The Takeaway: Michigan State

Wide receiver Marvin McNutt Jr. #7 of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes smiles as he scores a touchdown against the Michigan State Spartans during the second half of play. Iowa won 37-6 over Michigan State. It was pretty awesome. As you can tell. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

Sure, Iowa just routed Michigan State, 37-6. But what's so important about beating the Spartans? How much do we really know? What does it all mean, Basil? The Takeaway has the answer.

Well then: Obviously, even the most Iowa-partisan fans couldn't have looked at this matchup and forseen a 31-point win that featured Iowa taking its foot off the gas pedal for the last 19 minutes. And if anybody actually did predict that, well, they've probably got one of the most atrocious prediction records ever. Point is, this surprised everybody; even Kirk Ferentz and Mark Dantonio.

But should it have? I mean, if you look at... yes, yes, it should have. Do not pretend otherwise, please; it's that reflexive bravado that renders a fanbase insufferable and lowers its collective IQ. It's okay to admit a team outpaced your expectations. Kirk Ferentz can do it, and so can you.

Adam Robinson 3, Greg Jones... well probably not 0, per se, but still, Adam Robinson 3: I know I've mentioned this before, but I can't stress this enough: Adam Robinson is sneakily great. For his entire career, he's been Not Somebody Else and therefore necessarily flying under the radar, but his unorthodoxy is--next to his balance*--his greatest strength. A-Rob, for his physical limitations, very rarely gets caught flush on a tackle in any situation. For example, when Greg Jones met Robinson in a hole in the first half, A-Rob used that odd footwork and general slipperiness of his to evade the tackle and get five more yards. Again: against Greg Jones, who is so obviously the best linebacker in the game that he is the only LB in the running for the Lombardi Award.

But A-Rob didn't stop punking him there, laying a key block on Jones on the 26-yard Ricky Stanzi scramble that not only gave Iowa a first down but led to a very easy roughing penalty when Marcus Hyde nailed Stanzi two steps out of bounds. If A-Rob pusses out in concern for Iowa's quite tenuous running back depth chart and doesn't lay that back on a charging Jones, history won't condemn him for it. But he did, and he's still Iowa's starting tailback, and here we are.

And it didn't even stop then. With El Presidente under pressure, Stanzi found Robinson on a wheel route that absolutely scorched Jones during the second quarter. Sure, we can point to slow-developing routes as an excuse for Jones, but we'll just point a could things out. One: Robinson absolutely torches All-American and first-round pick Jones. Two: by way of comparison, when Jamaal Charles hurt the Hawkeyes on the very same play five years ago, he did it against much stronger coverage by Mike Humpal, who is not Greg Jones.

There aren't many players in the Big Ten who can make Greg Jones look bad once. Adam Robinson, who nobody wanted out of high school, just did it to Jones three times in the first half of a game. If that's not a sterling endorsement of Iowa's ability to develop talent, we don't know what is.

Are we the only people to call bullcrap on Shaun Prater's award? Yes? Okay: For the third time this season, Iowa has had a defender lauded for his performance in the previous game with a Big Ten Defensive POTW award. And yet, this one seems by far the dodgiest.

Look, it's great that Prater made that spine-busting interception with MSU trailing 17-0 in the first half, and a cornerback tying the team lead in solo tackles is something of an accomplishment. But that means that Prater was thrown towards a lot, and he was, and most of his hits came after Mark Dell achieved a first down. How much glory exists in that?

Meanwhile, James Morris was thrust into duty yet again, and MSU tried to test him in the first half. It failed pretty badly. MSU achieved one rushing first down all day long; an 11-yard end around off a first down. In other words, such staples of an offense as "giving the ball to your tailback" or "rushing on 2nd, 3rd, or 4th down" achieved a first down in literally zero instances last week. That's far more impressive than a cornerback loading up on solo tackles, innit?

Last, Ricky Stanzi's the most efficient quarterback who faces real pass defenses. Speaking of unexpected outcomes, don't act like you saw this coming. Last season, for all the winning Iowa did, it was largely in spite of the efforts of Stanzi, who threw 15 interceptions and had a nasty habit of giving away touchdowns. This season, Stanzi currently leads the nation in the lowest interception percentage of any quarterback who has qualified with 15 attempts per game. Raise your hand if you saw Stanzi throwing the fewest interceptions per pass of any quarterback in the nation six months ago. Now put your hand down, liar. Why you gotta lie?

At this point, Stanzi is second in the nation in passer efficiency behind Boise State's Kellen Moore, and their margin of separation is just half what it was one week ago; in the interim, Stanzi went 11-15 with 3 TDs and 0 INTs, while Moore threw 2 TDs and a pick in far more attempts against Louisiana Tech. We're not about to predict Stanzi ends up leading the nation in passer efficiency, but he's much more on his way than he was three months ago, a month ago, a week ago, and even two days ago. Could Ricky Stanzi end up leading the nation in passing efficiency? Probably not, but he's closer now than anybody ever thought possible, and that merits a ton of our attention.

 

*Matt Millen nailed this, by the way, and he deserves credit for it, because Matt Millen is generally a good TV analyst. Oh, he's an atrocity as a GM, and his infatuation with Mark Dantonio's "character" is at best galling, but he can call a game. Just because somebody is poor at a job they'd been given doesn't necessarily grant people license to arbitrarily affix negative qualities to him and assume they're true. Yeah, nuance. Sorry.

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