Hawkeyes can win B1G West, but it starts by winning Floyd of Rosedale

Kirk Ferentz is about to do it for Iowa, isn’t he?

A limited offense? Do not worry. Outstanding defensive play to end November? Its specialty since the early 2000s.

Consecutive B1G West titles? A first in the history of the program.

Who knew this was a reality when message boards clamored for the heads of Kirk and Brian Ferentz on a silver platter after a 151-yard, 6-turn jaunt in Columbus in mid-October?

Four teams are currently tied 4-3 in Week 12. Iowa, Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota all have a chance to represent the “other” division in Indianapolis for the B1G championship.

However, another loss will eliminate the Hawkeyes. Iowa meets Minnesota at Huntington Bank Stadium on Saturday, so 1 of the 2 needn’t worry long about being a division contender.

The Hawkeyes are a 2.5 point underdog against the Golden Gophers. Iowa was favored once in their small 3-game winning streak, and that was against Northwestern, who are still looking for their first win on American soil since 2021. Offense remains as dead as Disco, but defense has destroyed offensive production for both Purdue and Wisconsin in the last 2 games.

The Boilermakers rushed for 255 yards while Iowa forced two turnovers in a 24-3 win. A week later, the Badgers beat the Hawkeyes 227-146, but 3 turnovers paid off in a 24-10 win.

That’s Iowa’s formula for success. At this point the 2-game wonder of Brian Ferentz’s strong play-calling has evaporated, so it’s back to what works best. This starts with making attacks one-dimensional and forcing 3-and-outs.

If you do, this weekend gives Iowa a chance to keep the 98.3-pound hog, which is the Floyd of Rosedale trophy in Iowa City, for another season.

The focus is on Mo Ibrahim from Golden Gophers

Everything grinds to a halt for Hawkeyes believers should Iowa fall outside of Minneapolis on Saturday. In reality, the biggest threat to stopping Iowa in the Minnesota backfield lies with Mo Ibrahim. Much like Michigan’s Blake Corum and Illinois’ Chase Brown, Ibrahim falls into the “challenging” category when it comes to preventing him from moving the sticks.

Ibrahim, whose 18-game streak of 100-yard rushing dates back to 2019, was a threat in conference play. He’s been averaging 5 yards on 29 carries per game since Week 4. Last week, Ibrahim hit a B1G high for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns against Northwestern.

As for the rest of Minnesota’s offenses? It ended with 188 yards.

Without veteran quarterback Tanner Morgan to command the huddle, the Golden Gophers have become offensively predictable. Freshman Athan Kaliakmanis hasn’t completed more than 9 passes in a game since taking charge against Penn State. He has not thrown more than 25 times in one outing. In the last 3 games, the Golden Gophers have played 231 games. On a whopping 45% (106) of the snaps, they gave the ball to Ibrahim.

Just because the Hawkeyes currently own the eighth best running defense in the nation doesn’t guarantee they will stop at the line of scrimmage. Illinois, ranked 6th in run defense, allowed Ibrahim to run an average of 8.5 yards per snap while rushing for 127 yards in a 26-14 win over Illini. Penn State, which keeps runners at 3.6 yards per carry, allowed Ibrahim to streak for over 100 total yards on 30 carries.

Let’s just say the Hawkeyes end Ibrahim’s three-digit streak on Saturday. Is that enough to win? It depends on offense and defensive ability to turn over. In last week’s win over the Badgers, Iowa had 146 total yards of offense, 5 yards shy of his blowout loss to Ohio State.

How did it win? The Sales Battle. Graham Mertz threw 2 interceptions, including a 32-yard pick-6 from Cooper DeJean. He also had a fumble in the 4th quarter, allowing Leshon Williams to finish the clock in 3 games.

That’s probably the formula to win on Saturday. Kaliakmanis hasn’t thrown a pick in his last 2 games, but he has completed under 55% of his passing. The Golden Gophers are also 11 of 37 (29.7%) in 3rd down conversions.

History on Hawkeye’s side?

The first team that PJ Fleck fails to conquer is Iowa. He is 0-5 against Kirk Ferentz and has been outplayed 150-89 since 2017. As a program, the Golden Gophers have not won Floyd of Rosedale since 2015.

From an outside perspective, Iowa could get a boost thanks to Michigan. The Illini travel to Ann Arbor to take on the No. 3 team in the nation, which ranks No. 1 in run defense. Eliminate Brown’s legs, eliminate Illinois’ chances of potentially winning its first B1G title since 2001.

Iowa could very well take the lead in the 1st place race in the final week of the regular season, but it can’t sleep on Minnesota. Ibrahim is dangerous enough to carry the Golden Gophers from den to den, ruining B1G’s hopes for others in the process.

As long as the Hawkeyes don’t reconsider Saturday’s matchup, another win could be on the cards. This could actually make the dream of returning to Lucas Oil Stadium a reality.

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