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The 3-2-1 Preview: 3 Things We Want To See, 2 Key Stats and 1 Best Bet for MSU vs. Iowa

This one could be grimy in Iowa City

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Well gang, what a year.

And, of course, I’m strictly talking about the two games to start this season. Nothing else.

Let’s just dive straight into this.

Hawkeyes. Spartans. Noon. CATCH THE FEVER.

3 Things We Want To See

A decent run game

This applies on a micro level with this game and also a macro level for the rest of the season. The run game so far this season hasn’t been earth-shattering, to say the least. A nightmare run game against Rutgers was followed up with a decent-at-best game against Michigan with 126 yards on 38 attempts.

For this specific game, MSU is going to need a solid run game but that is WILDLY easier said than done. After two games, Iowa is amongst the best in the nation at stopping the run, allowing just 2.8 yards per carry. Iowa’s defense is also the epitome of “bend don’t break” as they’ll keep the game in front of them with their zone defense and 4-2-5 look. Basically, what I’m saying is, don’t expect ~55 home run balls like we did last week.

This game will be grimy. There won’t be a ton of big plays. It will be a tougher game in the passing department than last week, and the run game needs to simply be there on Saturday.

And beyond Saturday? Well, if there’s one thing headlining the wish list after two games it’s probably “a better run game.” Let’s see if MSU can get another uptick in improvement against a very stout run defense.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Kalon Gervin and Chris Jackson still rolling

Loved the improvement we saw from those two guys last week after an iffy Rutgers contest. They each had great moments against the Wolverines (who MSU beat 27-24, let’s not forget). Can we get back-to-back weeks of solid play from them, signaling that there could be consistency there the rest of the season? WOULDN’T THAT BE GREAT??

Iowa will be missing Ihmir Smith-Marsette after he got caught trying to qualify for Formula 1 in a 30 mph zone, but the Hawkeyes still have Brandon Smith, Tyrone Tracy and Nico Ragaini as a nice, well-rounded receiver corps to keep tabs on.

Aggressive decision making

We saw aggressive play calling, maybe to a fault (although I liked it), in Week One against Rutgers when MSU went for it on fourth-and-two instead of kicking the field goal when it was an eight-point game.

Last week they had some moments of aggression, but at the end of the first half they waved the white flag (three straight runs when it was made first-and-20 on their own 15-yard-line) when I think they should have tried at least one more downfield shot.

The 40-yard field goal on fourth-and-two at the Michigan 23-yard-line in efforts to make it a six-point game didn’t seem to make sense to me either. You’re on the road as an underdog playing with house money — make it your moment. Another field goal to make it six points really wouldn’t have changed much.

So, maybe it’s just me, but I would love to see more aggression with the decision making and play-calling. This season is a “nothing to lose” year anyway — let’s get nuts and start acting like it again.

2 Key Stats

2.2 percent

That’s the sack rate that Iowa’s offensive line has allowed this year, good for seventh in the country (kind of odd to look at a ranking when some teams have played two games and others have played seven, but these are the times).

Make no mistake — Naquan Jones, Drew Beesley and Jacub Panasiuk have highlighted a pretty impressive defensive line to start the season. But this will be a pretty big test coming off of a pretty damn good outing against Michigan.

38.8 percent (and 38 percent)

All right, this is going to take a quick second of explaining, but this is an “advanced” stat easy enough for a dummy like me to understand, so you guys will definitely get it.

So, 38.8 percent is the opportunity rate that Iowa’s defensive line is allowing. Opportunity rate is the percentage of runs that go at least four yards (provided there are four yards of field to gain, that is).

That said, 38.8 percent is pretty solid — good enough for No. 10 in the country. So yeah, Iowa’s defensive front is strong against the run and for a Spartan team that’s just getting 2.3 yards per attempt so far this young season, that’ll be a challenge.

Now, really quick, what’s that 38 percent? WELL BOY HOWDY, THAT’S MICHIGAN STATE’S DEFENSIVE LINE’S OPPORTUNITY RATE. Good for seventh in the nation. The boys in green got a great defensive front too so far.

1 Best Bet

MSU +6.5, over/under 46

GAHHHHH ONE POINT AWAY FROM CASHING “OVER 52” LAST WEEK, but hey man I won’t be complaining about that game’s result at all.

Anyway, we are at a sizzling 0-2 to start the year. The cream has got to rise to the top eventually, right?

Folks, I hate this line and think it’s wildly suspicious. It stinks out loud. There’s no way 0-2 Iowa should be favored this game against a MSU team coming off a great win. AND FOLKS, WHEN A VEGAS LINE STINKS OUT LOUD, YOU JUST TRUST THEM.

So I’m taking Iowa. I would be thrilled to be wrong this time and move to 0-3. But I’m taking Iowa.

Pick: Iowa -6.5

Record: 0-2


What is your best bet for MSU vs. Iowa?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    MSU +6.5
    (56 votes)
  • 10%
    Iowa -6.5
    (16 votes)
  • 4%
    Over 46
    (7 votes)
  • 46%
    Under 46
    (69 votes)
148 votes total Vote Now