HN.com's Iowa-Michigan State Preview/Prediction

Last week was flat out long. For the fans, the players, the coaches, our wives, everybody. For me, this week has not been quite as bad, though it's been rife with anticipation. Because I believe Saturday's game against Michigan State is among the biggest of the Kirk Ferentz era. Here is this week's HawkeyeNation.com pregame forecast and analysis...

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GAME DAY HOURLY FORECAST | LAST WEEK'S HN.COM PREDICTION

Last week was flat out long. For the fans, the players, the coaches, our wives, everybody.

For me, this week has not been quite as bad, though it's been rife with anticipation.

Because I believe Saturday's game against Michigan State is among the biggest of the Kirk Ferentz era.

Some of you might argue that the bowl games were bigger, or in hindsight, Iowa's two wins in the past three seasons against Michigan were bigger, etc.

Hindsight doesn't count.

Last year, Iowa went on the road to open their Big Ten season, they had more than three turnovers that really helped lose them the game, and they come home desperately needing a win, with Ohio State waiting in the wings on the other side of the bye week.

If Iowa loses at home to Michigan last year, they were looking 0-3 square in the face and Florida would not have been an option.

This year, the Hawkeyes have to beat Michigan State to avoid a similar scenario.

Is this a must win game? The coaches will not say that, publicly. But if there is such a thing as a must win game, I think this is it.

In keeping with the ‘theme' feel to this regular offering, we are going to go with a ‘Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome' approach this week. If you have not seen that movie, rent it. Though it's the worst of the Mad Max trilogy, it's still entertaining.

ROAD WARRIORS?

Though Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana is not exactly like facing Master Blaster in Thunderdome, the Hoosiers are not your average Aussie stand in this year.

Indiana went to Corvallis and knocked off the Oregon Ducks. They were up 20-7 against the Spartans, only to lose 30-20.

In that game, MSU found their ‘Mad Max' in QB Drew Stanton. Stanton gained nearly 130 yards rushing on less than 15 carries in that game. You might recall seeing him tear up his knee in last year's Alamo Bowl game against Nebraska.

Now, it's not often that you will see your heir apparent at QB on coverage units, but Stanton is just a great athlete.

He has never faced a crowd like what will be waiting for him in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, and Iowa has handled ‘trick' offenses fairly well in the Norm Parker era on defense.

This Hawkeye defense is built to stop the run, and they do it well. Iowa is 3rd in the nation in stopping the run, allowing just 55 yards per game. If they keep that pace up, they will be the best unit in school history against the run, by a long shot.

Look for Iowa to make MSU one-dimensional and force Stanton to beat them with his arm, not his legs.

MAD MAX

Matt Roth could be cast in that role. No, wait a minute. Roth is more like the villian in Road Warrior…the dude with the Mohawk. Wait a second…they all had Mohawks. But you know what I mean.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff sent a tape of ‘Matt Roth's Greatest Holds' into the Big Ten offices this week. Let me clarify; they sent in a tape of lowlights, showing Iowa opponents, namely Michigan, repeatedly holding Roth, yet no calls were made.

Ferentz went out of his way this week to deftly mention that Matt might draw more holding calls, and he went back to the 2001 season where Aaron Kampman was able to do just that. The Hawks might have sent a Kampman Gone Wild tape into the league offices that year, too.

Now before you Big Ten fans start to accuse Ferentz of whining, if it's holding, it's holding. And Roth has been getting held all year.

What will happen if Roth is allowed to play straight up?

Remember what happened in ‘Mad Max' when the folks in control of the Petrol plant tried to make a break for it?

TWO TEAMS ENTER, ONE TEAM LEAVES

Michigan State is 1-0 in league play and the Hawks are 0-1.

This is a pivotal game for each program, to be sure.

Though a Big Ten title is likely not in the cards for either team, each program wants to continue to move in a positive direction this year.

Michigan State coach John L. Smith wants to do what Kirk Ferentz did in 2003; prove that he is more like Tina than Ike.

Meaning, he wants to show things are solid and will continue to be that way.

