The Iowa Hawkeyes are back from the dead and officially rolling after taking down the Wisconsin Badgers 24-10 in the battle for the Heartland Trophy last week. The win put the Hawkeyes into a tie for first place in the Big Ten West standings with Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota after the Boilermakers handed the Illini their second straight loss.
Now, the Illini are staring down a trip to Ann Arbor and the likelihood that they’ll enter next week in second place in the division. The Boilermakers have the easiest remaining schedule among those currently atop the standings with matchups remaining against Northwestern and Indiana, but their home loss to the Hawkeyes two weeks ago puts Iowa in the driver’s seat.
But for Iowa, they have no wiggle room and need wins each of the next two weeks or it was all for not. First up is a trip to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophs looked like they were poised to take the reins in the West earlier this season when they started the year 4-0.
Then the injury bug struck and the Gophers fell to Purdue without superstar RB Mo Ibrahim in the lineup. A week later, the dropped another one to the Illini as starting QB Tanner Morgan was carted off the field. That left Minnesota with backup QB Athan Kaliakmanis at the helm for a trip to Happy Valley. The Gophers were obliterated and what once looked like a West contender was now 4-3.
But this is the Big Ten West and nobody is ever truly dead. Morgan returned for a blowout win over Rutgers before missing the next two wins over Nebraska and Northwestern, but now the Gophers enter the battle for Floyd of Rosedale at 7-3 overall and locked with the Hawkeyes, Illini and Boilermakers atop the West standings.
A Hawkeye win would almost certainly mean they control their own destiny entering the final week of the season (Illinois has opened as an 18-point underdog heading to Michigan, per DraftKings Sportsbook). A Minnesota win would mean the Gophers need Purdue to drop one of their final two matchups and the Hawkeyes would be back to playing simply for being over .500 on the season.
Oh, and there’s that 98-pound pig on the line as well. This is set to be a big time matchup in Minneapolis.
Here’s an early look at what you need to know about this week’s matchup.
Date: Saturday, November 19th
Time: 3:00 pm CT
Matchup: Iowa Hawkeyes (6-4, 4-3) at Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-3, 4-3)
Location: Huntington Bank Stadium - Minneapolis, MN
Preliminary Weather Forecast: mostly cloudy with temps in the mid-teens, 15% chance of precipitation with 10mph winds out of the NW
DraftKings Opening Line: Minnesota -3, O/U 32.5
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
This weekend will mark the 116th meeting all-time between the Hawkeyes and Gophers in a series that dates back to 1891. The Gophers lead the all-time series 62-51-2, thanks in large part to some serious dominance the the pre-WWII era.
Minnesota opened up the series with a 12-game winning streak, the longest of any team in the series, that spanned from 1891-1916. The Hawkeyes finally got on the board in 1919, but the Gophers remained dominant really right up until the 1950s. Since then, things have taken a turn for the Hawkeyes, thanks in large part to the program turnaround under Hayden Fry in the ‘80s.
Since 1982, Iowa holds a 29-11 record in the series, capped off by the current 7-game winning streak that dates back to 2015. That’s the longest streak by the Hawkeyes all-time in this series and the second longest by either team. Since 2001, the Hawkeyes hold a 17-4 edge
Current Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck, who is back to .500 in the Big Ten after last week’s win at 25-25 all-time, has yet to beat Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes in his five attempts at the helm. Ferentz, on the other hand, is 17-6 in his 23 years at Iowa.
The Hawkeyes have won three straight in Minneapolis and four of the last five meetings up north. Notably, the last time these two teams faced off in Minnesota, the Hawkeyes opted to take Floyd and leave the timeouts.
Preseason Prep Work
As we march toward kick off, be sure to check out our preseason preview for this week’s matchup. There’s loads of important details and unique looks at this week’s opponent, including these great stats:
64: Per Phil Steele, the Gophers’ offensive line will return just 64 starts, headlined by center John Michael Schmitz. The most notable loss off the 2021 line, who combined for 182 starts, is Daniel Faalele (Tyler Linderbaum’s teammate). Their ability to road-grade up front enabled a strong rushing attack despite losing multiple running backs to injury throughout the season.
11: Last season, Minnesota had 23 first downs while Iowa managed just 12. Since Kirk Ferentz has adopted the Goofers as his children (2015), Iowa has actually averaged 1.5 less first downs/game than Minny. In five matchups against Fleck-coached squads, four times Goldy had as many or more first downs as Iowa. Now, that includes two absolute blowouts of Minnesota, so tread carefully with that stat, but they’ve become an elite ball control unit under Fleck.
3,253: Tanner Morgan’s passing yardage in 2019, the last season Kirk Ciarrocca was offensive coordinator for Minnesota before reuniting for 2022. The question for Minnesota is how much was that pairing a function of Morgan’s efficiency or how much was having really, really good wide receivers. In 20 games since 2019, he’s barely eclipsed that yardage: 3,418 with a huge dropoff in completion percentage - 66.0% to 58.9%.
6: Would you believe it if I told you the Gophers finished 2021 as the #6 scoring defense in all the land? They allowed over 20 points just twice in their last 11 games (Iowa & Nebraska).
Here’s a look at the preseason predictions for this one:
Staff Prediction: Toss-up, 50/50 Iowa win
Fan Prediction: Iowa Win, 80% of the vote
BizarroMath Prediction: Iowa 18.92, Minnesota 21.29 (Minnesota +2.37), 46.20% chance of winning
Stay tuned all week as we dive deeper on the players, matchups and stats to know as the Hawkeyes face off with the Gophers.