The Iowa Hawkeyes are one of just two unbeaten teams in America, and yet, they are ranked behind a pair of one-loss teams in Alabama and Oklahoma. The only other unbeaten, Clemson, is ranked No. 1 in the country.
Is Iowa getting enough credit for completing its first undefeated regular season in 93 years?
“Well, I’d say they’re ranked fourth in the country, (so that’s) a lot of respect,” Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “They’re getting what they deserve. They’re a good team, they’re balanced offensively and defensively, they’re built at the line of scrimmage and they have a playmaker at quarterback. They’re probably not one of the most talented teams in the country. Everything has been hard for them. They’ve had the hands team on the field the last three games. They’re a good solid team that benefits from being undefeated in the Big Ten, and if they win Saturday, they deserve to be in the playoff.”
Whether the Hawkeyes can beat Michigan State, however, remains to be seen. Quarterback C.J. Beathard, with 20 touchdowns (14 pass, six rush) to just three interceptions, has been stellar all season, while Jordan Canzeri (1,160 total yards, 13 touchdowns) has been a force out of the backfield.
But does Iowa have the overall size and strength and speed to match up with Sparty? In a word, no.
“They don’t match up,” DiNardo said. “Michigan State has more talent. (But does Iowa have enough to win)? I think absolutely (Iowa has) enough (to win). I think in these types of games – the stadium is split in half, there’s so much excitement for Iowa to be at the game, they’re breaking new ground – I think that helps. They’re not as talented as Michigan State, but turnovers will be a part of it. The kick game (will be a part of it). You don’t have to be better than the other team except for one day, and I think that’s the box that Iowa is in. If you look at their talent top to bottom, Michigan State is a more talented team. Michigan Sate has been an inconsistent team until Ohio State and Penn State. Iowa, on the other hand, has been a very consistent team. So that’s the kind of game it is. Those types of match-ups are common in college football. They’re not so common in the NFL because the NFL is so much more balanced. So this is a great example of an undefeated college football team not being as talented as a one-loss football team, but it still can go either way.”
DiNardo won’t unveil his pick until Saturday, but he does think Michigan State has a better chance of winning the national championship than Iowa.
“Michigan State and Ohio State match up with any of the people in the top-four conversation,” DiNardo said, when asked to assess the Big Ten’s top contenders. “They match up with Alabama. I think Michigan State and Ohio State are better equipped for the national championship than Clemson. I think Oklahoma is probably a little bit underrated, so I think that’s a tough draw. But I would put Michigan State first and Ohio State second up against anybody that’s in the national-championship conversation, and I think it’s a fair matchup.”