It's hard to properly measure the importance of the game for Michigan State against Iowa is on Saturday. But one can safely argue it is gargantuan given the big picture.
The Spartans would prefer not to enter the week leading up to the showdown under the lights in the Big House against Michigan having lost two straight. So here are the three biggest points of emphasis for MSU on Saturday against the visiting Hawkeyes.
WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE
Anything that can be taken away as positives in the Spartans' first three games is completely washed out by the sloppy play to start the season.
Michigan State last Saturday against rival Notre Dame in their 38-18 loss turned the ball over three times — two fumbles and one pick-six. In doing so, they doubled their season turnover margin to a -6, the worst in the Big Ten. The -2 average per game is tied for the fifth-worst in all of college football. While Iowa's overall margin is significantly better than MSU, they have done their fair share of turning the ball over. Like the Spartans, the Hawkeyes have fumbled the football six times.
In what is expected to be a tightly-contested game between these two teams, taking care of the football and controlling the clock will be of the utmost performance.
NO MORE LAUNDRY
We're sticking with our theme of cleaning it up for the conference opener. One component of the sloppy play from Michigan State against the Fighting Irish was the uptick in penalties.
The Spartans had more penalties (9) and flag yardage (97) against Notre Dame than they did in their first two games combined (7-55). Of the nine, six were on defense and of those six, four resulted in first downs. Credit to the Irish, they capitalized on the extra chances.
MSU cannot allow nor tolerate that type of play for two consecutive weeks. Iowa statistically has collectively been a hair cleaner in their four games. Much like the importance of winning the turnover battle, the team who garners the fewest amount of laundry will present themselves.
CONTAIN AKRUM WADLEY
Pretty cut and dry. Just about anything Iowa is going to do to generate offense and improve their position on the field starts and ends with running back Akrum Wadley.
The senior hasn't quite got going yet on the ground — just 4.3 yards per carry on 79 attempts this season — but anything he is lacking for on the ground is being made up for in other areas of the field. Wadley has already amassed 227 yards receiving, albeit on only ten catches. But he had just 315 yards receiving a year ago.
In fact, Wadley is on pace to surpass his mark of yards from scrimmage a year ago (1,396) by just about 300 yards. And that's going off his uncharacteristic 4.3 YPC average. He's currently second in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards behind only Heisman hopeful Saquon Barkley.
And if all that wasn't enough, he's now a part of kickoff returns. He has yet to be noticeably dynamic compared to the average returner but given his natural ability, it may be better safe than sorry.
Michigan State has done a very good job limiting the damage from aerial attacks, although their first three opponents are not exactly the prolific passing type. Don't expect Iowa to be in that same boat. But first order of business for the defense is bottling up No. 25 for the Hawkeyes.
- Date: Saturday, September 30
- Time: 4 p.m. ET
- Broadcast: FOX | Spartan Radio Network (Check local listings)
- Line: MSU -3
- O/U: 45.5
|DANIEL DYLAN BAIR||IOWA, 20-17|
|MATT BASSIN||MSU, 20-16|
|DON DRYSDALE||MSU, 23-13|
|RYAN GRIFFIN||IOWA, 21-17|
|ALEXANDER MULLER||MSU, 20-17|
|ROB OTTO||IOWA, 24-17|
|CARL POPOSKI||IOWA, 24-13|
|AJ REILLY||IOWA, 17-10|
|PAUL ROCHON||IOWA, 23-22|