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Minnesota Gophers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes: Preview, predictions and prognostications

When: Nov. 14; 8p.m. ET
Where: Iowa City, IA; Kinnick Stadium (70,585)
All-Time Series: Minnesota leads 62-44-2
Last Meeting: Minnesota Win 55-10 (2014)
Line: Iowa -11.5

Old Floyd of Rosedale is on the line, and when it comes to rivalry games in the Big Ten this is easily one of the craziest and most fun. I mean, these two teams played for their meal for awhile…you know, a real, live, pig folks.

This one has a lot on the line though, as Iowa looks for a 10-0 start to the season and its first ever such start in school history. Meanwhile, Minnesota named Tracy Claeys the permanent head coach earlier in the week and rightfully so after back-to-back impressive efforts against Michigan and Ohio State.

Will this game befuddle us all as it usually does or can Iowa continue an improbable run to an undefeated season?


1 Burning Question: Is the pressure getting to Iowa? 

Iowa can no longer come in under the radar, not that they would ever in the Big Ten anyway. However, sitting at No. 5 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings means the undefeated Hawkeyes are on the verge of being able to compete for a national championship.

No doubt Kirk Ferentz’s team is going to give a dose of “one game at a time” to his players, but it is hard to not buy in to what is happening around this team and the noticeably larger media contingent around. Keeping that kind of increased scrutiny and pressure out of the heads of 18 to 21-year old’s isn’t an easy task.

2 Key Stats:

—98.3: That is the weight of the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy. How many of you knew that little factoid? Just put that in the way-back of your memory in case it ever happens at a Trivia Night in your local establishment of choice. Besides, who doesn’t love this trophy?

— 10: Iowa is in the top 10 nationally in five major categories. Those are — turnover margin (6), scoring defense (8), rush defense (9), time of possession (9) and takeaways (10). Is it any wonder how the Hawkeyes have racked up nine wins already this season? Doing all of those things well is exactly what a Hawkeyes recipe for success looks like.

3 Key Players:

Akrum Wadley, Iowa RB: It’s no secret that Iowa’s recent failures were a result of next to nothing from the run game. That isn’t the case in 2015, as Akrum Wadley and a host of others have led one of the best rushing attacks in the Big Ten. Iowa is second in the league, averaging 205.0 yards per game. Wadley is a great example of the change, coming out of nowhere and averaging 71 yards per game and going for 100 yards or more in two of the last three games. If he can do that again with Jordan Canzeri still nursing an injury, Iowa will win this game.

Mitch Leidner, Minnesota QB: Again, this seems way to obvious, but sometimes the obvious is the right answer. That’s the case with who is the most important player to Minnesota’s success on that side of the ball. Leidner hooked up in a major way with K.J. Maye last week against Ohio State and he has thrown for over 281 yards or more in the last three games. In fact, he threw for over 300 yards in back-to-back games. Leidner will be tested in a major way by this Iowa defense, but if he succeeds in moving this offense it could be an interesting night in Kinnick Stadium.

Desmond King, Iowa CB: If Mitch Leidner is going to go at it through the air, he’ll likely have to outwit one of the best cornerbacks in the country in Iowa’s Desmond King. He’s tops in the country with eight interceptions, but it’s more than picking off passes that makes King so dangerous. He’s as lockdown as they come, amassing seven pass break ups and doing some dangerous work in the return game as well. If King locks down Maye and forces Leidner off his primary target it could be a long day for Minnesota’s offense.

4 Bold Prognostications:

C.J. Beathard won’t complete the game, but will win it for his team: Beathard has been the pulse of this offense, but he’s also not 100 percent coming in to this game. Minnesota’s defense isn’t renowned for getting major pressure on the opposition (ranking 12th in the B1G with 12.0 sacks as a team), but Iowa’s offensive line is shaky at times and look for the Gophers to be hyped up enough to get some big pressure and knock Beathard for a loop (in a clean way) at some point late in the contest…it will be just too late.

Minnesota will score in the final two minutes of the first half: One of the craziest stats on the Hawkeyes season is the fact that they’ve outscored opponents 37-0 in the final two minutes of the first half in nine games so far this season. That streak is snapped in this contest, as the Gophers put a scare in to the Hawkeyes in what is likely to be a low-scoring affair this time around.

Minnesota will break the 100-yard mark as a team on the ground: There’s little doubt this group misses the run game badly. Minnesota ranks 13th in the league in rushing as a team, and has missed the 100-yard mark in two of the last three games. However, the Gophers haven’t had back-to-back games under 100 yards rushing. That will happen on Saturday night and it could be what keeps the Gophers from winning.

Desmond King will seal the game with an interception: Keeping Desmond King from intercepting a pass has proven a difficult task for opposing teams. Leidner is much improved with the emergence of K.J. Maye, but he’s still prone to mistakes. This game will be close late and King will bait Leidner in to a bad throw, resulting in a crucial interception for the home squad to seal a victory and re-take Floyd of Rosedale.

5 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Iowa 17-14 (73-19 overall; 41-50 ATS)
Dave: Iowa 27-14 (75-17 overall; 48-42 ATS)
Greg: Iowa 27-20 (68-26 overall; 50-40 ATS)
Matt: Iowa 24-14 (73-19 overall; 53-37 ATS)
Phil: Iowa 27-13 (27-12 overall; 14-22 ATS) *joined in Week 5

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball


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