Gophers Football vs. Iowa: Keys to the Game, How to Watch, and Who’s on the Edge – InForum

When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Huntington Bank Stadium
Weather: 19 degrees, cloudy, 12 km/h wind from the east
Betting favorite: Minnesota, down 2.5

Records: Gophers (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) and Hawkeyes (6-4, 4-3) each have three straight wins and sit in a four-way tie for leadership of the Big Ten West division.

Story: PJ Fleck is 0-5 against the Hawkeyes. Kirk Ferentz has won against Minnesota seven times in a row and Iowa has won 17 of the last 21. The Gophers’ last win was a 51-14 blowout in Minneapolis in 2014.

key match: sales margin. The over/under is set at 32.5 so points are expected to be hard to come by. With the Hawkeyes’ poor offense, Minnesota can’t take any freebies. The Hawkeyes are second in the nation with four defensive touchdowns (two by fumbles, two by interceptions) in 10 games.

Gophers Attack vs. Iowa Defense: The Hawkeyes defense is #1 in the nation in yards allowed per game (3.8). “This is the best defense I’ve seen in a couple of years,” said Kirk Ciarrocca, the Gophers’ offensive coordinator. “They have no weakness.” All-America nominee Jack Campbell leads the Big Ten with 99 tackles. Given Iowa’s defensive class, Minnesota will need to complement a heavy dose of Mo Ibrahim’s onslaught with successful passing plays. The Gophers’ starting quarterback (Athan Kaliakmanis or Tanner Morgan) is unknown. Morgan missed last week’s 31-3 win over Northwestern with an upper-body injury; Kaliakmanis missed at least four shots this past weekend and completed just 53% of his passes for 64 yards. The Gophers have kicked the ball an average of 52 times in their seven wins and 32 times in their three losses. … Lukas Van Ness leads Iowa with 40 presses; he and Joe Evans are two fringe players with six sacks each. Minnesota’s offensive line is 13th in the nation and only allows one sack per game. … Ibrahim leads the nation with 18 quick touchdowns. … CB Cooper DeJean has returned four INTs, two for TDs. EDGE: Iowa

Gophers Defense vs. Iowa Offense: The Hawkeyes offense ranks 128th in yards per game (4.1), including a season-low 146 yards in a 24-10 win over Wisconsin. Iowa’s pass-blocking class is the worst in the Big Ten, according to Pro Football Focus. Minnesota had a season-high in pressure and sacks against second-worst team, Nebraska, showing this is an area the Gophers can exploit. RG Beau Stephens’ start is expected to miss with an injury against Wisconsin. Edge rusher Jah Joyner had perhaps his best five-press game against Northwestern yet. He also drew two holding penalties on the Big Ten’s top offensive tackle, Peter Skoronski. … But Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi has seen improvement from Iowa in recent weeks, mostly up front. Freshman RB Kaleb Johnson had big plays against Purdue and Northwestern (at least 7.2 yards per carry) but was bottled by Wisconsin (2.6). Rossi, who is in the running for the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant, considered TE Sam Laporta a prime threat. He is Iowa’s all-time leader in tight end receptions and this year he is leading the team with 49 catches for 506 yards. QB Spencer Petras has five TDs and five INTs in 10 games and has been sacked by the Badgers six times. Minnesota’s defense has 12 interceptions; Both teams have a turnover margin of plus 5. EDGE: Ground Squirrel

Special teams: Since only a few points are expected, this facet could play a large role. Both kickers, Matthew Trickett and Drew Stevens, were consistent and scored at least 86% of field goals. Australian punter Tory Taylor averages five more yards per boat than his fellow countryman Mark Crawford. PR DeJean had a great return of 41 yards against Wisconsin. Iowa blocked three kicks/punts; Minnesota has zero. EDGE: Iowa

Forecast: With a razor-thin margin forecast, Fleck will be just aggressive enough and his offense will be able to convert a big conversion or two in third or fourth place. And the Gophers will be able to break their long-lost runners in this rivalry game in the passing game. Ground Squirrels, 17-15


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