It’s been a while since these teams last played in the 2015 Big Ten title Game and it’s been mostly disappointment on both sides since then. Both are coming off disappointing losses with the loser of this Game being put in an early hole that will be impossible to get out of in the conference. Coming off a 20-point loss to Notre Dame, the Spartans are -3.5 point home favorites (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) against the Hawkeyes.
Both teams are coming off interesting losses. Michigan State outgained Notre Dame by almost 150 yards, yet because of turnovers, lost 38-18. Iowa battled with Penn State, but gave up a last-second touchdown and fell 21-19. The loss to the Nittany Lions was arguably more impressive, but that didn’t show up in the line, even after Iowa went 4-1 in true road Games last season.
It wouldn’t be surprising if this Game turned out just like the last meeting between them as a defensive slug fest with both teams focusing on the ground Game. While Brian Lewerke has been fine as a passer (340 yards vs. Notre Dame), the MSU offense is much better when it can run the ball. Lewerke surprisingly leads the team in rushing (206 yards) as LJ SCott, Gerald Holmes and Madre London are all behind him averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Iowa was just gashed by Saquon Barkley, but expecting MSU to do the same would be a stretch.
Still, the Hawkeyes haven’t been quite as dominant defensively as they’ve been in year’s past. That was seen in the 44-41 win against Iowa State, in which the Cyclones moved the ball through the air and on the ground with ease. Michigan State should be able to move the ball, but completing drives has remained an issue for them, whether through turnovers or ineffectiveness.
The other side of the field should be an equally good battle. Nathan Stanley has been great in his first season as the starting quarterback, already with 12 touchdowns, but he hasn’t faced a great defense yet and has thrown for less than 200 yards in three of Four Games. He’ll likely be needed in this one if Iowa wants to pull off the road upset. The Hawkeyes will still lean on the running duo of Akrum Wadley (4.3 ypc) and James Butler (4.4 ypc) as much as possible.
With both teams focusing on the run, this Game should remain close throughout. Michigan State’s run defense has been a strong suit early on and was a main reason they outgained Notre Dame last week. If the Spartans can stop Wadley from reaching 100 yards, that should lead to a small advantage for the home team. And if it comes down to the two first-year starting quarterbacks, the edge goes to Lewerke, simply because he’s at home.
However, with this spread above three points between two teams that are similar in almost every aspect, the better bet may be to take the Hawkeyes. As for the Spartans, they’ll be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing loss and win their Big Ten opener. But at this point, there’s no firm advantage on either side with both having solid defenses and running Games to go with decent QB play. Iowa +4