Hawkeye Predictions for Michigan State
DAVID SCHWARTZ: Iowa fans should worry about Michigan State mostly for one reason. Quarterback Connor Cook is better than any QB the Hawkeyes have faced this year by a mile. He’s not a good college quarterback, he’s a great one. That spells trouble given how lesser QBs have picked on Greg Mabin at times this year. The Minnesota game, for example. Add in Desmond King coming off his worst game as a Hawkeye – brief suspension for violating a team rule; a fumble; a bad penalty; a dropped interception – and it’s not hard to imagine Cook throwing for 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns. But unlike other QBs who have given Iowa trouble, Cook isn’t mobile. When Iowa defensive players can “stay at home” without worrying about dual-threat quarterbacks, they’re at their most effective. The Spartans’ defense, meanwhile, is solid but not all-world. Its strong against the run but susceptible against the pass, and CJ Beathard won’t have to worry about bad weather. The Hawkeyes are going to the College Football Playoff
PREDICTION: Iowa 38, Michigan State 27
ROSS PETERSON: Michigan State will be able to move the ball through the air and score frequently. Luckily, the Hawks have not only had an extra day of rest, they’re also playing indoors. Offensively, Iowa will need to find which running back has the hottest hand to get their ground game going against a stingy defense. I’d expect Canzeri and Wadley to be the most successful getting to the edge. Iowa will need to rely on the pass more than in previous weeks. CJ will be up to the task. The biggest stat of the game will be TURNOVERS. Iowa will win the turnover battle, win the Big Ten Title, and go on the College Football Playoff. Cook throws 2 interceptions. CJ will throw for 3 TD’s.
PREDICTION: Iowa, 35 Michigan State, 31
SEAN NEUGENT: On paper, these two teams are incredibly evenly matched. I’ve picked Iowa in every single game this season, but this one has me scratching my head, especially with the Spartans coming in red-hot. However, three things led me to my ultimate conclusion:
1. Iowa is a more balanced team than MSU is on offense and can hurt teams in multiple ways.
2. The media has been unkind to Iowa all season and the Hawkeyes remain (actual) underdogs in this game, which I think fuels their fire.
3. While MSU fans are saying that Connor Cook is the X-Factor, I disagree and believe that C.J. Beathard is. His running ability will be key in this game and I could see him having some big 15-20 yard scampers against MSU. Beathard also does not have to deal with the swirling wind or cold weather this week, he simply can play his game without weather being any factor and I believe that will make him even more lethal. As Beathard goes, so too will Iowa. If he struggles in this gam e, the Hawkeyes better hope the defense shows up big like they did last week against Nebraska.
This is a lower scoring game, but with the Hawkeyes playing behind for the first time this season in the 4th quarter, Beathard propels Iowa with a late drive and hits Henry Krieger-Coble for a touchdown with some great downfield blocking. MSU fans everywhere instantly are reminded of 2009 when Ricky Stanzi hit Marvin McNutt on a last second touchdown to beat them. This time though, there is still time on the clock. The Spartans make a drive of their own, but it stalls as the Iowa defense makes their biggest stand of the season. This game will be an instant classic as the Hawkeyes go to the College Football Playoff. Side note: Look for some trickery from New Kirk on special teams at some point in this game
PREDICTION: Iowa 24, Michigan State 20
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MITCH SMITH: The stakes have never been higher for the Hawkeye football program. Win and you’re in the College Football Playoff. Lose and you’re likely in the Peach or Fiesta Bowl. Iowa and Michigan State are near carbon-copies of one another — stacking up evenly in almost every statistical category. I know it’s cliché, but every possession matters in this contest. Five of the last seven meetings between the Hawkeyes and Spartans have been decided by 12 points or less. Saturday’s matchup in Indianapolis will be no different. Iowa’s balanced offensive attack and rock solid defense will keep this game close, and late game heroics from Marshall Koehn will give the Black and Gold the win and a berth in the College Football Playoff. The dream season continues!
PREDICTION: Iowa 20, Michigan State 17
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STEVE DEACE: While these two teams are mirror images of one another, Connor Cook is the exact type of quarterback whose game matches up with the way Iowa wants to play defense. His downfield ball placement against Iowa’s style of quarters and other various zone coverages, not to mention the vast experience he has in big games, I believe will be the difference on Saturday night. My heart really wants to pick Iowa and I will be rooting for them actively for the first time in my life on Saturday night. I went with my heart last week in Lincoln, but Connor Cook is not Tommy Armstrong. PREDICTION: Michigan State 28, Iowa 21.
JON MILLER: Iowa typically is at its best against teams that run a lot of Power-I and less zone read when the quarterback is not a viable option to keep the ball. Connor Cook is the best passer in the Big Ten, but a runner he is not. This allows Iowa’s linebackers to play a step faster and better in run support. I think Iowa can make MSU ‘mostly’ one dimensional, but their one dimension has an NFL QB leading it and solid wide receivers. I think MSU out-stats Iowa in this one because Cook will throw for 300-plus. On defense, Iowa will play it straight in their base 4-3 in the first half and see what Cook can do. Depending on Cook’s success, Iowa may have to commit more personnel assets to the pass rush in the second half if that’s not getting anywhere; I don’t think the base will be enough in this game but blitzing Cook could be playing with fire. I am looking forward to seeing Iowa not playing a game where it’s 25 degrees outside with 20mph winds, as they have the past two weeks. Akrum Wadley, if healthy, could be key factor for Iowa. He is fastest and most shifty running back they have had since Tavian Banks. Seeing him run indoors, on that turf, he could show up on the edge as Leshun Daniels will not likely be effective getting to outside and Wadley and Canzeri are better at that than Daniels. Iowa will need that as running on the inside will be tough this week as it was against Nebraska. If CJ Beathard can stay healthy, his legs are tough to account for as well. But will the emotional spot be too big for them? MSU has an experience edge here in big spots like this. I think we could be headed for a classic game, one of the best in the short history of this championship. You have to expect the unexpected from Mark Dantonio on special teams and I think you might see some fireworks from Iowa in that area as well. For more of Jon’s thoughts on this game as well as his prediction, CLICK HERE.
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