Two mirror-image teams face off in East Lansing on Saturday afternoon, as the Iowa Hawkeyes visit the Michigan State Spartans. Both teams have struggled to score this season, and rely on bruising tailbacks and punishing defense to win. Both will likely do much of the same Saturday. Michigan State's talent, experience, and home-field advantage have made the Spartans 10-point favorites to win.
Michigan State began the season as a favorite to compete for the Big Ten Legends division championship. The Spartans had one of the Big Ten's most hyped defenses, and it has not disappointed. Michigan State leads the conference in total defense, scoring defense, and rushing defense despite facing Boise State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State in September.
However, a pair of low-scoring losses has dropped Michigan State out of the Top 25. The Spartan offense is centered around workhorse halfback Le'Veon Bell, who has already run for 776 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012.
Quarterback Andrew Maxwell has struggled, completing just 56% of his passes in the Spartans' first six games. After the season-opening win against Boise State where he threw three interceptions, however, Maxwell has done an excellent job of protecting the ball. He has not thrown an interception since that first week, and has added six touchdowns in those five games. He will likely be without the services of tight end Dion Sims, who is the team's leading receiver but will miss his second consecutive game with a sprained ankle.
Iowa is suffering from many of the same problems as Michigan State. The Hawkeye defense has allowed just 17.4 points per game, good for 25th in the nation and third in the Big Ten. Iowa is also third in the conference in total defense and rushing defense.
Since installing walk-on Air Force transfer Mark Weisman at halfback during a Week 3 win over Northern Iowa, the Hawkeye offense has been exponentially more productive, averaging 29.7 points per game after averaging just 12.1 in the first two weeks. Weisman ran for 113 yards in just over a half against Northern Iowa, and followed that with 217 yards in a loss to Central Michigan and 177 yards in a win over Minnesota.
However, much like Michigan State, Iowa has struggled in the passing game. Senior quarterback James Vandenberg has completed 58% of his passes for a paltry 6.3 yards per attempt and two scores.
Kickoff is scheduled for noon ET. Television coverage will be available on ESPN and ESPN3.