Posted: 10/13/2012 8:05:32 AM
FACTS & STATS: Site: Spartan Stadium (75,005) -- East Lansing, Michigan. Television: ESPN, ESPN2, Big Ten Network. Home Record: Iowa 2-2, MSU 2-2. Away Record: Iowa 0-0, MSU 2-0. Neutral Record: Iowa 0-1, MSU 0-0. Conference Record: Iowa 1-0, MSU 1-1. Series Record: Iowa leads, 22-19-2.
GAME NOTES: Big Ten Conference rivals square off in East Lansing on Saturday afternoon, as the Michigan State Spartans play host to the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Iowa has alternated wins and losses this season, and the team is coming off a 31-13 win over Minnesota in its conference opener on Sept. 29. This is the Hawkeyes' first true road game, and they went just 1-4 away from home last year. The next win for Kirk Ferentz will be his 100th as Iowa's head coach.
After opening the season 2-0, Michigan State climbed to No. 10 in the nation, but following a pair of losses to Notre Dame (20-3) and Ohio State (17-16), it has been dropped from the Top-25. The Spartans were down by as many as 17 points last week on the road to Indiana, but they managed to score two unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull off a 31-27 victory.
These two squads have been well-matched over the years, with Iowa holding a slim 22-19-2 advantage in the all-time series. The home team has won 11 of the last 13 bouts.
The Iowa offense has been mediocre at best this season, putting up 22.6 ppg while scoring touchdowns on less than half of its visits to the red zone (8- of-17), although they are coming off a pair of 31-point performances.
Mark Weisman has been a beast in the backfield since taking over for the injured Damon Bullock. Weisman has 515 yards and seven touchdowns on 74 carries, and all but eight of those yards have come over the last three weeks. The prevailing thought is that when Bullock (65 carries, 280 yards, TD) returns, Weisman has earned at least a share of the touches in the backfield.
While certainly not flashy, James Vanderberg has been steady under center, completing 58.5 percent of his passes for 1,000 yards with only a pair of interceptions, but he has thrown just two touchdown passes.
Keenan Davis is the leading receiver with 26 catches for 308 yards, but it's Kevonte Martin-Manley (221 yards) and Jordan Cotton (101 yards) who have caught Vanderberg's scoring strikes.
The Iowa defense has been stellar, allowing an average of only 17.4 ppg, and it held Minnesota to fewer than 300 yards the last time out.
Anthony Hitchens has a team-high 63 tackles and Joe Gaglione has 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. The Hawkeyes have intercepted six passes this season, including a pick-six from Christian Kirksey in the Minnesota game.
The Michigan State offense (21.8 ppg, 389 ypg) boasts one of the nation's most complete running backs in Le'Veon Bell.
Bell has carried the ball 171 times for 776 yards, sixth-most in the country, and he has scored seven touchdowns. He's also a threat as a receiver, hauling in 23 passes, second-most on the team. Bell is a true feature back, as no other player on the team has more than 16 carries.
Andrew Maxwell has been shaky at times, completing fewer than 57 percent of his passes for 1,428 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. He is coming off a career-best 290 yards against Indiana however, tossing two scores and no picks.
Dion Sims leads the Spartans in all major receiving categories (24 receptions, 313 yards, two TDs). Freshman Aaron Burbridge broke out in the Indiana game with eight catches for 134 yards, the most yards for an MSU freshman since 2004.
Although the offense hasn't been as strong as advertised, the defense has picked up a lot of the slack (15.2 ppg, 272.3 ypg). The unit has stepped up when the team has needed it the most, holding opponents to just 28 percent on third downs while allowing touchdowns on just 5-of-13 trips to the red zone.
Max Bullough has a team-high 47 tackles and he has also recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Kurtis Drummond has accounted for two of the team's nine turnovers with an interception and a fumble recovery.
Iowa has been a Jekyll and Hyde performer so far, and playing in front of a hostile crowd at Spartan Stadium will be its biggest challenge yet. MSU has dropped a couple of difficult matchups against highly-ranked teams this year, but it should have no problem dismissing the Hawkeyes in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 34, Iowa 20