Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 4, 2015

Earlier, I looked at Michigan State and Iowa position-by-position on offense. Here is a look at the Spartans and Hawkeyes on defense on special teams. Who has the edge?

No doubt, the Spartans pass the eyeball test getting off the bus. There is 6-3, 280-pound Lawrence Thomas ? 6-6, 286-pound Malik McDowell ? and the most fearsome of all: 6-4, 250-pound Shilique Calhoun, an athletic freak off the edge who paces the Spartans with 11.5 TFLs and 8.5 sacks. Michigan State is deep with talent in this area, which makes it the strongest unit on the squad. Iowa dearly misses standout end Drew Ott, who is out for the season after suffering a knee injury in Week 6 vs. Illinois. Without Ott, the Hawkeye pass rush lacks pop. Redshirt freshman Parker Hesse has picked up some of the slack. Nate Meier is an energy guy off the edge, leading the club with 10.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks. But neither is of Ott?s ilk. Jaleel Johnson plugs the run.
EDGE: Michigan State

Iowa struggled to defend the perimeter last season. Go back and watch the bowl game debacle vs. Tennessee. No more. Credit linebackers like Ben Niemann, Cole Fisher and Joey Jewell, who leads the team in tackles. He and Fisher each have over 100 stops. Michigan State received a huge blow when Ed Davis was lost for the season in August with injury. But the group regrouped with Riley Bullough and Darien Harris setting the tone along with Jon Reschke and young stud Andrew Dowell. Bullough (90) and Harris (73) are 1-2 on the squad in tackles.
EDGE: Even

For more Big Ten Football Championship coverage, read these posts:

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The Spartans were left scrambling when cornerback Vayante Copeland was lost for the season to injury in September, a big blow. Arjen Colquhoun and Darian Hicks are a solid corner duo, but MSU lacks a stud shut-down presence like it has had in recent years in Darqueze Dennard and Trae Waynes. And the safety play has lacked consistency. Bottom line: The pass defense has been spotty for the Spartans. There hasn?t been a more productive defensive back in the nation than Iowa?s Desmond King, who paces America with eight picks and also has 11 pass breakups. He teams with Greg Mabin to give the Hawkeyes a formidable corner tandem. Jordan Lomax is a heady and productive safety with a nose for the ball.
EDGE: Iowa


This hasn?t been a great season for Michigan State kicker Michael Geiger, who has hit just 9-of-14 field-goal attempts (64.3 percent). In fact, this continues a two-year funk for Geiger, who had a smashing debut in 2013 but converted just 63.6 percent of his field goals in 2014. But who can forget the image of Geiger sprinting downfield whirling an arm after nailing 41-yard field goal as time expired to beat Ohio State a few weeks ago? It is an epic moment in the 2015 Spartan season. Few kickers in the Big Ten can match the cannon leg of Iowa's Marshall Koehn, who has nailed 13-of-17 field-goal attempts (76.5 percent) with no blocks. His longest of the season was a 57-yarder in the waning moments to beat Pitt back in September, so he can bomb it under pressure. Michigan State lacks much dynamic ability in the return game. Iowa's Desmond King excels on punt (13.3 ypr) and kickoff (25.6 ypr) returns.
EDGE: Iowa


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