to beat Iowa this weekend.

Iowa: Lost to Penn State 21-19. I wrote earlier in the week about how Michigan State cannot let the Notre Dame loss linger and hinder the week of practice or the game against Iowa. However, Iowa is in the same boat here. The Hawkeyes lost a heartbreaker to a top-five team in the nation as Penn State’s Trace McSorley threw a touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson on the last play of the game. The Penn State offense had its way with the Iowa defense, though, racking up 579 yards. Iowa will need a much better game defensively against Michigan State, or the Spartans will shred them apart and easily move the ball.

Key Players

Michigan State:
Brian Lewerke: 138 QB rating, 751 passing yards, 63 percent completion rate, six TDs, two INTs, 206 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns
LJ Scott: 44 rushes, 186 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, one TD, five catches for 29 yards and one receiving TD
Darrell Stewart Jr: 15 catches, 159 yards, one TD, eight rushes for 100 yards
Joe Bachie: 25 tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss
Josiah Scott: 2.8 passer rating allowed (per Pro Football Focus), three tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, three passes defended, one INT

Nathan Stanley: 164.4 QB rating, 846 passing yards, 61 percent completion rate, 12 TDs, one INT
Akrum Wadley: 79 rushes, 338 yards, 4.3 yards per carry, two TDs, 10 catches for 227 yards and two receiving TDs
Nick Easley: 18 catches, 189 yards, three TDs
Josey Jewell 44 tackles (leads Big Ten), 5.5 tackle for loss, two sacks
Joshua Jackson: 13 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, seven passes defended (leads Big Ten), two INTs (tied for most in Big Ten)

Game Info

Time: 4:00 p.m. EST

TV Channel: Fox

Location: Spartan Stadium

Weather expectations: 66 degrees fahrenheit, sunny

Odds: Michigan State -4.5

Over/Under: 44


Both teams are coming off of major disappointments. Whichever team is able to put that behind them and bounce back will win this game. Based off of the history, we can probably expect a low-scoring, close game. While Iowa has struggled overall on defense in terms of yards allowed, the unit has been a bunch of ballhawks. Jewell and Jackson have been great playmakers for the Hawkeyes and Iowa ranks third in the conference with five interceptions. The Hawkeyes have also forced five fumbles and recovered two.

The Spartans must learn how to make better decisions and not turn the ball over. I expect the Spartans to attack Iowa’s suspect defense, but have to be careful and get more creative with the play calls. I marked this game down as a loss for the Spartans in the preseason, but after last week’s debacle I expect laser focus and execution from a Mark Dantonio-coached team. I believe the Spartans will win this game. It will be a close battle throughout halftime, and then the Spartans will take the lead in the second half and never look back. Michigan State by 10.


OK, enough rambling from me. Who wins this game? Let us know in the poll below.


Who wins this contest?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Iowa, close
    (69 votes)
  • 20%
    Iowa, easily
    (53 votes)
  • 47%
    Michigan State, close
    (125 votes)
  • 5%
    Michigan State, easily
    (15 votes)
262 votes total Vote Now