Picking Your Spots: Back Michigan State to Cover vs Heartbroken Iowa

Michigan State player in action

Rainman M.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 1:19 PM UTC

Tuesday, Sep. 26, 2017 1:19 PM UTC

Michigan State (2-1) opens up Big 10 play on Saturday at 4:00 PM ET at home against Iowa (3-1). The Spartans opened as 2.5 point favorites but quickly became 3.5 point favorites, despite strong public action on Iowa. Let's take a close look at the game and get our college football picks ready.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs Michigan State Spartans  

Iowa's defense gave everything they had at home against #4 Penn State and so much went their way. Star linebacker Josey Jewell had a career game in various statistical categories.  Their pass rush finally showed up. Their defense was astoundingly efficient in the Red Zone. And yet they came up short. Trace McSorely's touchdown pass on the last play of the game procured the win for Penn State. 

Michigan State's level of talent was masked by a sloppy and rusty performance off of a bye week in their first big game of the season at home against Notre Dame. Three first-half turnovers and massive penalty yardage prevented them from competing with the sound and very efficient Irish.

Both teams produced polar opposite performances that will mislead bettors who attach too much significance to a single game.

Iowa's most significant offensive asset is its physicality. Iowa's offensive line boasts three returning starters and significant depth and versatility from athletes who can play multiple positions. This experienced group was awarded last season as the best offensive line, primarily for helping produce two 1,000 yard rushers.

One of those 1,000-yard rushers is back: Akrum Wadley is Iowa's versatile workhorse out of the backfield and quarterback Nathan Stanley's top receiving target. Stanley is Iowa's prototypical pocket passer with a live arm but without any playmakers besides Wadley.

The Spartans like to foreground the rush attack early with LJ Scott. Scott is physically impressive with his combination of speed, power and receiving skills. He is most known for his domination of Ohio State and Michigan last season but has yet to show anything this season.

Scott's difficulties may stem from his offensive line, which lacks experience and proven ability, outside of senior center Brian Allen.

Thankfully, the Spartans boast a mobile quarterback in Brian Lewerke, who is capable of making big plays in and outside of the pocket but needs to limit his turnovers and improve his leadership skills.

Michigan State's wide receivers are likewise young, but several of them boast promising talent and upside. Sophomore Trishton Jackson developed the most chemistry in the Spring with Lewerke. Jackson boasts impressive speed, length, and agility that makes him a viable threat down the field. But, he is also capable of succeeding on shorter passing routes, which makes him all the more important should Iowa choose to blitz as often as they did against Penn State.

Iowa's defensive line seems to be the game-changer considering the questions surrounding Michigan State's offensive line and their dominance against Penn State. AJ Epensa is an explosive and athletic five-star recruit at defensive end who rotates with the undersized but physical Parker Hesse and whose counterpart is Anthony Nelson, who achieved 2.5 sacks against Penn State.

Iowa's linebacking corps is led by its top defensive playmaker Josey Jewell, who was second in the Big 10 in tackles last year and has already won defensive player of the week twice (both home games) this season.

Iowa's inexperienced secondary is led by Manny Rugamba. Last season, quarterbacks' passer rating was 42.5 on passes were thrown in Rugamba's direction.

Michigan State will want to utilize Scott between the tackles and take advantage of its depth at wide receiver.

Defensively, the Spartans need to concentrate on containing Iowa's rushing attack. The Spartans' pass rush, last season, was anemic. But the defense showed promise by achieving seven tackles for loss against Notre Dame.

Mike Panasiuk and Raequan Williams are the Spartans' reliable and experienced defensive tackles. Initial walk-on Kenny Willekes has been a positive surprise at the defensive end and showed why he earned a scholarship by achieving ten tackles against Notre Dame. Willekes is versatile and athletic, in that he is not only explosive off the edge but excels at defending the screen and swing game.

The Spartans' linebacking corps is stacked with rising star Joe Bachie and "psycho" Chris Frey, who led the Spartans with 96 tackles last season.

The Spartans' secondary is very inexperienced, which could be a good thing after last season's debacle. They will benefit from improvement among the defensive line, which will leave them less vulnerable in pass coverage. They have already shown upside, by being the second most pass efficient defense after the first two games against MAC opponents. They face likewise minimal threat from Iowa's wide receiving corps. 


The Verdict

Dating back to last season, Kirk Ferentz's squad has an unambiguous history of coming out flat after emotional outcomes-- be it an upset victory or a heartbreaking defeat. The Spartans have been most dangerous in the first half and they will want to come out concentrated after a sloppy beginning last week. Expect a balanced offensive attack to control possession and an improving defense to contain Iowa's rush attack on our NCAA football picks.


Free NCAAF Pick: Michigan State 1H -1.5Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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