Dispatches from Blogfrica: The Daily Gopher Talks Iowa-Minnesota Football

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawkeyes head to Little Canada to preserve a pig.

What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? This week: JDMill at The Daily Gopher, SB Nation's excellent blog for all things Minnesota.

1) I want you to know that Floyd is doing just fine. In fact, he had a message for you guys that he wanted me to pass on: "Please please please don't make me go back up there. Those people talked funny, they ate some of the strangest and nastiest food I've ever seen, and they kept going on and on about introducing me to their other trophies one of these days. An ax, I think? And a jug, maybe? They said I'd met them before, but I'm pretty sure they were lying. That trophy case is so lonely.... seriously, please don't make me go back there." He didn't even want to make the trip up Minneapolis to sit on the sideline for the game, until we told him that tradition required it. So yeah, HATE WEEK. What level is your hate set at this week?

Thanks for the update on Floyd. Floyd has made it pretty clear that you guys have completely ruined him with this tweet

so I have no doubt that you guys were able to coax a him into this statement. He has clearly been abused and is very discombobulated (Sorry, I better define that word for your fanbase. Saying Floyd is discombobulated is like saying Floyd is confused.)I'd say my level of hate is about at fever pitch (I'm not going to explain that one to you guys. Google it.). This is about the point of HATE WEEK that Iowa fans resort to the "you are racist morons and Minneapolis is basically just a big hicktown and oh yeah, you guis aren't even good at hating us" line of comments. The fact that Iowa fans tell Gopher fans that we aren't good enough at hating them year after year is just laughable. Honestly, how much experience do you guys have with people hating you when you take it upon yourselves to coach them on how they're doing at it?

HATE WEEK is always a mixed bag for me. I vacillate between HATE and pity. I HATE the Hawkeyes and I hate your entire fanbase with the passion of 10,000 suns. But I feel bad for you people that all you have in your lives is a Napolean complex and a has-been football coach with a billion dollar buy-out.

2) Who's going to be the quarterback this week? Is it going to be Mitch Leidner again or has Philip Nelson recovered enough to play in this game? Also, the Minnesota passing game is currently ranked 120th in the nation and is averaging just 109 yards/game on 53% completion percentage, which is the area of the rankings usually reserved for service academies and hopelessly inept offensive teams. Are you worried about Minnesota's passing game? Is it seeming weakness a function of the strong Gopher running game or are there some underlying problems with the aerial attack?

I'd be shocked if Leidner didn't get the start. Nelson has probably recovered enough to get the nod, but the coaching staff isn't going to start him unless he's 100%, which he isn't. In addition, the coaching staff has a lot of confidence in Leidner's ability to run this offense so they've got no problem giving him the ball.

I am worried about Minnesota's passing game only because we haven't seen a lot of it and if we need it in a game, I'm just not sure what to expect. The numbers would certainly suggest that it's a weakness, but the reality is that the Gophers just haven't used the passing game. The Gophers are throwing the ball 15 times/game vs rushing nearly 50 times/game. That's not just an unbalanced offensive attack, that is an absolute commitment to running the ball, which is fine with me because even with that clear focus on the run game, the Gophers are averaging 387 yards/game and nearly 6 yards/play on offense.

3) Speaking of that running game... it's looking pretty diverse, with four players each having more than 30 carries and 200 yards so far this year. Is that by design or have injuries forced Kill's hand here? (Beyond the fact that Nelson's injury forced Leidner to see more action, that is.) Is there any sort of plan with regards to the distribution of carries, or is it just a matter of riding the hot hand at the time?

A little bit of both. The guy who was expected to carry the load of the carries, Donnell Kirkwood, has been injured since week 1 so that has forced the ball to be passed around a bit more, but having multiple running backs was always the plan. It was assumed that Kirkwood, along with Roderick Williams Jr would get the bulk of the carries, but with Kirkwood going down David Cobb has gotten a lot more carries and has really emerged as a change of pace. He leads Gopher running backs in carries, rushing yards, rushing TD's and in yards/carry. He's not blazing fast, but he's got a gear that is slightly faster than Kirkwood or Williams, so he should continue to provide a change of pace even when Kirkwood comes back.

