Scouting the Enemy: Michigan State Spartans
2007 Record: 7-6
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (2nd Season, 11-7 at MSU)
All-Time Series: Iowa leads 20-17-2
Last Meeting: Iowa 34, Michigan State 27, 2 OTs (October 27, 2007 at Iowa)
The Hawkeyes will try to rebound from two straight crushing losses and get back in the win column on Saturday against Michigan State at East Lansing. Kirk Ferentz has never won as head coach at Michigan State, and Iowa has not won in East Lansing since 1995. This year’s Spartan squad is 4-1 and 1-0 in conference play after last week’s 42-29 win at Indiana. MSU lost their season opener 38-31 at Cal before sweeping through the rest of their non-conference slate with home wins over Eastern Michigan (42-10), Florida Atlantic (17-0), and Notre Dame (23-7). The Hawkeyes will face their toughest test to date on Saturday when they face off against the Spartans. With that in mind, let’s take a few moments to Scout the Enemy.
Everything on the offensive end for Michigan State starts and ends with Javon Ringer. The senior tailback has been an absolute workhorse for the Spartans through their first 5 games. Ringer leads the nation in all-purpose yards from scrimmage (235.6), touchdowns (12) and carries per game (37.4). He also ranks second in the country in rushing with a 179.4 yards per game average. Through five games, Ringer has rushed for 897 yards on 187 carries. To put that into perspective, Iowa’s Shonn Greene has 665 yards on 99 attempts. Ringer has carried the ball over 30 times in four straight games including a season high 44 rushes last weekend against Indiana. He finished with 198 yards against the Hoosiers, just two yards away from eclipsing the 200-yard mark for the third consecutive game. Thanks in large part to the success of Ringer Michigan State ranks first in the Big Ten in time of possession, averaging over 33 minutes of possession a game. Ringer is an early candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year and will undoubtedly be in the running for the Heisman Trophy if he can continue his torrent pace. He will need 103 yards to pass the 1,000-yard mark in only the sixth regular season game against the Hawkeyes on Saturday.
To go along with Ringer’s legs, the Spartans also have experience in the passing game with senior QB Brian Hoyer under center. Hoyer has been less efficient than he showed last season and is only connecting on 46.5 percent of his passes this year. He has thrown for 961 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Hoyer’s main target this season has been sophomore receiver Mark Dell. Dell has caught 19 balls for 425 yards and 2 scores. He is averaging 22.4 yards per catch. Freshman B.J. Cunningham is the only other Spartan receiver with more than 10 receptions. Cunning has caught 11 passes for 202 yards and is still looking for his first TD.
The Spartans come into Saturday’s game ranked fifth in the Big Ten in scoring defense. Opponents are averaging only 16.8 points per game against MSU. Sophomore linebacker Greg Jones leads Michigan State with 35 tackles, with 4.5 tackles for a loss. Junior safety Dan Fortener has 29 tackles which is second most on the team. The Spartan defense has a total of 7 sacks on the season led by defensive lineman Trevor Anderson who has 2.5 sacks. The Michigan State secondary is led by senior safety Otis Wiley. Wiley has broken up six passes and leads Big Ten with four interceptions. As a team, the Spartans have caused 10 turnovers and have a +5 turnover margin.
Michigan State will have a distinct advantage in the kicking game on Saturday. Brett Swenson has connected on 9 of 10 field goals and currently leads the Big Ten in field goals made. He is 4-for-4 from over 40 yards away with a long of 48 yards. Punter Aaron Bates has punted a conference leading 28 times with a 41 yard average. He has landed 8 of those punts inside the 20 and has a long of 53 yards. The Spartans have had 2 punts blocked so far this year. Javon Ringer returns kicks for Michigan State and is averaging 20.4 yard per return. Otis Wiley has returned 14 punts for an average of 11.9 yards per return with a long of 78 yards.
This Saturday is shaping up to be a critical game for this year’s Hawkeyes. After losing two straight games that frankly Iowa should have won, the Hawks are a loss at Michigan State away from being 3-3. The upcoming schedule is certainly not going to be any easier with dates against Wisconsin, Illinois, and Penn State looming. Iowa cannot afford to give anymore games away and will have to win some games they are not expected to in order to finish the season above .500 for the first time since 2005.