FACTS & STATS: Site: TCF Bank Stadium (50,805) — Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Iowa 4-1, Minnesota 5-0. Away Record: Iowa
2-1, Minnesota 1-2. Neutral Record: Iowa 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Conference
Record: Iowa 3-1, Minnesota 3-1. Series Record: Minnesota leads, 61-44-2.
GAME NOTES: A pair of teams clinging to the possibility of reaching the Big
Ten Conference Championship Games square off at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday,
as the Iowa Hawkeyes pay a visit to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
A 48-7 demolition of Northwestern last weekend was an excellent bounce-back
for Iowa following a 38-31 loss to Maryland. The Hawkeyes are now sporting a
6-2 overall record, as well as a 3-1 mark in conference play, which has them
sitting a half game back of Nebraska in the West Division standings.
Minnesota had a four-game win streak snapped when it last hit the field,
dropping a 28-24 decision on the road against Illinois on Oct. 25. The Golden
Gophers have been a much different team on the road compared to at home, with
a 5-0 record at TCF Bank Stadium and a 1-2 success rate in away contests. They
are also 6-2 overall and 3-1 in league play, putting them in a tie with Iowa
and Wisconsin for second in the West Division.
Iowa clamped down and allowed only 165 total yards to Minnesota in last
season’s meeting. The Hawkeyes claimed a 23-7 victory in the contest and have
won back-to-back matchups with the Golden Gophers, who still lead the all-time
In its win over Northwestern, Iowa did just about anything it wanted on
offense. The Hawkeyes finished with 483 yards, split fairly evenly between the
run (221 yards) and the pass (262). They averaged 6.8 yards per play in the
win. On the season, they are averaging a shade below 30 points per game, while
ranking sixth in the Big Ten in total offense (400.5 ypg).
Jake Rudock threw for 239 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-19 passing in the win
over Northwestern. It was a prototypical outing for Rudock, who is averaging
223.4 yards per game this season. He has completed 64.6 percent of his pass
attempts for 1,564 yards overall, as well as 10 touchdowns compared to three
Kevonte Martin-Manley (36 receptions, 336 yards, TD) is a reliable option for
Rudock, although he is not a tremendous deep threat, preferring to make plays
in the short passing game. Tevaun Smith (27 receptions, 326 yards, two TDs),
Jake Duzey (26 receptions, 180 yards) and Damond Powell (14 receptions, 280
yards, two TDs) have been integral parts of the passing game as well. However,
Matt Vandeberg was the leading receiver against Northwestern, tallying 90
yards on five receptions.
While Mark Weisman does most of the work out of the backfield, Akrum Wadley
got his first test of the season against the Wildcats, finishing with 106
yards and a touchdown. Weisman was still impressive in the win, gaining 94
yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. He has 521 yards and 13 touchdowns
on 133 total attempts this season.
Iowa is not an explosive offensive team, clearly, but its production has
gotten the job done most games because of a stout defense. The Hawkeyes
are allowing an even 20 points and 322.8 yards per game, ranking sixth in
total defense in a league littered with strong defensive squads.
They are not facing one of the league’s premier offenses this week, although
Minnesota has posted back-to-back 400-yard efforts. The Golden Gophers did not
reach the 400-yard mark in any of the first six games of the season. Minnesota
is ranked 10th in the Big Ten in total offense (356.5 ypg) and seventh in
scoring (28.1 ppg).
David Cobb does most of the heavy lifting out of the backfield, providing
Minnesota with a workhorse back. Cobb has rushed for 1,131 yards and seven
touchdowns overall. He had 118 yards and two scores against Illinois, marking
his fifth 100-yard effort of the campaign and third in the last four games.
With Cobb getting so much work, quarterback Mitch Leidner hasn’t been asked to
carry as much pressure this season. He finally eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark
against Illinois, throwing for a season-high 240 yards to reach to 1,087 for
the season. He is completing only 51.1 percent of his pass attempts and has as
many touchdown passes as interceptions, with six of each.
Isaac Fruechte recorded 105 yards and a touchdown on three receptions against
Illinois. He is one of five players on the roster to have at least 10
receptions this season. The leader of the group is tight end Maxx Williams (17
receptions, 280 yards, four TDs).
Just like Iowa, Minnesota makes up for its lack of offensive prowess by
tightening up on defense. The Golden Gophers are allowing 22.2 points and
351.6 yards per game. They may rank eighth in the Big Ten in total defense,
but reside in the top-40 nationally.
At home, or even on a neutral field, Iowa would get the nod in this one.
However, Minnesota’s ability to control the clock with Cobb, mixed with its
impressive resume’ at home makes the Golden Gophers a slight favorite.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 23, Iowa 21