But Kirk is looking to make Mary Proud. (OK, the Tina Turner musical references might be a stretch, but it was just too easy, what with Kirk's wife being named Mary and all. Tina actually ‘acted' in ‘Beyond Thunderdome', so we are not necessarily going Bacon Oracle here.)

After the Iowa game, Michigan State returns home to host Illinois and Minnesota, then they step back out on the road to play Michigan, return home against Ohio State and Wisconsin and then travel to Happy Valley.

In my preseason Big Ten predictions, I had MSU winning two league games, with three as the upshot. The two locks were Indiana and Illinois.

This is the week for Michigan State to prove that it has some staying power. Win this one, and a 3-0 start in league play is a real possibility. Lose it, and you have a hangover going into your game against Illinois.

THE DIGITS

18-17-2:All time series, favoring Iowa.
13: Big Ten losing streak Iowa snapped v MSU in 2000.
66: Number of points scored in the 1985 classic 35-31 Iowa-MSU game.
66: Number of times Norm and Phil Parker, then with MSU, have had to talk about that game on the I-Club circuit the last few years.
10 & 6: Number of points scored by Iowa & MSU after the 1st quarter last year.
10 From 6: Name of Bad Company's Greatest Hits record
4: Turnovers for Iowa in last year's game, to zero for MSU
2: Difference in total net yards for both teams in last year's game.
5-0-1: MSU's record v Iowa when they are Iowa's homecoming opponent.
Rutgers: Not a number, but the team MSU lost to in its season opener.
13: Number of consecutive games Charles Rogers caught a TD in, stopped at Iowa in 2002.
13: Iowa's current Kinnick Stadium win streak.
9: Number of consecutive Big Ten home wins for Iowa (10 is the record)

HN.COM PUBLISHER JON MILLER'S IOWA-MICHIGAN PREDICTION

We don't need another hero. Sorry, I just didn't know how I was going to work that into this ‘Thunderdome' edition of the HN.com Opponent Preview.

Actually, Iowa is looking for a few heroes to step it up in this game. Here is a BOLD prediction, especially in 2004. Look for Iowa to get its ground game going. Now, that doesn't mean the same thing that it did in 2002. Cracking the 100-yard mark this year would be cause for celebration, at least to date.

Jermelle Lewis and Marques Simmons could prove to be a strong 1-2 punch for Iowa…at least in this game. MSU is giving up 172 rushing yards per game. To me, that might be the most significant stat in this game.

Here is one more number for you; 12. Iowa will need its 12th man, the fans, to really be in midseason form this week. The team needs some of the Melrose Magic to wake up the echoes from the past two seasons and turn in a smash mouth Big Ten win. We think that is going to happen.

IOWA 23, MSU 13

IN SEASON GAME BY GAME PREDICTIONS

Week One: Iowa 48, Kent State 10 (Iowa 39, Kent State 7, actual score)
Week Two: Iowa 24, Iowa State 6 (Iowa 17, Iowa State 10, actual score) Week Three: Arizona State 23, Iowa 17 (ASU 44, Iowa 7, actual score)
Week Four: Michigan 26, Iowa 10 (Michigan 30, Iowa 17, actual score)

Jon's Game Week predictions since the start of the 2001 season: 37-5 (losses: 2001: Iowa State & Michigan; 2002: USC; 2003: Michigan State & Ohio State

Listen to Jon Miller & Jim Zabel, the legendary Voice of the Hawkeyes, after the game on 1040, WHO. The show will begin approximately an hour after the game ends and we will break down the Saturday games as well as take your phone calls for three hours If you live in Des Moines, tune into WHO-TV 13 on their 10PM newscast for Jon Miller's ‘Eye on the Hawks' segment, and watch ‘Soundoff' on the same channel Sunday nights after the newscast for more Hawkeye insight from Jon Miller

If you are in the Des Moines area, you can stop by Off Campus Apparel and Novelties right next to the Merle Hay Mall and pick up a copy of Hawkeye Nation magazine after 10:30am on Saturday


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