Week 11: #13 Michigan St. (7-2, 4-1 Big 10 Legends) @ Iowa (6-3, 3-2 Big 10 Legends)
Yes…I’m still a bit irked after Sparty’s men’s basketball team’s performance last night in the Carrier Classic against North Carolina. While they lost “only” by 12, 67-55, the score really didn’t do the Tar Heels performance justice. UNC power forward John Henson was manly, racking up 9 blocks, and small forward Harrison Barnes posted an easy 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. Sparty outrebounded UNC by 15, 49-34, but it’s hard to win a game when you shoot 31% from the field and 10% from 3…while attempting 20 from long-distance. Things won’t get any easier for Izzo’s crew, as they will next playsixth-ranked Duke in Madison Square Garden.
As far as Sparty’s football team, let us fans be glad that they escaped with a win over Minnesota last week. I figured a blowout victory was inevitable, especially after Sparty’s horrible performance on the road against Nebraska the previous Saturday. Of course, Golden Gophers QB MarQuiese Gray decided to put on a show against MSU, throwing for nearly 300 yards and 3 TDs, and running for 71 more. Playing a basement dweller that had just notched its first conference win of the season against Iowa the week before, Sparty had to hang on for dear life as they edged Minnesota, 31-24 at home.
Iowa, coming off of that heartbreaking 22-21 road loss to Minnesota, held off then #13 Michigan at home, 24-16. Michigan had 4 shots to at least have a chance to tie, and were turned away each time. For whatever reason, Michigan HC Brady Hoke seems to think the Wolverines are better the more QB Denard Robinson throws. Robinson finished with 17 completions out of 37 attempts and didn’t even throw for 200 yards.
QB Kirk Cousins: 1989 YDS, 13 TD, 5 INT, 64.2 CMP%, 139.6 RAT
RB Le’Veon Bell: 102 CAR, 528 YDS, 8 TD
WR B.J. Cunningham: 51 CAT, 827 YDS, 3 TD
QB James Vandenberg: 2089 YDS, 18 TD, 4 INT, 62.6 CMP%, 154.8 RAT
RB Marcus Coker: 211 CAR, 1101 YDS, 12 TD
WR Marvin McNutt: 57 CAT, 959 YDS, 9 TD
MSU Offense (national ranking in parentheses):
Total: 367.9 ypg (82), Passing: 237.6 ypg (53), Rushing: 130.3 ypg (84), Scoring: 26.6 ppg (66)
Total: 391.4 ypg (61), Passing: 235.4 ypg (59), Rushing: 156 ypg (64), Scoring: 31.7 ppg (41)
Total: 249.5 ypg (2), Passing: 145.9 ypg (2), Rushing: 103.6 ypg (18), Scoring: 16 ppg (8)
Total: 393.5 ypg (65), Passing: 233.9 ypg (69), Rushing: 159.6 ypg (63), Scoring: 22.3 ppg (34)
While Iowa is coming off of an inspiring performance at home against a ranked team, Sparty should be looking to redeem itself after its disappointing performance against a lowly Minnesota team. Vandenberg has established himself as one of the better QBs in the Big 10, and Coker’s ability to gash defenses is sure to give a very good Sparty run D fits at some point during the game. McNutt, at 6’4″, 215, will be targeted often unless MSU’s front 4, led by DT Jerel Worthy, can pressure Vandenberg relentlessly. I assume Bell will get the starting nod over Baker from Dantonio, and the Spartans must figure out a way to get a subpar running game going. Anyone who has watched Cousins during his career knows that he struggles mightily on the road, and some of the pressure on him to put points on the board would be relieved if Bell and RBs Edwin Baker and Larry Capers would be the three-headed monster at the position that so many thought they would be before the season started. Sparty’s D won’t have to worry about Vandenberg making plays with his feet like Gray was able to, but he is a much better passer, especially when in the pocket and with time to go through his progressions. Even though this Iowa team is not as good as some of the past squads, HC Kirk Ferentz has still taken a fairly talented Hawkeyes team and put them in a position to contend for the Big 10 title. A win over Sparty would put them in a tie for first place in the Legends Division with Nebraska, should the Cornhuskers fend off rattled Penn St. at home today. MSU has one tough test after this, its season finale on the road against Northwestern, after what should be an easy home victory over the craptastic Indiana Hoosiers. A Sparty win today combined with a Nebraska loss would essentially clinch the Leaders Division , so this is yet another must-win game for them.
Iowa’s 3 losses have been by a combined total of 14 points. Two extremely horrible performances stand between Sparty being an undefeated 9-0 and the 7-2 team that they are today. Sparty fans know that it was this Iowa team that demolished MSU at Kinnick Stadium last year, 37-6. The loss took Sparty out of the running for an appearance in the national title game and led to a matchup against Alabama in the Capital One Bowl…where they were beaten senseless and solidified their reputation as the worst 11-win team in the country.
Hopefully, Sparty puts forth a much better effort against the Hawkeyes today. Remaining players from the 2010 team should remember how close they were to at least playing in a BCS bowl game this January, if not for a thrashing at the hands of Iowa. As good as Vandenberg and Coker have been, it won’t be enough to beat a Michigan school for the second consecutive week.
Sparty wins, 30-17.