Ankeny, IA – The Minnesota Golden Gophers are making the trip to Iowa City this weekend for a rivalry grudge match against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Both teams are 4-3 heading into this match-up, but it is probably safe to say the mindset of each fan base feels differently about that 4-3 record.
For Gopher fans, this type of year was widely expected. PJ Fleck and his coaching staff knew they wouldn’t be able to come in and turn things around overnight, and they did a pretty solid of job of relaying that message to their fan base. Because of that, Gopher fans still have a lot of momentum around their football program, and a lot of optimism surrounding the PJ Fleck hire.
Meanwhile, Hawkeye fans are growing a bit restless. It’s not that Hawkeye fans were expecting this to be a great year. I think most projected between 7-9 wins. However, the way in which the Hawkeyes have lost their 3 games has Hawkeye fans pretty frustrated.
The last second loss to Penn State was one thing. That’s a great Nittany Lions team, and the Hawkeyes left it all on the field. The losses to Michigan State and Northwestern are another story entirely. The offense was atrocious in both of those games. It all starts with a complete lack of rushing attack, and as we all know, that’s usually Iowa’s bread and butter. An Iowa offense without a rushing attack performs about as well as the US Navy would without an ocean.
Enough about Iowa. We could discuss their offensive struggles all day, but that’s painful. Let’s take a break and get to know the Golden Gophers a little bit… starting with this awful alternate helmet they wore against Middle Tennessee that featured a cartoon Gopher (to the right). Yikes. Minnesota has to be right up there in contention for the worst mascot in all of sports don’t they? They may have the worst color scheme too. It’s awful hard to be taken seriously with a helmet like that. My apologies for digressing again. I couldn’t help myself.
Back on topic… Minnesota has earned their four wins against terrible football teams. They handled Middle Tennessee and Oregon State with ease, but had to grind out wins against Buffalo and Illinois.
This Gopher team isn’t anything special, but they have a solid rushing attack that recently gained 333 yards in a victory against the Illini, and their defense, led by LB Jonathan Celestin, has shown flashes of being salty.
The Minnesota rushing attack features Rodney Smith, Shannon Brooks, and Kobe McCrary (in that order). Brooks is their best all around RB, but he has been dealing with an ankle injury that sidelined him completely for the Illinois game. It sounds like he is expected to return against Iowa. The
The Gophers will likely be starting Demry Croft at QB who is a capable runner as well. Croft earned the starting role over Conor Rhoda after he came in late in the Michigan State game and threw for 3 TD’s in the 4th quarter. However, the following week against a putrid Illinois team Croft was just 5-15 for 47 yards and he threw a couple awful interceptions.
After the Illinois game, PJ Fleck did his best to summarize his thoughts on Croft.
“We have to get him to slow down. When he slows down and focuses, he is a really good quarterback.”
The Gophers passing attack is almost non-existent. Tyler Johnson is basically their only threat in the passing game. He has put up an impressive 499 yards receiving and seven TDs, but they’ve struggled to find anyone who can help him out.
Minnesota will have to out-Iowa Iowa to win this one. They’ll rely on their running game, and they’ll try to make just enough plays in the passing game in order to get points on the board. They’ll hope their defense can step up enough to keep the game close.
Iowa has no business losing this game, but we’ve heard that before haven’t we?
Summary and Prediction
The 2017 battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy certainly isn’t going to be a dual between offensive juggernauts. Iowa has the better defense and a slightly better offense. Plus I think the Hawkeyes are going to be playing angry after all of the backlash they’ve received in the post-Northwestern debacle.
I expect Iowa’d defense to shut down the Minnesota running game. This will force Croft into throwing the ball where he is prone to making mistakes.
Iowa bounces back and wins this one in impressive fashion. Floyd stays right where he belongs.
Hawkeyes 31 Gophers 7