In the Big Ten: Iowa, Michigan State on outside looking in

Published 9:35 am Thursday, October 27, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa — Somewhat unexpected championship runs by Michigan State and Iowa last season fueled expectations of potential repeats in 2016.

It doesn’t look like either team will make it back to Indianapolis this December.

The Spartans (2-5, 0-4 Big Ten) are a staggering four games behind No. 2 Michigan (7-0, 4-0) heading into their annual showdown game this Saturday.

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The Hawkeyes (5-3, 3-2), who are off this week, still has something of a plausible path to the West title. But it involves winning their final four games, which would include home victories over the Wolverines and unbeaten and seventh-ranked Nebraska (7-0, 4-0), and one more loss for Wisconsin (5-2, 2-2) and two for surging Northwestern (4-3, 3-1).

So how did two teams that just 10 months ago played a title game end up here?

Michigan State’s young defense, which held the Hawkeyes to just 13 points in that slugfest of a championship game in 2015, is letting up nearly 30 points a game. The Spartans had as many as six freshmen playing defense at times in last week’s last week’s 28-17 loss to Maryland (5-2, 2-2).

Iowa’s defense ranks 20th nationally at 18.9 points allowed per game. But its offense has been a mess since mid-September, failing to score more than 21 points in four of its last six games.