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Hawkeyes Eye Eight Straight Against the Gophers

The last time the Hawkeyes traveled north to Minneapolis, they left their timeouts inside TCF Bank Stadium and took Floyd of Rosedale with them. It’s now called Huntington Bank Stadium, but the goal will be the same. Floyd has resided in Iowa City for the last seven years dating back to 2015 as the Hawkeyes eye eight straight against the Gophers. This weekend’s rivalry game will require 60 minutes of intensity from the winning team. Weather is looking to be a major factor in this, one of the oldest rivalry games in college football.

Hawkeyes Eye Eight Straight Against the Gophers

The Minnesota Offense

Minnesota brought back Kirk Ciarrocca at the beginning of the 2022 season following his short stints at Penn State and West Virginia in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Ciarrocca was the Gophers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for their 11-win 2019 season that included an Outback Bowl victory against Auburn. They were a win away from a Big Ten West championship that season, and they had one of the better offenses in the Big Ten.

Since Ciarrocca’s return to Minneapolis this season as offensive coordinator, he has brought this offense back up to averaging over 400 yards per game. It’s a threshold they haven’t exceeded since that 2019 season. In 2019, Minnesota led the Big Ten with 10.2 yards per pass attempt. This year, their production has come on the ground behind one of the nation’s top tailbacks. The Gophers are third in the Big Ten, averaging 4.8 yards per rush. 

While he isn’t getting the Heisman hype that his numbers would indicate, Mohamed Ibrahim leads the nation in rushing touchdowns with 18. He gets the ball on nearly 40% of the Gophers’ offensive plays. Ibrahim has rushed for 100-plus yards in 18 straight games dating back to the 2020 season and has 1,261 rushing yards on the season. It is no secret that Ibrahim carries this Minnesota offense, quite literally. The senior’s injury kept him out of last year’s Floyd of Rosedale matchup, but he rushed for 144 yards on 33 carries the last time he laced up against Iowa in 2020.

Quarterback Question

At quarterback, the sixth-year senior Tanner Morgan is dealing with an injury sustained against Nebraska on the first weekend of November. Athan Kaliakmanis filled in for the injured signal caller last week. The former four-star recruit was actually recruited by the Hawkeyes in the 2021 class. Kirk Ferentz addressed this at his media availability this week saying, “We recruited him… we were very impressed with him.” Ferentz also paid recognition to Morgan’s veteran experience and leadership for Minnesota before saying that, given the choice, they’d rather match up with the younger option. He added, “Sometimes watch out for what you ask for… because he is a good player.” Iowa will be preparing their defense as usual, but with an expectation that either Minnesota quarterback could get the nod. 

Hawkeye’s Path to Victory Against Gophers

In Iowa’s current three-game win streak, they have scored eight offensive touchdowns. Those scores came on drives beginning at the 50-yard line on average. Discounting their 91-yard touchdown drive against Purdue, that average moves up to the opponent’s 44-yard line. The advantage in field position in these last three weeks of football for Iowa has been crucial to their wins. Saturday’s climate is going to be brutal, and field position will be even more important.

Points are going to come at a premium in this matchup in Minneapolis, and the field position game may very well come down to which defense can force key turnovers. In the last four matchups between these two teams, Minnesota has turned the ball over seven times compared to Iowa’s three. In the Hawkeyes’ win over the Gophers in 2019, it was an interception that sealed the game and ended the Gophers’ undefeated season. Iowa is on a streak of five games in which they have forced at least one turnover. All five games have included at least one interception. 

Minnesota has been just as good in the turnover margin this season. They have recorded a takeaway in nine of their ten games for 16 total. They have a positive turnover margin in all but one game. If Kaliakmanis gets the nod this weekend, he’ll have one of the toughest tasks of his young career against a defense that allows a mere 3.8 yards per play.

Hawkeyes Eye Eight Straight Against the Gophers

Iowa has won the last seven matchups in this series, and 17 of the last 21 date back to 2001. The Hawkeyes have also covered the spread in the last six games against Minnesota, and are 9-1 against the spread in their last 10. This week, the model would make Iowa a 0.6-point favorite on a neutral field. However this isn’t a neutral field, and the temperature in Minneapolis on Saturday is going to be in the low teens and windy. To account for the conditions, the model makes Minnesota a 2.4-point favorite at home. The total opened up historically low at 32.5, and it is still sitting around that number. 

Each of these two teams is still alive for the Big Ten West division entering Saturday’s rivalry game. Iowa needs to win their remaining two games and hope for at least one more Illinois loss this season. That situation would place the Hawkeyes back in Indianapolis for the third time since 2015. Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck probably remembers Ferentz’s comments regarding the timeouts they left behind last time Iowa was in town. Fleck has yet to welcome Floyd to the Minnesota facilities, and Saturday’s matchup leaves almost no room for error for his squad. Iowa and Minnesota feature two of the best defenses in the nation in what will be a deciding game for the race to Indianapolis.


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