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Player to Watch: Minnesota Gophers QB Mitch Leidner

Who hates Iowa? Mitch Leidner hates Iowa.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Our Player to Watch series continues this week with a player that Iowa fans know quite well...

Name: Mitch Leidner (#7)

Year: Senior

Position: Quarterback

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Personally, I feel like college football fans (particularly Hawkeye fans) rip on Mitch Leidner for no reason at all. Even Minnesota fans claim to hate this guy (for reasons I can’t explain). I don’t want to stand up for a player on another team, especially the team facing the Hawkeyes this Saturday. I also can’t speak for Gopher fans, because I don’t watch their pathetic football team week-in and week-out. That being said, the amount of criticism that Leidner takes from Iowa fans is flat out unfair. On top of that, apparently Leidner has some bad blood with a school that once “strung him along” during his recruitment as a high school athlete.

Who hates Iowa?

Mitch Leidner hates Iowa.

That interview (from Chad Leistikow at the Des Moines Register) scares the hell out of me. You do NOT ever mess with a talented quarterback who has something to prove. Ever.

Does Leidner have the greatest arm? No. Are his fundamentals textbook? Heck no. But Leidner has BURNED the Hawkeyes in both of his previous starts against them.

Don’t believe me? I have proof.

2014: 10/13 (76.9%), 138 yards, 4 TD’s, 267.6 passer rating, 11 carries, 77 yards

2015: 19/27 (70.4%), 259 yards, 1 TD, 163.2 passer rating, 11 carries, 32 yards

If you’re scoring at home, you know that those statistics show that in just 2 games against Iowa, Leidner has accounted for 5 touchdowns, almost 400 passing yards, and over 100 rushing yards, all while completing 72.5% of his passes. His ability to beat opposing defenses with his feet and his arm has plagued the Hawkeyes in their 2 last matchups with Minnesota. Iowa has historically struggled against dual-threat quarterbacks, and Leidner, despite carrying a frame of 6’4’’ and 230 pounds, is exactly that.

I expect this year’s Iowa team, in particular, to struggle mightily against Leidner in Saturday’s matchup. Iowa has continued to be pitiful against the run this season and is coming off the Northwestern game that saw them give up three touchdowns through the air. Minnesota runs an offense that is similar to the one executed by the Wildcats, which does not bode well for Iowa. Minnesota is going to try to make Josey Jewell and the rest of the Iowa linebacking corp less of a factor in this game by spreading the field. Phil Parker and the rest of the defensive coaches need to find a solution to a Gopher spread attack that has plagued Iowa in the past. What that solution is...I honestly do not know. However, I do know that if last year’s defense gave up 35 points and 434 total yards to the Gophers, I am downright terrified to see what numbers Minnesota will put up this time.

Behind it all will be Mitch Leidner, a quarterback with something to prove.