The Iowa/Penn State game last weekend featured just about any kind of emotion you could think of. Unfortunately, it ended in gut-wrenching heartache for us Iowa fans. I was at the game and I can confidently say that in the 20 years I’ve been attending Iowa football games, I have never seen a player as talented as Saquon Barkley. If that dude is not in New York holding the Heisman Trophy come December, the FBI needs to look into that after they’re done with all this college basketball mess! Barkley was truly a man amongst boys out there and I cannot wait to draft him for my fantasy team next fall. It was a tough loss, but hopefully it will give Iowa confidence moving forward that they can play with the big boys and compete for the Big 10 West title. Next up…..Sparty.
Iowa travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State at 3pm on Saturday afternoon. It’s Iowa’s first trip to East Lansing since 2012, and their first meeting since the slobber-knocker that was the 2015 Big 10 Title Game. This game will be fairly predictable as Mark Dantonio, admittedly so, built Michigan State’s program in the same mold that Ferentz built Iowa. Dantonio has now been in East Lansing for 10 years and has seen sustained success until last season’s 3-9 crater. Personally, I’m not a big Dantonio fan ever since he allowed one of his players to play against Iowa just TWO DAYS after being released from jail, although, it was satisfying to see Iowa go on to win 37-6 that day, but I digress. I’m not really sure what this year’s Spartans are going to bring to the table. Wins over Bowling Green and Western Michigan were uninspiring and last week’s 20 point loss at home to Notre Dame was obviously not great as well.
Like I said, we know what we’re getting with Michigan State. They are going to try to run the ball to set up their passing game. Their running back will be familiar; he’s the guy that lunged the ball over the goal line to beat Iowa in the 2015 conference championship, JR L.J. Scott. He’s had some serious issues with ball security over the first 3 games of the season and is only averaging 62 yards per game so far. The leading rusher on the team is actually QB Brian Lewerke, the redshirt sophomore has rushed for 231 yards on the year along with 751 yards through the air. One name on offense that might stick out, and make you feel old, is freshman wide receiver Hunter Rison. He’s the son of former Spartan Hall of Famer and NFL wide receiver Andre “Bad Moon” Rison. Turnovers have really hurt the Spartans, as they have fumbled the ball NINE times through three games and of those fumbles, they’ve only recovered three of them. With 2 interceptions to go along with the fumbles, the Spartans are minus-7 in turnover margin on the year. That is not good.
Defensively, they’re giving up 20 points a game and have allowed over 120 rushing yards per game to go with 132 yards passing per game. However, with the first two opponents being from the MAC Conference, these numbers should be lower. Notre Dame racked up over 350 yards of total offense last week and I look for Iowa to do what they always do. Establish Wadley & company on the ground to set up the play action pass. I think we’ll see more of the freshmen in the backfield this week, as I believe Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin have earned more opportunity. Defensively, the AJ Epenesa era has begun and he has been unleashed. As he gets more and more comfortable in Iowa’s defensive scheme, expect him to be a monster chasing down opposing QBs.
Prediction: Akrum comes off his “worst game” to put up another 150+ yards of total offense with 2 touchdowns. Nate Stanley and the passing game have a balanced day with 200 yards and 2 touchdowns as well. If the Iowa defense can bring ¾ the intensity and effort from last Saturday they should be just fine. Vegas sees this as almost a close one with Michigan State as a 3.5 point favorite as of Thursday night. If I were a betting man, I’d say take the Hawks to win outright by a score of 34-24 as they come home happy looking to Homecoming week with Illinois coming to town.