Sep 21, 2013; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard (16) hands off the football to fullback Adam Cox (38) against the Western Michigan Broncos during the second half at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa beat Western Michigan 59-3. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
There are two games on the schedule every year that Gopher fans cannot stand the thought of losing. Those games are against Wisconsin and Iowa. Most of us probably work with, are friends with, or know Iowa and Wisconsin fans. The thought of having to deal with said Iowa and Wisconsin fans rubbing our faces in a loss in just unbearable. Therefore the Gophers can’t lose to Iowa on Saturday.
Iowa is playing well in 2013 and you can bet your Johnson that they’re a heck of a lot better than the Iowa team that beat the Gophers 31-13 last year in Iowa City.
The Gophers will have to play their best game of the year to beat Iowa. The only question is whether Minnesota’s best will be enough.
– Minnesota Offense:
Mitch Leidner did his best Tim Tebow impression last Saturday against San Jose State rushing for 151 yards and four touchdowns. The Gopher offense rushed for 353 yards and is third in the Big Ten in rushing through four games at 282.2 yards per game. However, the Gophers are dead last in pass offense at just 105.2 yards per game. Minnesota won’t be able to run as effectively with their quarterbacks against Iowa or anyone else in the Big Ten for that matter. Leidner will have to throw to keep the Hawkeyes from putting nine men in the box. One of the Gopher receivers will have to emerge. My money is on Isaac Fruetchte.
– Iowa Offense:
Running back Mark Weisman is the true meaning of “three yards and a cloud of dust.” He will get the tough yards and move the pile. In fact Weisman, can do a little more because he is second in the Big Ten in rushing at 117 yards per game and averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Sophomore quarterback and first year starter Jake Rudock has put together a solid season thus far, completing 62 percent of his passes and averaging 185.8 yards per game through the air. The Hawkeyes’ offense averaged the fewest number of plays per game in the Big Ten last year and this year they are averaging the most, with a whopping 81 plays.
Offensive Edge: Iowa
– Minnesota Defense:
Minnesota boasts one of the most underrated defensive lines in the Big Ten, if not the country withvRoland Johnson, Ra’Shede Hageman, Theiren Cockran, and Cameron Botticelli. The Gophers have been tough to run against this year giving up just 102.8 yards per game. The pass defense has been much more vulnerable, giving up 270 yards through the air on average, although one could argue that future NFL quarterback David Fales from San Jose State did most of the damage to the Gophers by himself. The key for the Gophers on Saturday will be generating a pass rush and making things uncomfortable for Jake Rudock, who will be making his Big Ten road debut.
– Iowa Defense:
The Hawkeyes have arguably the best starting set of linebackers in the Big Ten in James Morris, Christian Kirksey, and Anthony Hitchens. They are all seniors so their leadership and experience are equally impressive. The Hawkeyes have been even more impressive than the Gophers against the run, giving up a paltry 91.5 yards per game on the ground. The Hawkeye defense is improved all around including the secondary, which was absolutely torched last year.
Defensive Edge: Minnesota
– Minnesota Special Teams:
Return man Marcus Jones got off to an electrifying start returning a kick for a touchdown in the opener against UNLV, and a punt for a touchdown in the second game of the year against New Mexico State, however he has been contained ever since. Is he due to break out this weekend? Place kicker Chris Hawthorne has done a fantastic job on kickoffs, but he has been shaky kicking field goals and even extra points — he missed two last week against San Jose State.
– Iowa Special Teams:
The Hawkeyes have displayed their own fair share of fireworks in the return game with Kevonte Martin-Manley. Martin-Manley returned two punts for touchdowns last week against Western Michigan. Kicker Mike Meyer is a four year starter and has connected on 77 percent of his field goals in his career.
Special Teams Edge: Iowa
– Minnesota Coaching:
Jerry Kill has been very careful with injuries. He isn’t taking any chances bringing someone back before they are 100 percent healthy and so far it has paid off. Mitch Leidner has been good as a replacement for the injured Philip Nelson and the secondary has been able to recover from Briean Boddy-Calhoun’s season ending knee injury. Running backs like David Cobb and Rodrick Williams have picked up the slack for injured backs Donnell Kirkwood and redshirt candidate Berkley Edwards. Maybe Kill is a coach that realizes his depth or maybe he’s just a smart, savvy coach getting his backups some reps in low-risk situations so the team is even stronger at the end of the year when everyone is healthy.
– Iowa coaching:
Kirk Ferentz made Sports Illustrated’s five worst coaches in college football list this past summer. Pardon the pun, but I think that is hogwash. Ferentz has won two Big Ten championships, finished in the top 10 four times, and has been to two BCS bowl games. He is a good coach. Iowa fans better be careful before they get any ideas about running him out of town.
Coaching Edge: Minnesota
Prediction: Minnesota 21, Iowa 17
I have been tossing and turning at night going back and forth on this game. With that, I also reserve the right to change my mind and say I told you so if the Gophers lose.
For whatever reason, I have last year’s debacle still fresh in my memory. The game was over after the first quarter. That won’t happen this year, but Iowa is a better football team this year.
The Gophers are also a better team than last year and are playing at home, not to mention the obvious disadvantage on Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock who will be making his first Big Ten start on the road.