THE BREAKDOWN: Michigan State

The favored Iowa Hawkeyes play host to fifth-ranked and unbeaten Michigan State this weekend at Kinnick Stadium. Hawkeye Insider publisher Rob Howe analyzes the contest in The Breakdown.

IOWA CITY, Ia. - Finally, Iowa gets to play host to Michigan State in the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium. It's been awhile.

In one of those strange Big Ten scheduling quirks, the Hawkeyes were in East Lansing the last two seasons. Albert Young was Iowa's starting running back the last time the Spartans came to Iowa City in 2007.

"When you look at playing in Chicago, when you look at playing in Michigan, when you look at playing at Florida Atlantic, that's a different away game than when you look at playing at Kinnick Stadium," Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio said. "A majority, certainly 95 percent of the people will be dressed in black and gold."

Iowa captured the 2007 contest, 34-27, in double overtime. The Spartans won 16-13 in 2008 and Iowa used a last-second touchdown to get out of East Lansing with a 15-13 win a year ago.

Iowa has won the last six meetings between the two teams in Iowa City, a streak that dates back to 1989.

TELEVISION: ABC (HD) will televise the contest to a regional audience beginning at 2:30 p.m. central. Fans not in the ABC regional footprint can view the game on ESPN (HD). Sean McDonough, Matt Millen and Heather Cox will call the action. To find out where the game will be shown in your area, check out the coverage map.

RECORDS, RANKINGS: Iowa (5-2 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) is ranked 19th in the coaches poll and 18th by the Associated Press. Michigan State (8-0, 4-0) is ranked fifth in both polls and the BCS standings. The Hawkeryes are 18th in the initial BCS.

HISTORY: Iowa holds a 21-18-2 advantage in the series The Hawkeyes have won eight of the last 12 meetings, with the four losses coming at East Lansing. The home team had won nine straight meetings before last season.

THE LINE: The game opened with Iowa as a seven-point favorite and that's were it remained on Thursday afternoon. Not bad.

Folks who do not gamble or follow it, like Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, find the betting line a bit goofy. Michigan State is unbeaten and ranked No. 5 in the country. The Hawkeyes own two losses and lost to a team at home last week, Wisconsin, who lost in East Lansing earlier this season.

Point spreads don't need to make sense to the non-gambler. The fact that the line has not moved at the Hilton says a lot.

If you approached someone who doesn't gamble and told him you'd bet him $10 with you taking Iowa, more people than not would jump on the opportunity. It looks too good.

It's line like these that many wise guys say "is telling them something." It can't be that easy for the public. Iowa is the play.

Here are a couple of interesting trends:

Spartans are 1-4 against the spread in their last 5 games as an underdog of 3.5-10.0.

MSU is 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games as an underdog.

Spartans are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games overall.

Hawkeyes are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games following a ATS loss.

Hawkeyes are 11-4 ATS in their last 15 games as a home favorite of 3.5-10.0.

KEY MATCH-UPS:

MSU RBs Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell, Larry Caper vs. Iowa MLBs Troy Johnson, James Morris - The Spartans boast the best group of running backs in the conference. Any of their top three backs would start on the majority of league teams.

It's a different challenge for Iowa than last week's match-up with Wisconsin's John Clay, a bulldozer. Bell is the closest thing to Clay in the Spartan backfield, but he's way more explosive.

It's unlikely Jeff Tarpinian (stinger) will return to the lineup for Iowa this week, leaving it on the shoulders of Johnson and Morris. They're going to have to hold strong, especially on first downs, where the Badges found a lot of success.

Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn vs. MSU LT D.J. Young - Objectively. Clayborn lost the battle with Wisconsin behemoth Gabe Carimi last week. There was no shame in that. Carimi is projected as a first-round NFL Draft Pick.

Clayborn needs to get back in the horse this week against the talented Young. While the Clayborn-Carimi match-up was thought to be an even on going into the game, Clayborn brings a much better resume into his meeting with Young. He needs to get pressure on Spartans QB Kirk Cousins.

MSU MLB Greg Jones vs. Iowa FB Brett Morse - The Hawkeyes love to run the ball and Jones loves to stop it. Something has to give.

Jones is an NFL player. Don't be surprised if Morse joins him.

This could be game film that could make Morse some money. If he can open up some running holes for Adam Robinson in going against Jones, he'll gain a lot of respect and turn heads.

Iowa RG Adam Gettis vs. MSU DT Jerel Worthy - Worthy is enjoying an outstanding season. He's a load and athletic at 6-3, 305.

