The No. 8 Gophers offense has never tallied fewer than 28 points in a game this season. In fact, they averaged 37.6 per game heading into Saturday's matchup with No. 20 Iowa.
Even against a stout Penn State defense a week ago, the Gophers managed 31 points to improve to 9-0. But Iowa is also known for strong defense and will be another challenge for the Gophers to overcome. Here's what offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca said of the Hawkeyes:
"Iowa's guys are big and strong. They do a great job of playing your plays," he said. "Their coverage scheme is a little bit different. We call their brand of quarters, 'Iowa quarters', the way they play it. So it's a little bit different. But they're big and strong. Iowa's defenses are always big and strong up front."
Ciarrocca warned of Iowa's front seven, which is tough on the run. But he also called the secondary "athletic." He remembered thinking after last year's loss how great it was some of the big defensive linemen would graduate, since there was sure to be a drop-off. But not so. Players like defensive end A.J. Epenesa have proved the Hawkeyes just reloaded instead of rebuilt.
"If there's somebody doing a better job at that then they are on defense," Ciarrocca said, "I'd love to see it."
I'll update this after warm-ups with any personnel observations. UPDATE: Kamal Martin and Thomas Barber both warmed up and took first-team reps. Barber left the Penn State game late after a hard tackle. Martin has missed the past two games after enduring an apparent knee injury at Rutgers on Oct. 19. But both starting linebackers look set to play. Redshirt freshman Brock Walker looks to be kicking again after starting in place of freshman Michael Lantz against Penn State. Lants had a bit of leg tightness, which kept him out of that game. He does not appear to have traveled to Iowa. And finally, Alex Strazzanti joins injured quarterback Zack Annexstad as players that traveled but didn't dress. The linebacker limped off against Penn State. I didn't see right guard Curtis Dunlap Jr.