Iowa vs. Minnesota: Preview

By Derek Helling
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the annual Floyd of Rosedale game. It’s the first Big Ten conference game for both teams and while this is always a hard-fought game, Floyd will be returning to Iowa City with the Hawkeyes. Iowa will beat Minnesota the same way that it has beaten three of its first four opponents: running the ball and playing defense.

The Hawkeyes’ defense ranks a respectable 19th in FBS in total yards allowed. Iowa ranks 12th in the nation against the run and eighth in third-down conversions allowed. The nine turnovers the Hawkeyes have forced so far this season puts them in a tie for the Big Ten lead. Part of the reason why the defensive numbers for Iowa are good so far is because the running game keeps the opponent’s defense on the field.

Damion Bullock, Mark Weisman and the Iowa offensive line are a big part of the reason why the Hawkeyes rank fifth in the country in average time of possession. The Hawkeyes have converted almost 52 percent of their third downs through four games, and most of those have come on the ground. If Iowa continues to execute well in these areas, it will be a long day for Minnesota.

While Minnesota’s run defense hasn’t been that bad so far this season, allowing an average of 102.8 yards, they haven’t yet faced an offense as proficient at running the ball as Iowa is. None of their previous four opponents are in the FBS top 50 in rushing yards per game. The Hawkeyes rank 24th with 244 yards per game. Questions abound as to whether Minnesota will be able to limit Bullock and Weisman, but those aren’t the only questions.

There is another set of questions about how much the Gophers will be able to score on the Hawkeyes’ defense. While the Gophers are averaging almost 42 points per game so far this season, they haven’t yet seen a defense like Iowa’s. The best defense Minnesota has seen this season was San Jose State‘s, which is ranked 50th in FBS. The Gophers being ranked 75th in the nation in total offensive yards shouldn’t strike fear into the heart of the Hawkeyes’ top-20 defense.

As long as the Hawkeyes stay out of their own way by not committing penalties and turning the ball over on offense, they will win this game. Floyd will get put back on the Iowa bus to enjoy the flight back to Iowa City with the Hawkeyes after a 28-17 Iowa victory.

Derek Helling is a Big 10 football writer for Follow him on Twitter @DRokSH, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+.

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