Good afternoon on a brisk day from TCF Bank Stadium, where the Gophers host Iowa for homecoming at 2:30 p.m. (BTN) with the Floyd of Rosedale trophy on the line for the 83rd time. Both teams carry 3-1 overall and 0-1 Big Ten records, so the loser of today’s game will face an uphill climb in the Big Ten West race.
Iowa has won three consecutive and 13 of the past 17 in the series, while the Gophers hold a 67-47-2 overall edge. When the Gophers and Hawkeyes have played for Floyd of Rosedale, Minnesota leads 42-39-2. On interesting statistic: The Gophers have faced Iowa three times after their bye week and have won all three games – 51-14 in 2014 and 27-24 in both 2010 and 2000. Iowa also had its bye last week.
Some storylines to watch:
How well will the Gophers handle Iowa’s defensive line?
The Hawkeyes are allowing 13 points per game, tied for fifth nationally, and are allowing 84 rushing yards per game, tied for fourth. Their 3.3 sacks per game rank second in the Big Ten. A big reason for that is Iowa’s veteran defensive line, led by junior end Anthony Nelson, a 6-7, 271-pounder who was on preseason watch lists for the Hendricks, Nagurski, Bednarik and Lott awards. He’s joined by tackles Matt Nelson (6-8, 295) and Sam Brincks (6-5, 275) and end Parker Hesse (6-3, 261). In addition, 6-5, 277-pound lineman A.J. Epenesa rotates in, and he’s tied for the Big Ten sacks lead with four.
“They have 11 guys who play together, but their D line is their catalyst to that,’’ Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca said. “It creates a lot of issues and problems for you. They’re big and strong, and they’re playing with more twitch than last year. They were big and strong and good last year.’’
How mobile will quarterback Zack Annexstad be today?
Annexstad suffered a left ankle injury on Sept. 15 against Miami (Ohio), and his mobility was limited in the Gophers’ 42-13 loss at Maryland on Sept. 22. He was sacked four times by the Terrapins.
Coach P.J. Fleck said Tuesday that Annexstad was getting closer to 100 percent. “You can't really tell as much as you could before,’’ Fleck said. “He's running all the nakeds and boots and spread-outs and all the things, so he looks really good.’’
How will the defense perform without Antoine Winfield Jr.?
When Winfield suffered a Lisfranc foot injury against Maryland, the Gophers lost their best playmaker on defense. True freshman walk-on Jordan Howden took over at safety against the Terrapins, and he’s listed as the starter on the depth chart for today’s game. True freshmen Benny Sapp III and Josh Aune are listed as backups to Howden on the depth chart, and Fleck said senior Antonio Shenault could be used at the position, too.
Fleck doesn’t expect the freshmen to try to be Winfield.
“One thing we keep telling all the young players is you don't have to be anybody else but yourself,’’ he said. “We don't want you to be anybody else but yourself. We want you to be the best version of you that position, period.’’
How healthy is Iowa’s secondary?
Hawkeyes cornerbacks Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia are battling injuries, so true freshmen Riley Moss and Julius Brents could make their first career starts today, according to Chad Leistikow of the Des Moines Register.