Gettis, who is undersized for a Big Ten guard, started his first game last week. He performed well as he did the week before against Michigan.

Worthy is a playmaker on MSU's front. Gettis needs to keep him at bay.

MSU WR Mark Dell vs. Iowa CB Micah Hyde - Iowa's true sophomore is being picked on this season. That will continue this week.

Dell is a talented, big, quick, wide receiver, who ranks in the Top 10 of some key all-time receiving marks at MSU. He already has 31 receptions for 520 yards and four touchdowns this season.

Hyde will have high emotions in his final game against his brother Marcus Hyde on the MSU sideline. He must keep those in check and concentrate on stopping Dell and the other talented Spartan receivers.

INJURIES:

Michigan State - Kevin Pickelman (undisclosed, probable), Keshawn Martin (foot, questionable), Blake Treadwell (undisclosed, probable).

Iowa - Jeff Tarpinian (neck, questionable), Jeremiha Hunter (leg, questionable).

THE SKINNY:

Michigan State -

-Michigan State ranks among the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision leaders in takeaways (tied for eighth with 20), turnover margin (ninth at +1.13 per game), pass efficiency defense (No. 18 with a 108.3 rating), scoring defense (No. 18 allowing 17.9 points per game) and total defense (No. 32 allowing 332.5 yards per game). The Spartans totaled only 14 takeaways during the entire 2009 season.

-Michigan State ranks fifth in the Big Ten and No. 28 in the NCAA FBS in rushing offense, averaging 193.5 yards per game. Sophomore Edwin Baker (97.4 yards per game) and freshman Le'Veon Bell (71.8 ypg.) rank fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Big Ten in rushing. Baker and Bell have combined to rush for 1,353 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2010 while averaging 6.6 yards per carry. Under head coach Mark Dantonio, MSU is 13-2 in games it gains 200-plus yards rushing, including a perfect 5-0 in 2010.

-Michigan State's first eight opponents comprise the nation's 13th-most difficult schedule (tied with Oklahoma), according to NCAA figures. The Spartans' past opponents have a combined record of 24-14 (.632) against other Bowl Subdivision teams.

-Michigan State's receiving corps features two career 1,000-yard receivers: senior Mark Dell (113 for 1,868) and junior B.J. Cunningham (122 for 1,620). That duo has combined for 235 receptions, 3,488 yards and 19 career touchdowns. Dell's career 16.5 yards per catch ranks eighth among all active NCAA FBS receivers.

-Senior linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon have combined for 719 career tackles - the most by any active linebacker duo in the NCAA FBS (Connecticut's Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus rank second with 703 combined stops).

-Michigan State defensive line coach Ted Gill worked for five years as an assistant coach under Hayden Fry at Iowa (1990-94) where he coached the defensive line and linebackers, helping the Hawkeyes earn three bowl appearances (1991 Rose, 1991 Holiday and 1993 Alamo).

-Michigan State director of personnel/player development Dino Folino and Iowa tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson spent the 1998 season together at Vanderbilt. Folino coached the secondary and served as defensive coordinator under Woody Widenhofer, while Johnson worked as a graduate assistant coach.

Iowa -

-Iowa had won 10 straight games over the last four seasons with a trophy on the line before the 31-30 loss to Wisconsin.

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THE PREDICTION: In my mind, this game is the ultimate toss-up. These are two really evenly matched teams like we saw last week when the Hawkeyes welcomed Wisconsin to Kinnick Stadium.

I think Michigan State is a better team than is Wisconsin. I also think Iowa is a better team than the one we saw last week.

Iowa has beat itself twice this season. That's taking nothing away from Arizona and the Badgers, who both did the necessary things they needed to win and made their opportunities. The Hawkeyes did that a lot the last few years.

I heard a few upperclassmen say they didn't feel like everyone's minds were as focused as they needed to be throughout this season. It's up to the veterans to make sure that didn't happen this week.

For whatever reason, Iowa does well in the role of hunted. The Spartans are unbeaten and have a chance to do huge things this season. They have the heavier load on their shoulders.

I can't see the Hawkeyes making as many mistakes as they did last week. They'll again have a black out crowd at Kinnick to push them.

Michigan State hasn't won in Iowa City since 1989. Iowa only has lost back to back games at home once since the start of the 2001 season. Northwestern and Wisconsin pulled the trick in '06.

IOWA 20, Michigan State 17

Michigan State

Iowa


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