MINNESOTA at No. 24 IOWA
When: 2:30 pm. Saturday
Where: Kinnick Stadium
Radio: KFAN, 100.3 FM
Weather: 60 degrees, partly cloudy, 4 mph northwest wind
Betting spread: Iowa, -3.5
Records: Iowa (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) leads the Big Ten West Division after a 15-6 win over Wisconsin. Minnesota was idle last week after a 3-3 start, including 1-2 in conference play.
History: The Gophers have lost eight straight to the Hawkeyes, including 10 consecutive in Iowa City since 1999. Minnesota is 2-17 at Kinnick Stadium in the last 40 years.
Key matchup: QB Athan Kaliakmanis vs. Hawkeyes secondary. The redshirt sophomore threw two pick-sixes against Michigan and similar mistakes against Iowa could be catastrophic given Iowa’s anemic offense and its tougher defense.
Who has the edge?
Gophers offense vs. Iowa defense: The Hawkeyes are putting up more sterling stats this season, but are they as talented as years past? Iowa has gone 21 straight games without allowing 400 total yards, the longest streak in FBS. They have allowed only 10 plays of 20-plus yards this season and only one rushing touchdown, both the fewest in FBS. But they have lost studs in Jack Campbell, Riley Moss and Lukas Van Ness to the NFL. … Minnesota, meanwhile, was able to rush for 312 yards against Iowa in a heartbreaking 13-10 loss last November. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said the U ran the ball on Iowa “better than anybody has in a long, long time.” But Mo Ibrahim is done playing and new No. 1 tailback Darius Taylor is an unknown to play due to a leg injury. If Taylor can’t go, Minnesota will have a committee approach led by Zach Evans. … LB Jay Higgins appears to be the heart of the defense, leading Power Five conference teams with 12.4 tackles per game. … One key coaching point has been fundamentals going into Kaliakmanis’ lack of accuracy; he has completed only 55 percent of his passes this year. The U is averaging only 132 yards per game, which is 130th in the nation. They need to get TE Brevyn Spann-Ford to be a complement to WR Daniel Jackson and Corey Crooms Jr. P.J. Fleck, who is 0-6 against Iowa, will likely need to be willing to test the Hawkeyes secondary downfield in order to pull off a win. EDGE: Iowa
Gophers defense vs. Iowa offense: There is an overwhelming correlation in college football between scoring first and winning games. That is especially evident in recent battles for Floyd of Rosedale. Iowa has scored first in all six of Fleck’s losses to the Hawkeyes. … The Hawkeyes have averaged 247 yards per game, the lowest total in FBS. Their firepower has been decimated with a trifecta of injuries to their best offensive weapons: QB Cade McNamara (ACL tear), TE Luke Lachey (ankle surgery) and TE Erick All (ACL tear). Iowa receivers had two catches against Wisconsin and zero versus Purdue two weeks ago. … The Gophers have been stressing the importance of staying disciplined through moments when Iowa might seem mundane because they have the ability to spring a play-action pass, a well-timed screen or scheme up a run for an explosive play. Case in point: RB Leshon Williams’ 82-yard touchdown run to give Iowa a 7-0 lead in Madison, Wis., last weekend. … LB Cody Lindenberg is “closer” to making his season debut, Fleck said this week. But if he can’t go, young LBs Maverick Baranowski and Devon Williams must improve their tackling and zone drops. … The U must take advantage of backup quarterback Deacon Hill, a Wisconsin transfer. Hill isn’t mobile at 260 pounds and has completed only 38 percent of his passes. … Look for the Gophers to creep more players into the box and force Hill and his unproven pass-catchers to beat them. EDGE: Gophers
Special teams: Iowa P Tory Taylor is an averaging 48 per punt, with 19 boots over 50 yards, which have forced offenses to go a long ways to score. Like Taylor, Gophers’ P Mark Crawford is Australian, but he doesn’t have the same type of big leg. Unlike the Gophers stable of returners, Hawkeyes’ PR Cooper DeJean is a big threat, averaging 13 yards per return and a 70-yard touchdown highlight. EDGE: Iowa
Prediction: The Gophers will need to take care of the ball and produce a few explosive plays on offense. Against this Hawkeyes team, that’s not asking too much. But after a long, painful drought, finally getting a win against a rival will mean a heck of a lot in Minnesota. Gophers, 17-14
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