4) What do we need to know about Minnesota's defense? Based on the stats, it looks like the Gophers have a very solid run defense (20th in the NCAA; 103 ypg, 4 TD) and a fairly porous pass defense (98th; 270 ypg, 7 TD/4 INT ). Of course, they also haven't been challenged a lot by opposing running games; UNLV ranks 58th in the NCAA in rushing offense, while New Mexico State is 94th and San Jose State ranks 117th. Is Minnesota's run defense as good as advertised (and, conversely, is the Gophers' pass defense as poor as its stats might suggest)? Aside from future NFL lineman Ra'Shede Hageman, are there any other players we should be paying attention to on the Gopher defense on Saturday?

As I'm sure Iowa fans know, the non-conference schedule makes it kind of tough to answer that question. We've definitely seen a lot more passing (162 attempts) than rushing (122 attempts) against our defense, so that skews things a bit. The other issue has been injuries as our top 2 CB's have missed time due to injury. Derrick Wells missed time early in the season with shoulder trouble and Brien Boddy-Calhoun is out for the year with an ACL injury.

The run D is definitely better than it was last year (it couldn't have gotten worse), but it really hasn't been challenged. I also don't think the pass D is as poor as the numbers suggest at this point and that will be clear as the season goes on.

As far as guys to keep an eye on other than Hageman, I mentioned Derrick Wells. He's a guy that can make a big play at any time. Another guy to watch for is De'Vondre Campbell. He's a Soph JUCO transfer who has really stepped up the last couple of games and will probably end up being our most productive LB by mid-season.

5) Iowa and Minnesota are both teams that like to run the ball a lot and are (so far) pretty good at stopping the run. Do you think either team will have much success in the run game this week, or will this game comes down to which team is better able to establish a passing game?

I actually think both teams will have success running the ball this week. Rushing is what these teams do well, it's what they are designed to do, and I don't think they're going to abandon that. I definitely think that who can pass the ball effectively in order to change the pace and move the chains on 3rd down is going to be important, but at the end of the day I still think the run game on both sides of the ball will be the story of this game.

6) So Minnesota does actually play for all four rivalry trophies this year, Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa-Minnesota), Paul Bunyan's Axe (Wisconsin-Minnesota), the Little Brown Jug (Michigan-Minnesota), and The Governor's Victory Bell (Penn State-Minnesota). If Minnesota could only win one of those trophies this year, which one would you want it to be?

First of all, nobody gives a damn about that stupid bell so we can throw that one out right away.

Second, everybody wants to win the Jug. The Jug is important, but it's not a border rivalry.

At this point in our program, the measuring stick for progress is Wisconsin & Iowa. Geographically and recruiting base wise, those are the programs we need to be measuring ourselves against, so those are the more important trophies. Additionally, because Minneapolis tends to be a destination for post-college jobs in the Midwest, every single Gopher fan works with or is friends with Iowa and Wisconsin fans, so just strictly from a water cooler, bragging rights, standpoint, we want to win these games.

Which one is bigger? The answer that question probably changes depending on which Gopher fan you ask and what experiences they have had. Many find HATE WEEK fun and they certainly want to beat Iowa, but the Border Battle with Wisconsin is the one game they want to win.

For me personally, it comes down to experience. I have met and tailgated with plenty of Badger fans who I found to be welcoming and fun to party with. Don't get me wrong, I want the Gophers to destroy their team, but from a fan experience standpoint, my experience with Badger fans has been nothing but positive. On the other hand, I have met very few Iowa fans that I would ever want to hang out with again.

But screw that. We want Floyd and we want the Axe and all Badger & Hawkeye fans are ugly and they all smell like poopy and I hope all of their cars breakdown on their tearful drives back to their awful states that are filled with meth houses.

7) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?

In all seriousness, this should be a damn good football game. It should be a throwback with lots of physical play and lots of running. Stats like time of possession and turnovers should be important. Blah blah blah.I think this is a different Gopher team and I think they are up for the challenge that the Hawkeyes bring. The Hawkeyes will be able to move the ball, but the Gophers get a couple of timely turnovers and big stops and win the game 31-24.

Thanks for being a good sport, JDMill, although I still hope your team loses by 50 on Saturday. You can check out JDMill and the rest of the TDG crew at The Daily Gopher. You can also follow JDMill on Twitter at @jdmill and TDG on Twitter at @TheDailyGopher. The Iowa-Minnesota game is in Minneapolis on Saturday, September 28, and is scheduled to start at 2:30 pm CT, with television coverage from ABC/ESPN2.

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