GAME NOTES: The Iowa Hawkeyes will look to keep a four-game winning streak going when they host the Michigan State Spartans in a Big Ten showdown at Kinnick Stadium.
After riding strong defensive efforts to a 3-0 start, the Spartans stumbled for the first time two weeks ago against Notre Dame, falling 17-13. Michigan State had a bye week following the setback, giving it an extra week to get ready for its Big Ten schedule. The Spartans went just 3-5 in league play last season.
As for Iowa, after falling 30-27 to Northern Illinois to start the season, things have been going rather well. A 23-7 victory over Minnesota in the Big Ten opener was the fourth straight win for the Hawkeyes, who are 4-1 overall. Iowa won only four games all of last season and just two in league play.
The Hawkeyes have won seven of the last eight matchups with Michigan State at Kinnick Stadium, although the loss came in the most recent meeting. Last season Iowa won, 19-16, in overtime to increase its all time series lead to 23-19-2.
Aside from the offensive eruption it had in a 55-17 win over FCS foe Youngstown State, Michigan State has been a very weak offensive squad. The Spartans have put up less than 300 yards of total offense in their other three games and are averaging just 4.7 yards per play.
It is difficult to find any offensive success when the play at quarterback has been so poor. Andrew Maxwell began the year as the starter but lost the job to Connor Cook. Cook hasn't fared much better, completing just 53.1 percent of his pass attempts for 411 yards, although he has tossed five touchdowns and has not been intercepted.
The running game hasn't been spectacular but it has been reliable for the Spartans, who are rushing for more than 180 yards per game as a team. Jeremy Langford (58 carries, 268 yards, four TDs) is a solid downhill runner, while Nick Hill (38 carries, 231 yards, TD) is more of a threat to break off big runs, though he had just 34 yards against Notre Dame.
As far as receivers go, Macgarrett Kings (13 receptions, 136 yards, two TDs) and Aaron Burbridge (12 receptions, 100 yards) are the only players on the roster to have more than 10 catches. Bennie Fowler (eight receptions, 112 yards, TD) is the only other player with more than 100 yards.
What can save Michigan State from spiraling into the cellar of the Big Ten is its defense. The Spartans are allowing just 188.8 yards of total offense per game, which is by far the best mark in the country. In fact Michigan State is the only team in the nation limiting foes to less than 200 yards per game.
Denicos Allen (24 tackles, 2.0 sacks) is tied for the team lead in tackles and sacks, while Kurtis Drummond (24 tackles, INT) and Shilique Calhoun (4.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, INT) have been extremely versatile.
Iowa is producing at a much higher rate on the offensive side of the ball. Iowa is averaging 447.4 yards and 32.8 points per game. However, both marks still rank in the bottom half of the potent Big Ten.
The offense hinges on the success of the ground game. The Hawkeyes have rushed for 1,222 yards as a team, while managing 1,015 through the air. Mark Weisman is the catalyst for the running game with a team-high 615 yards on 119 carries. Weisman leads the league in rushing attempts by 40 and has a capable backup in Damon Bullock (250 yards).
Quarterback Jake Rudock has completed 61.7 percent of his pass attempts for 961yards and six touchdowns, while being intercepted four times. Rudock has also scored a team-high five touchdowns on the ground.
There hasn't been much spreading of the wealth by Rudock, as Kevonte Martin- Manley has team-highs in receptions (26) and yards (225). No other player has more than eight receptions or 85 yards.
Iowa can certainly hold its own on defense as well. Through the first five games the Hawkeyes are limiting their opponents to 15 points per game, while ranking second in the conference in total defense (265.6 ypg).
Anthony Hitchens is the player to watch with a team high 47 tackles, including 4.5 for loss. B.J. Lowery (21 tackles, three INTs) and James Morris (31 tackles, 4.0 TFL, two INTs) are also dangerous playmakers.
This promises to be a low-scoring defensive battle as the two best defensive squads in the Big Ten square off. Thus far Michigan State has been the superior defensive squad, but at home the Hawkeyes will be difficult to deal with.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa 14, Michigan State 13
10/02 10:38:42 ET
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