The glass case housing the Quick Lane Bowl trophy in the Gophers’ complex now displays the Governor’s Victory Bell from beating Penn State. Across from it, is Paul Bunyan’s Axe, taken from Wisconsin last season. The Gophers will hope to make room for Floyd of Rosedale after Saturday.
Prediction: Gophers 33, Iowa 20.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Make way for Martin
While the Gophers defense stopped Penn State in the red zone, it still gave up some big plays from missed tackles. Tackles linebacker Kamal Martin would have made. He has missed the past two games after being injured at Rutgers on Oct. 19. But he should return now after a full week of practice.
Title on the line
At three games out, Iowa has nothing to lose if it wants to make something of this season. Meanwhile, with a Wisconsin loss at Nebraska, the Gophers could know before stepping on the field that a victory guarantees them a trip to the Big Ten championship game.
Iowa’s Nate Stanley will be the most seasoned quarterback the Gophers have faced this season, having encountered mostly backups and young players. As a third-year starter, the senior has accumulated 6,780 career passing yards and 59 touchdowns.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Gophers LT Sam Schlueter vs. Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa
Schlueter and the offensive line neutralized Penn State’s strong defensive line, including dangerous defensive ends such as Yetur Gross-Matos. But Epenesa is even tougher than that, with his team-high 4.5 sacks and eight quarterback pressures. Schlueter’s versatility to play different positions along the Gophers’ sometimes six-man O-line should give his team a boost.
Iowa FS Jack Koerner vs. the Gophers’ passing game
Koerner leads Iowa’s stellar defense with 50 tackles and ranks second on the team with four pass breakups. But Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan and talented receivers such as Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman are coming off one of their best games. Morgan completed 18 of 20 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns vs. Penn State.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
12 Touchdowns the Hawkeyes have given up in their nine games, the third-fewest in the country. Overall, their defense ranks in the top-20 in the country in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense. They allow opponents an average of only 11.7 points and 288.9 yards per game. They have shut out Big Ten opponents four times in the past 12 games.
THE Gophers WILL WIN IF …
their offense continues to light up the scoreboard. Iowa’s defense is stout, but its offense can’t amass the points the Gophers can, as they have never scored fewer than 28 this season. If the Gophers gain a decent lead, the Hawkeyes won’t be able to catch up.
Iowa WILL WIN IF …
its defense finds a way to do what no one has: Stop the Gophers on the ground and in the air. Penn State put a lot of effort into foiling the Gophers’ run, but it couldn’t contain the pass. Iowa will need to do both to win.