With that title I joke, I kid….sort of. Here we are presented with an epic Big Ten clash of pedestrian proportions. Iowa is fresh off what was arguably their most complete game of the season which came at the expense of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Yes, those Gophers. Thanks to them, Iowa’s players won’t need antidepressants any longer to ward off the effects of losing to Central Michigan at home. Our Spartans, meanwhile, return home having narrowly escaped defeat at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers. Yes, those Hoosiers. We aren’t talking about basketball here so I’m fresh out of theories as to how a “talented” team could get their rear ends handed to them by Indiana for nearly half of a game. Still bitter, you ask? Anyway, on to what should prove to be one for the ages.
Iowa (3-2, 1-0) has had a good deal of difficulty finding consistency this season in any one aspect of the game. They are inexperienced in some key areas (sound familiar?) and have struggled against the likes of Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, and Iowa State, losing two of those match ups. They are guided by senior quarterback James Vandenberg, who is anything but flashy. He has put up a decent completion percentage (58.5%) and has thrown for 1000 yards so far. A solid game manager, so to speak. They have a horse coming out of the backfield in Mark Weisman, who has amassed 515 bruising yards and 7 touchdowns thus far. A largely pro style offense with a run first mentality. Iowa football. Defensively, the Hawkeyes are nothing spectacular but aren’t going to allow the Spartans an easy day of simply running right at them, either. They are a physical bunch and getting into a ground war will just play to their strength.
The Spartans need to get off to a good start for once this season. Nearly every game they have started slow, had to be remonstrated by the coaching staff, and then at least went on to play more inspired football. Should Dantonio tear them a new one before the game just as a means of being proactive? Hopefully they will be able to build on the passing attack which emerged in the second half last week and heavily favored getting the ball to Aaron Burbridge. Of course most of that was accomplished out of the spread, and we all know how Dantonio and Roushar loves them some smash-mouth football. Who cares if it hasn’t worked for this bunch of players, right? Ahem. The defense should be well within its comfort zone going up against a traditional offense with a drop-back passer. Stopping the conventional run and covering non-spread formation receivers should be a task which befits them. In fact the defense has remained very solid all year, save for the early Indiana mess, and with the offense struggling often they should be commended for working overtime to keep the team in games.
So there you have it. If the Spartans play the same stout defense which they have featured for much of this season and open up the offense to present a more threatening attack to the Hawkeyes, then they may just control this game from start to finish. That isn’t how I believe it will transpire, however. The only consistent traits this team has displayed thus far are of the dubious variety. There is time to change that, but it is fading quickly.