With the Big Ten title and a spot in the College Football Playoff up for grabs, No. 4 Iowa meets No. 5 Michigan State on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Iowa won double-digit games for the fifth time in 17 seasons under Kirk Ferentz and is just one of two FBS teams to go undefeated through the regular season (Clemson). However, the Hawkeyes haven’t received universal respect due to a schedule perceived as soft, featuring just one AP-ranked team (Northwestern) as they breezed to a Big Ten West title.
Michigan State, winners of the Big Ten East, have won 11 games for the fifth time in six years and won all three of their games against AP ranked opponents, losing only to Nebraska by one point on the road in controversial fashion last month.
Michigan State’s respectable run defense (118.2 yards per game) taking on Iowa’s offensive line and strong rush attack could be the biggest key to the game. The Hawkeyes are led by the Big Ten’s third-best rushing offense (203.7 yards per game) while leading rusher Jordan Canzeri (964 yards) ranks No. 5 in the conference. Canzeri rushed for 140 yards on 17 attempts in last week’s 28-20 win over Nebraska.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard has completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and has run for six additional scores. He’s thrown just three interceptions on the season but hasn’t tossed a pick since the Oct. 17 win over Northwestern.
The Iowa offense averages 33.7 points per game and the Spartan defense has allowed 21.1 points throughout the season.
The Spartans win with their passing game and are led by quarterback Connor Cook, who is back to full health after a shoulder injury that kept him out of Michigan State’s upset of Ohio State on Nov. 21. Cook has thrown 24 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions this season and threw for 248 yards and three scores in a resounding win over Penn State last week.
The receiving corps is headed by senior Aaron Burbridge, who leads the conference in yards (1,158), has seven touchdowns and seven games with over 100 yards receiving.
Michigan State averages 33.4 points per game while Iowa has allowed just 18.7 points per contest throughout the season.
Start Time: 8:17 p.m.
TV Channel: FOX
Betting Line: Michigan State -4