The Hawkeyes head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game after completing their undefeated regular season with a victory over Nebraska. The Huskers dropped to Iowa 28-20. Kirk Ferentz and his group will now take on Big Ten East champion, Michigan State.
You couldn't find two more identical teams, from a statistical standpoint all the way down to a style of play. Iowa enters the game at 12-0 and 8-0 in the league while the Spartans are 11-1 and 7-1 in the league. Michigan State's lone loss came against Nebraska but they have defeated Michigan and Ohio State.
It's time to dig into this one more extensively.
Here are some numbers related to this week's contest.
- Both teams score a lot. Iowa and Michigan State have the second and third ranked scoring offenses in the Big Ten, respectively. When it comes to defense, Iowa has been a touch better statistically. They rank fourth at only allowing 18.7 points a game while the Spartans are sixth, surrendering 21.1 points a game. I'm not one to knock Iowa's schedule, and I won't, but it is also very important to remember that Michigan State played some tougher teams than Iowa and had a stronger slate.
- Iowa runs the ball better and defends it better. They average 203.7 yards a game on the ground while Michigan State rushes for only 159.6 a game. The Hawkeyes average 110 yards rushing a game allowed and Michigan State allows 118.2.
- The Spartans do throw it more, and better. A lot of that is obviously due to having Connor Cook behind center. They average 239.8 passing yards a game and Iowa only averages 200.6. Neither one defends it extremely well and have both adopted more of a 'bend but don't break' philosophy when it comes to pass coverage. Iowa gives up 221.7 yards passing a game and Michigan State gives up 231 yards a game through the air.
- Both are efficient when passing however. Michigan State's passing efficiency numbers are ranked third in the Big Ten and Iowa is fourth.
- The Spartans are second to last in the Big Ten as a team in punt returns. Do not expect a big play to be made in that portion of the game.
- Iowa has picked off 17 passes as a defense and the Spartans have 14 interceptions as a defensive unit. The Hawkeyes have returned four back for a score. The Spartans have returned two for touchdowns.
- Neither have been exceptional with the field goal kicking game. Iowa is 13-17 on the year while Michigan State is 9-14.
- The Spartans' threat in the pass rush game is two-fold. They've tallied 32 sacks on the year and that number has soared the past few weeks. It is the fourth most in the Big Ten, but they've also allowed the third fewest sacks on the year. That could be a problem for a Hawkeye team that has to work extra hard to manufacture a pass rush at this point in the season.
- Iowa has been great all year on third down as an offense and it's been one of the signatures of the team. However, they aren't better than the Spartans in this category. Michigan State is converting over 50 percent of their third down attempts.
- The Hawkeyes and the Spartans are tied for the Big Ten lead in fewest penalties committed at 61.
- They've both forced 25 turnovers and have given the ball up 11 times, a crazy thing to think about. They lead the conference with a +14 turnover margin.
- One area where Iowa does have a decided advantage is how much better their red zone defense has been in comparison to Michigan State's.
Iowa Individual Leaders
- Quarterback C.J. Beathard is fourth in the Big Ten in pass efficiency.
- Running back Jordan Canzeri is still fifth in the Big Ten in rushing yards a game despite not having played a significantly large portion of four games. He's averaging 96.4 yards a game. He's also second in the Big Ten in touchdowns. He only trails Ezekiel Elliott in touchdowns. Elliott has 19 while Canzeri has 13. Elliott has played more games, obviously.
- Wideout Matt VandeBerg is seventh in the conference in receptions a game and has 59 total on the year. He also averages 52.1 yards receiving per game.
- Desmond King is sixth in the conference in punt return average at 13.3 yards a pop. He's fifth in kick return average at 25.6 yards per attempt. His 19 passes defended as a cornerback is third in the Big Ten, trailing only Jourdan Lewis of Michigan and Rashard Fant of Indiana. However, King's eight interceptions is four more than anyone else in the league. Anthony Brown of Purdue, Taylor Barton of Illinois, Nate Gerry of Nebraska, and Anthony Cioffi of Rutgers have four. King's total also tied the Iowa single-season record held by Nile Kinnick and is tops in the NCAA.
- Cole Fisher is tied for seventh in the Big Ten in tackles with 103. Josey Jewell is fifth in the league with 111.