Two 1-2 teams both rebounded from winless starts this past weekend and are hoping that signaled a turnaround. Iowa, though, looked much stronger in those close opening losses than the Gophers, and the Hawkeyes won’t want to leave Floyd of Rosedale Up North.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Rossi returns: Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi missed last Saturday’s game at Illinois after testing positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 1. He isolated for 10 days and will resume the game-calling duties from defensive assistant Joe Harasymiak, who helped the Gophers allow only 287 yards instead of the 675 posted Oct. 30 at Maryland.
Cold-weather QB: Three-year starter Nate Stanley has graduated, leaving sophomore Spencer Petras as Iowa’s new signal caller. He’s been OK to start, going 63-for-116 for 648 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. But with the Minneapolis weather Friday in the low 30s, the California native will have to bring his own heat.
Rivalry renewed: This is always one of the most anticipated games on the teams’ schedules, a border rivalry with more than a century of history. But when the Hawkeyes ruined the Gophers’ perfect record last season, muddying their clear path to the Big Ten championship, even more verve stacked onto 2020’s meeting.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Mohamed Ibrahim vs. Iowa’s rush defense
Ibrahim leads the Big Ten with 190.3 rushing yards per game and 10 touchdowns through three games. But Iowa puts up an impressive wall against the run, allowing an average of only 102 yards on the ground per game. The Gophers offensive line will have to create gaps for Ibrahim, but he’ll have to navigate around linebacker Seth Benson, who ranks third in the conference, averaging 10.5 tackles per game.
Tyler Goodson vs. Gophers defensive line
Iowa’s offensive line is perennially stout, and this year it has a more-experienced Goodson to showcase. The running back led the team in rushing attempts as a true freshman last season and ranks sixth in the Big Ten this year, averaging 77.7 rushing yards per game. Plus he’s a threat in the passing game as well.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
6 Iowa has never stretched its winning streak in the Gophers rivalry to six games, though it has been on the cusp at five several times, including entering this matchup. The Gophers have the longest run of success, taking the first 12 meetings from 1891 to 1916.
THE GOPHERS WILL WIN IF …
the offense can outrun and outlast Iowa’s defense. Between the Hawkeyes’ strong special teams unlikely to hand the Gophers advantageous field position and the stifling defense making every yard a fight, it’ll be tough. But the Gophers offense is its strongest asset and will have to rise to the occasion.
THE HAWKEYES WILL WIN IF …
they do exactly what they did in last year’s 23-19 victory: Score just enough early points to establish a decent lead and then let the defense go to work defending it. Just as the Gophers should lean into their offense, Iowa should rely on its best attribute to take the rivalry game.
Prediction: Iowa 24, Gophers 17.