WHO: Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten)
IF: 3:00 p.m. CT (Saturday, November 19)
WHERE: Huntington Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
CLAIMERS: Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network (TuneIn or local lists) | SiriusXM Ch. 382 (ca. 972
MOBILE PHONE: Fox Sports app
Twitter: @IowaFBLive | @IowaAwesome | @IowaOnBTN
WEATHER: Temperatures around 15 (-4 wind chill), 15 mph wind
LINE: Minnesota -2.5 (Total: 32.5)
NOTE: Don’t forget to follow all the action throughout the game and chat with your Iowa fans on the Go Iowa Awesome Discord! (More info here.)
it will be cold so much cold
Iowa and Wisconsin rose to dominance in the Big Ten West by copying each other’s plans for success. Given that, it’s hardly a surprise that Iowa and Wisconsin Miscellaneous Its main competitor – Minnesota – has wrought its own turnaround and return to Big Ten relevance by doing much the same thing. Under PJ Fleck, the Gophers were built around burly, hurting offensive lines, strong running plays, and (increasingly) stingy, hard-hitting defenses. Sounds a lot like teams we’re familiar with, right?
Statistically, Iowa and Minnesota appear to be very even on the defensive side of the ball. Minnesota ranks 4th in goal defense (13.1 ppg), while Iowa ranks 5th (13.9 ppg). Iowa is ranked 3rd in total defense (260.7 ypg), Minnesota is 8th (274.0 ypg). Iowa is ranked 8th in rushing defense (88.6 ypg), while Minnesota is 14th (106.8 ypg). Minnesota ranks 8th in pass defense (167.2 ypg), Iowa 10th with 172.1 ypg).
However, there are some notable differences between the Iowa and Minnesota differences if you look a little closer. Iowa is averaging an NCAA-best 3.81 yards per game, which is downright stingy. Minnesota averages 4.83 yards per game, which ranks 15th nationally. Minnesota’s defense has also seen nearly 120 games fewer than Iowa’s defense thanks to the Gopher offense, which averaged nearly 36 minutes of possession per game, second best nationally (Iowa’s offense averages nearly 29 minutes per game, eh 90th nationally). They’ve watched nearly 12 fewer games per game on average than Iowa this year. This difference is also evident in run defense, where Iowa allows just 2.55 yards per carry (second best), while Minnesota allows 3.8 yards per carry (46th place).
The opponents each team faced also play a role in these statistics. Minnesota have conceded 13 points or fewer in seven of 10 games this season, but they’ve also given up 20 points to Purdue, 26 to Illinois and 45 to Penn State. Iowa has allowed 13 points or fewer in eight of 10 games this season, and they’ve only lost points to Michigan (27) and Ohio State (54), who are 5th and 2nd on offense, respectively, this season.
Of course, the main difference between Iowa and Minnesota is that the Gophers combine a rock-solid defense with a very competent offense, while Iowa…doesn’t. Minnesota ranks 49th in offense score (30.6 ppg) and 57th in total offense (403.7 ypg). Most of that offensive productivity comes from the running game, which is averaging 221.2 ypg (14th), 4.8 ypc (32nd) with 31 touchdowns (3rd). (For the record, Iowa has 15 offensive touchdowns total this season.) The primary source of that mileage is Mo Ibrahim, who has 1261 rushing yards (6th), 18 TD (1st) and averaging 140.1 ypg (4th). Ibrahim is a stunner, no question.
However, the Gopher passing game is about as ineffective as the Iowa passing game. Minnesota averages 182.5 ypg, which ranks 117th. (Iowa averages 152.7 ypg, which ranks 123rd.) Gopher QBs end 61.1% of their passes with 8 TD and 8 interceptions. (Iowa QBs make 55.7% of their passes with 5 TDs and 6 interceptions.) I don’t need to elaborate on that, do I? It’s dark stuff.
So you have a matchup of two teams that are best at running the ball (or in the case of Iowa want at least let the ball go; they are not special Well at anything on offense) and that both have patchy, inconsistent (and largely ineffective) passing offenses. Both teams also have strong defenses that are particularly good at stopping the run. This looks like a setup for a fairly even game – and then add to that the weather conditions: bitterly cold (air temps in the low teens but sub-zero wind chills) with gusty winds. The weather will likely make up for the passing more impossible in this game.
But can any team run the ball effectively against that defense – especially when the defense can slow down the run without much fear of the pass attacks making them pay? This feels a lot like a game decided by special teams, turnovers, and just plain weirdness (weird bounces, awkward distractions, slips, etc.). Both teams have an annual sales margin of +5; Iowa has 18 sales versus 13 giveaways; Minnesota has 16 sales versus 11 giveaways. Both teams have 12 interceptions this season. Iowa had slightly worse fumble luck (7 lost fumbles vs. 3 for Minnesota), while the Gophers threw slightly more interceptions (8 vs. 6).
As for specialty teams, Iowa has an advantage in punting (45.5 yards per punt, 6th national vs. 39.8 yards per punt, 107th national) and punt returns (9.8 yards per return, 39th national vs .6.8 yards per return, 75th national). . Minnesota has a slight advantage in field goals (11/12 vs. 14/18), though Drew Stevens is 13/15 since taking the field kicker job.
Minnesota is home, they have the strongest offensive weapon (Mo Ibrahim), and they’ll end their losing streak against Iowa one of these years… but it doesn’t feel like this will be the year. Strange game with low scoring and defense first? It’s Iowa’s bread-and-butter, baby. Iowa lives in the crazy and loves low scoring games. The Iowa Defense is also the best unit in this game. I think the defense will be able to slow down Ibrahim and force a few turnovers that will either lead straight to points or build up the Iowa offense with a favorable field position – and that will be the difference in a meet that tends to be that how a demolition derby might look like as a football game.
IOWA 17, MINNESOTA 13