The Iowa Hawkeyes kept the momentum going on Saturday as they defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 24-10. The win puts Iowa into the driver’s seat for the the Big Ten West with a trip to Minnesota on the docket this week. It’s a must-win situation for each team if they want a chance at that trip to Indianapolis and both sides will need everyone healthy they can get.
For Hawkeye fans, there will be questions about availability heading into Kirk Ferentz’s media availability on Tuesday. Starting guard Beau Stephens departed with an apparent head injury in the first half of Saturday’s contest and Ferentz indicated he may not be available this week in his postgame presser. Meanwhile, wide receiver Arland Bruce IV missed last week’s win after appearing on the depth chart earlier in the week, but Ferentz sounded more optimistic about his availability this week when asked post-game.
Ahead of this week’s trip north to Minneapolis, the Hawkeyes released a fresh depth chart on Monday afternoon. As a reminder, these have been more a reflection of the end of the prior game rather than a forward-looking view at availability. Nonetheless, here’s a look at this week’s depth chart.
- Let’s start on the interior. As noted above, Beau Stephens was knocked out of last Saturday’s contest and that is reflected in the new depth chart. Stephens is absent with Nick DeJong stepping into the starter role. Gennings Dunker is listed as his backup. We will certainly see questions for Ferentz at his media availability on Tuesday regarding the status of Stephens.
- What makes the absence of Stephens perhaps more notable is that Arland Bruce IV is listed on this week’s depth chart. His addition seems to indicate that this week’s chart might actually be a forward-looking indicator rather than simply a reflection of how things ended last week. Or it might just be that the staff forgot to take him off the depth chart after he was listed there last week and then didn’t play. We’ve seen that before.
- One place where there was a change for Bruce is on special teams. We saw superstar Cooper DeJean make an impact in the return game on Saturday with a 41-yard return. Now he is listed as the starting punt returner this week with Bruce listed as his backup. Perhaps this thing is actually forward-looking for once? Either way, here’s hoping we see more of those fielded punts with nice returns and fewer balls rolling for 5, 10 or 15 additional yards that don’t show up in the stat sheet.
And that’s it. There are no changes to the defense this week and frankly, why would there be? Hawkeye fans will want to hear the updates on Bruce and Stephens during this week’s media availability.
Another thing to keep an eye on is the health of Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan. Morgan was carted off during Minnesota’s loss to Illinois in mid-October. He went on to miss the loss to Penn State but returned for the 31-0 win over Rutgers. The last two weeks, however, it has been backup Athan Kaliakmanis at the helm. The Gophers have attempted just 25 passes in those two games combined, instead handing the ball to running back Mo Ibrahim 68 combined times against Northwestern and Nebraska. If Morgan is unable to suit up against the Hawkeyes, Phil Parker’s defense may not have to work hard to make Minnesota one dimensional.
The Hawkeyes and Gophers are set to kick off at 3pm CT on Saturday. The game will be broadcast nationally on FOX.