Brace yourself this might be the most negative Monday Perspective you will ever read from me, especially considering the Gophers are 4-0 and looking closer to a decent Big Ten caliber team.
Our favorite college football squad is undefeated, has established an effective ground game and are continuing to get better. There are a number of indicators that this team is better than it was a year ago this point.
- Through 4 games last year we had 31 total penalties. This year we have 10.
- Last year we rushed for 14 rushing touchdowns (in 13 games). This year we have 16 (in 4 games).
- Through 4 games we are averaging 12 more points per game than we were at this point a year ago while giving up 1.5 fewer points.
- We are better on converting 3rd downs (46.8% this year compared to 43.1% a year ago through 4 games).
You may recall that we started out 4-0 last year and had some confidence heading down to Iowa City to face a 2-2 Hawkeye team who lost to Central Michigan the previous Saturday. We had Floyd and were expecting to keep him for the third year in a row. But things didn't go nearly as planned and Iowa ran over the Gophers for a 31-13 win. I firmly believe that we are better, but I also believe that Iowa is too.
One could argue that we handed Floyd over to Iowa last year with Shortell's three picks and a really bad quarter where the Gophers recorded 1 first down, got burned on a flee-flicker and Iowa scored 3 touchdowns in the span of running just eight plays. Outside of this 12 minute span, Minnesota played well enough to win; we just weren't good enough to overcome these kind of mistakes. But this year we are better right?
There is this notion that the Hawkeyes are significantly down, the Gophers are just plain a better team and I fear that there is a slight er of confidence this will be a Gopher win, maybe even over-confidence. This makes me nervous. Does anyone else sense that we are almost expecting a win? That there is more than just excitement for Saturday's game but it is anticipation of being 5-0 and proving that we really are "better?" I'm not getting this from the team; it is from the fanbase, message boards, comments here and even the local media.
Do I think that Minnesota is capable of beating Iowa? Absolutely. Do I think this game is a lock to see us improve to 5-0? Nope. The early lines have the Gophers favored by 1 point, which is not a strong show of support from the neutral odds-makers in Vegas. I think there is good reason to be nervous about Saturday's home game.
- Iowa's linebackers are all three very good. Iowa is a run-stopping team, running the ball is our strength and one of these things must give. James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens all rank near the top of the Big Ten standings in tackles. All three are seniors and should be a tremendous test for our blockers.
- Mark Weisman is a beast and I fear the Gopher front-seven may have trouble bringing him down. He is 2nd in the Big Ten in rushing, leads the league in attempts, is a punishing runner and has yet to succumb to AIRBHG.
- Kevonte Martin-Manley is a dangerous weapon in both the passing game and as a punt returner. He is an explosive offensive weapon who can help Iowa to strike quick if we get lulled to sleep with Weisman.
- Sophomore quarterback Jake Rudoch has been a pleasant surprise for the Hawks. 62% completions is pretty good, I would love to see his interception total go up this week but this kid hasn't been a disaster yet.
- We have shown no ability to move the ball with the forward pass. I know that Kill is confident we'll be fine and we can move the ball through the air when we need to. But to date we have run the ball 76% of the time and we have struggled to complete 50% of our passes and get over 100 yards passing against some weak defenses.
This is not a list of reasons we are sure to lose on Saturday. But for weeks I have read how Iowa is down, Iowa is terrible this year, Iowa will finish behind us in the standings. Maybe that is all true, but although we are clearly an improved program I am do not think we are in a place to assume anything over anybody in the Big Ten. I'm here to say that Iowa isn't a terrible team, they are a Big Ten caliber team that has some strengths that match up well with our strengths.
The tone of today's post may not show it but I am really excited for Saturday's game. I think this will be a very good test and this is an absolutely critical game for each team's bowl hopes. To be honest I would not be surprised to see the Gophers roll to a double-digit victory. Unfortunately I wouldn't be shocked to see Floyd making the trip back to Iowa City.
I hope to see Matt's models show me that Iowa really doesn't stand a chance and they shouldn't bother to make the flight north. And I want this win more than I want any other win this year (this may change in a week). I don't just want to win, I want to win by 21+. I want to exert our will and run Iowa over while forcing three or four turnovers. I want total domination. I hate Iowa, I want to win and I think we will. I'm just trying to be a little level-headed early in the week, by Saturday morning I will not be in such a rational state of mind.