The sequel for Iowa and Michigan State has already disappointed
Generating a sequel to a blockbuster hit isn’t an easy business.
Even the most successful franchises produce a blunder now and then. I mean, ask any Star Wars fan and they’ll tell you they’d rather be held captive by storm troopers than sit through Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Wait, before you close your browser, I swear I have a point.
Both Iowa and Michigan State entered the season hoping to build on last season. In Iowa City and East Lansing, there was plenty of hype surrounding the programs that were separated by three points in the B1G Championship and finished a combined 24-4 a year ago.
The Hawkeyes were shooting for consecutive 12-0 seasons. Mark Dantonio and the Spartans had #Back2Back conference titles on their mind. Both of those goals seemed attainable.
Yet here we sit, two weeks in to the B1G season and both of last year’s division champions have been eliminated from contention. Maybe not mathematically, but the product on the field has provided us with evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
It was apparent on Saturday that neither team is capable of living up to the ridiculously high expectations set before the season started. Michigan State had a 14-0 lead in the third quarter against an Indiana team that hadn’t beaten a ranked team at home since 2008. Iowa couldn’t defend a putrid Northwestern offense that, until yesterday, was averaging 16.3 points per game, the lowest in the conference.
We were willing to look past each team’s first loss.
The Hawkeyes squandered a home game against North Dakota State. Maybe they overlooked the Bison, didn’t take them seriously because of that FCS asterisk beside their name on the schedule. After a humbling loss, Kirk Ferentz would regain the focus of his embarrassed team and set their minds towards another B1G West title.
In atypical fashion, Michigan State was manhandled by Wisconsin. That never happens to the Spartans, especially on their home turf. But Wisconsin is really good and mistakes allowed the game to spiral out of control. Just work out some of the kinks and the reigning conference champs would be back on their destructive path.
Maybe those should’ve been our first signs that something wasn’t right, that these weren’t the same two teams that fought tooth-and-nail in Indianapolis for a College Football Playoff bid.
Sequels are hard to produce in the film-making industry. It’s just as challenging on the field. Iowa and Michigan State have proven that.
Just five weeks into the season, we may have seen moments that will already define each team’s season.
Ahead 21-17 in third quarter, Iowa began its first possession from Northwestern’s 28-yard-line. The Hawkeyes were able to get the ball down inside the 10-yard-line. Faced with a 4th-and-3, Ferentz called on the field goal unit to increase the lead to 24-17.
While going ahead by a full touchdown seemed like a reasonable solution, Ferentz’s conservatism may have cost his team the game. The Wildcats, who had gained just 25 yards and lost a fumble in their previous five possessions, were at a vulnerable stage. If the Hawkeyes score a touchdown, an 11-point lead is likely insurmountable. If they fail to convert on fourth down, you’re forcing a sluggish offense to drive the ball 94 yards to take the lead.
Iowa could’ve delivered a devastating blow. Instead, it settled for a weak jab to the gut.
Michigan State started backing down on Saturday, too. The Spartans built a 14-0 lead in the third quarter. It wasn’t exactly the prettiest performance under Dantonio’s watch, but it certainly felt like the game was well in hand. Then a trick play, a five-yard TD pass from receiver Mitchell Paige to quarterback Richard Lagow got the Hoosiers to within a score.
The Spartans didn’t look the same after that.
Indiana scored 21 unanswered points. Michigan State found some fight and sent the game into overtime, but this didn’t have the same look of a Dantonio-led squad. As Jim Harbaugh might say, this team didn’t have any “gravel in its guts.”
Griffin Oakes went on to kick the game-winning field goal for the Hoosiers in overtime.
Even with Riley Bullough, Jon Reschke and a host of other key contributors on the sideline, this was a winnable game for Michigan State. If this team was close to championship caliber, it wouldn’t have blown a two-score lead to a middling B1G program.
It’s disappointing. The season’s hasn’t reached the midway point and two of our favorite characters have already been removed from the script. We’ve lost interest in some of the most highly-anticipated story lines.
The Iowa-Michigan game that was going to be a critical match-up? The Hawkeyes just hope that one doesn’t turn into a laugher.
Ohio State-Michigan State? The game that’s determine the B1G champ each of the past two years? That might be a tune-up game for the Buckeyes before they battle Michigan a week later.
We’re in the middle of a dud hoping that at some point things turn around. Unfortunately, it seems like this production was define in the first quarter of the season. Michigan State would have to beat Michigan and Ohio State and hope they both lose another game. With Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan on the schedule, it’s hard to imagine Iowa getting more than seven wins.
At this point, both programs are just hoping to salvage some positive moments.
This isn’t the best work we’ve seen from Ferentz or Dantonio. With a real chance to produce an entertaining sequel, they both dropped the ball.
It doesn’t even have a chance to be exciting.