Posted by: marcmwm | October 3, 2008

The Big Analysis


Michigan State defensive end Justin Kershaw (97) and Aaron Bates (18) celebrate with kicker Brett Swenson (14) after Swenson hit a 32-yard field goal last Saturday at Indiana University. Swenson accounted for 16 of the Spartans’ points in a 42-29 victory.


Iowa offense vs. Michigan State defense
In the Spartans’ 23-7 victory over Notre Dame, MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi blitzed on 28 of ND’s passing plays. Linebackers, corners and safeties got a shot. The Spartans put pressure on 17 times with nine hits and two sacks. Senior defensive end Brandon Long picked up two sacks, one on a stunt. Junior end Trevor Anderson got two pressures and hits on the quarterback also without blitz. The Spartans stuffed ND’s running game, holding the Irish to 16 yards on 22 carries.
Today’s game will be a race to see which defense can make the other’s offense one-dimensional. The Spartans came close to that last week in a 42-29 victory at Indiana. Take out Marcus Thigpen’s 78-yard TD run and the Hoosiers have just 111 rushing yards. Indiana quarterbacks enjoyed some success (284 yards and two TDs) but they also had two interceptions.
Sophomore linebacker Greg Jones, (6-1, 222) who leads the Spartans with 35 tackles, was the first true freshman last season to lead MSU in tackles since 1976. Anderson, a Cincinnati transfer, and Long, who was limited because of injury last week, have 2.5 and 2 sacks, respectively, ranking in the top 10 in the conference in that category.
Strong safety Otis Wiley leads the Big Ten and is third in the nation with four interceptions. He also ranks second in the conference with 10 passes defended.
The Spartans are No. 2 in the conference with a plus-5 turnover margin. They have take-aways. The Spartans allowed just 17 points in the three games leading up to last week’s victory at Indiana.

Another week, another new something for Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Last week, it was his first Big Ten start. This week, he’ll make his first Big Ten road start. What’s the difference, besides the fact he’ll be wearing a white jersey? It’s just a new environment, that’s all. Poise doesn’t seem to be a problem. The one number that solidifies Stanzi’s stature is 64.1 percent completion rate. That moves the chains and lifts his pass efficiency to 144.8, third in the conference. Production is one thing and points are another. In his last three games, Stanzi has just one TD pass.
Saturday and again Tuesday, Kirk Ferentz pronounced RB Shonn Greene good to go. The junior suffered a head injury in the fourth quarter last week and left the game. He said he didn’t think he had a concussion. This is a pretty big deal. He’s 35 percent of Iowa’s offense (665 yards rushing, 22 receiving). And Iowa has true freshman Jewel Hampton backing him up.
Advantage: Michigan State

Iowa defense vs. Michigan State offense
The Spartans have this running back. His name is Javon Ringer. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.
Let’s roll the numbers:
The 5-9, 202-pounder leads the NCAA in rushing touchdowns (12), scoring (14.4 points per game) and all-purpose yards (235.6 yards per game). In five games, he has 12 rushing TDs after scoring six all of last season. He also ranks second in the nation in rushing (179.4 ypg.).  He leads the Big Ten in those three statistical categories: rushing, scoring and all-purpose yards. He needs 103 yards this week to become the fastest back in Spartan history to reach the 1,000-yard milestone.
Much is being made of his FBS-high 187 carries — 41 more than No. 2 — but hey, whatever works. He carried 44 times for 198 at Indiana last week.
The Spartans always seem to have a stud receiver. This year, sophomore Mark Dell seems to be that guy. The 6-2, 188-pounder ranks third in the Big Ten and 35th in the NCAA in receiving yards, averaging 85.0 per game. He leads the Spartans in receptions (19), receiving yards (425), yards per reception (22.4) and touchdown catches. Here’s his best stat: Eighteen of his 19 receptions (95 percent) have resulted in either a first down or a touchdown, including 10 gains of 20 yards or more. That’s the definition of “go-to” guy.
Senior QB Brian Hoyer might’ve jump-started his season with last week’s performance, 14 of 26 for 261 yards, two TDs and no picks. Still, he’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes, He’s last in the conference with a 114.7 pass efficiency, 86th in FBS.
This game is strength on strength. Michigan State will try to run the ball, while Iowa will rely on a rush defense that is allowing just 3.1 yards a carry, third in the Big Ten.
Iowa’s defense let down for one series last week. The Wildcats hummed 76 yards in four plays, using a short passing game and taking advantage of horrible tackling. Tackling has been a theme with Iowa’s defense. The players pointed to it after Pittsburgh and they did it again this week after Northwestern. Ferentz was asked this week if the front four was providing enough pressure. Against Northwestern, the Hawkeyes didn’t have a sack and didn’t cause enough disruption of NU’s precision passing game. Iowa’s sack leaders thus far are tackles Matt Kroul and Karl Klug, a reserve, with two apiece.
Coordinator Norm Parker is pulling a lot of strings with position groups. Saturday, the Hawkeyes lined up in the 3-4, with Jacody Coleman being the extra linebacker, early and often. They also used five and six defensive backs. The season is almost half over. Parker has decided the groups are producing enough to justify their existence.
D-line coach Rich Kaczenski has shown he’s not afraid to rotate his players. Red-shirt freshman Broderick Binns has been plugged in the most and has showed he belongs with a sack and a pass breakup. Chad Geary was used at end last week. Klug and Mike Daniels have broken in at tackle.
Out of the young defensive backs used in nickel or dime situations, true freshman Shaun Prater has been the most noticeable with two pass breakups. Last week, he was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit that helped keep an NU drive alive, but other than that, he’s showed he belongs.
Advantage: Iowa

Special teams
Spartan junior Brett Swenson has been named one of the Lou Groza Award’s top three stars of the week after accounting for a career-high 16 points at Indiana. Swenson kicked a career-best four field goals, including three from 40-plus yards (45, career-long 48, 45 and 32 yards). Swenson has made his last nine field-goal attempts and is 9 of 10 this year.
Iowa’s special teams weren’t very good last season. Outside of Andy Brodell’s punt return against Iowa State, they haven’t been good this year. Last week, two special teams fumbles (Brodell on a punt; Amari Spievey on a kickoff) added to the five turnovers that killed Iowa. Kick return has remained particularly mediocre, ranking seventh in the Big Ten with 19.8 a return. Who will it be back there this week? Ferentz said true freshman running back Jewel Hampton has been the team’s most consistent. Iowa punter Ryan Donahue rebounded from a dismal performance at Pittsburgh to average 43.0 yards on three punts against Northwestern.
Advantage: Iowa

Second-year Spartans Coach Mark Dantonio seems intent on pushing the Javon Ringer button on offense until the senior RB has worn his cleats down. It’s not about the future or Ringer’s NFL viability. It’s about the now, and Ringer is working. So far, this Spartan team hasn’t shown the capacity for mental mistakes that have ruined so many Spartan teams in recent years.
There’s no way around it. The Hawkeyes blew one they should’ve had last week and they’re now behind schedule. You can’t blame turnovers on coaches, and that’s what clearly tore apart another brilliant effort from Greene and the defense last week. Iowa is going to need to find a focus this week that it hasn’t shown all season, a four-quarter focus that finishes drives and puts points on the board.
Advantage: Iowa


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