In the next week before #GameWeek as we move closer to the start of the 2015 Gopher Football season, we here at The Daily Gopher will give a quick preview of the Gophers opponents. Next up is the Gophers last of three straight prime-time night games, and the second trophy game in three weeks. It's time to discuss what it will take to keep Floyd when the Gophers take on the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Name: Iowa Hawkeyes
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Conference: Big Ten (West Division)
Notable Alumni: John Irving, Tom Arnold, Gene Wilder, Lou Holtz, Chuck Long, Bob Stoops, Bret Bielema
Bill Connelly Preview Link: Here!
Last season Iowa did Iowa things. They finished with a 7-6 record after losing their bowl game to Tennessee, but you really had no idea what Iowa team you would see week to week. After barely beating Northern Iowa and Ball State in the first two weeks, Iowa would drop their yearly rivalry game to Iowa State in the usual embarrassing fashion. They then would roll off three more wins in a row over Pitt, Purdue and Indiana before barely losing to Maryland. Then Iowa crushed a surging (at that point) Northwestern team before heading to the Twin Cities to take on the Gophers. This did not work out well for Iowa fans and as a result Floyd is currently getting ready for his close up at the Minnesota State Fair. Iowa would beat a weak Illinois team the week after facing Minnesota but would end the season losing three straight to Wisconsin, Nebraska and Tennessee. But on the bright side for everyone, Kirk is still here!
Goodbye Jake Rudock. He had his moments in an Iowa uniform, but Gopher fans are hoping that his level of play against Minnesota while at Michigan is similar to the one he "unleashed" last season for the Hawkeyes. One player Minnesota is glad to finally see gone is running back Mark Weisman. Weisman only ran for 812 yards but had 16 touchdowns in 2014. He always seemed to play well against Minnesota. Leading receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley is also gone for Iowa after recording 52 catches for 521 yards in 2014. Iowa also loses two starting offensive linemen, most notably Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff. He now gets to block for RG3. LOLOLOLOLOL.
On defense, Iowa has holes to replace as well. Defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat departs after recording 11.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2014. At linebacker, middle backer Quinton Alston leaves along with his 69.5 tackles. In the secondary, Iowa will need to replace strong safety John Lowdermilk who led the team in tackles with 80.5 and three interceptions.
Iowa saw enough of CJ Beathard to feel fine letting Rudock go to Michigan, so...I guess we will see? Beathard threw for 645 yards and five touchdowns in limited action last season. Iowa has put all its eggs in that basket unless Ferentz decides to go to redshirt freshman Tyler Wiegers. At running back, Iowa will hope Jordan Canizari will be the answer and avoid AIRBHG. Sophomore Akram Wadley looked decent against the Gophers in their blowout loss and is the #2 choice in the backfield for the Hawkeyes. Beathard will have a few targets to throw to. Receiver Tevaun Smith and tight end Jake Duzey both return after combining for almost 1,000 yards a year ago. Iowa also has the interior of its offensive line returning, with Second Team All-Big Ten center Austin Blythe being the headliner.
On defense Iowa will hope to get a lot of pressure from Drew Ott and Nate Meyer. Ott led the Hawkeyes with 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks a year ago. At linebacker Josey Jewell and Bo Bower will try and improve on their combined 64.5 tackles from 2014. Iowa's secondary should be decent with Jordan Lomax and Desmond King returning. Iowa is also special enough that they return not one, but two punters in 2015. Both Dillon Kidd and Connor Kornbrath saw action a year ago and are both seniors in 2015.
Can CJ Beathard run the Iowa offense for a full season? He looked good in spurts in 2014, but with two new tackles on the O-line, and the lack of a dominant running game, whether he can make it through the entire season may be questionable.
Secondly, what kind of running game can Iowa establish? Will Canizari be the answer? Can Wadley help? Will Ferentz need to find another random walk-on to kill Minnesota?
Thirdly, will Kirk and the Hawkeyes actually win a trophy game in 2015? Going 0-4 in 2014 had to sting. Lets hope if they do decide to win one, its either the Heartland Trophy against Wisconsin, or whatever that farm one is that they play for against Nebraska.
What Does It All Mean For Minnesota?
The Gophers did everything right against the Hawkeyes in 2014. They threw the ball well, ran the ball well and played great defense. All they have to do is exactly that again. Is that not easy? No? Well...huh. With this year's game taking place in Iowa City the Gophers will need to get off to a good start to neutralize the home crowd. Iowa is marketing a blackout that night and wearing special uniforms. Also, they are having a wrestling match on the field at Kinnick that afternoon against Oklahoma State. That will mean a LOT of drunk and rowdy Hawkeye fans. If Minnesota can score early and often and jump out to a big lead, they hopefully can take the crowd out of the game and drunk fans back to the tailgate lot to try and forget what they just saw.
On defense, the Gophers will need to stop the Iowa rushing attack and make Beathard throw into traffic. The Gopher secondary is better then the Iowa receivers, and if they can pressure CJ, he should need to force some things. That's when the Gophers will need to pounce and take advantage of all potential Iowa mistakes.
Kinnick has been a hall of horrors for Minnesota in the last fifteen years. The Gophers last won in Iowa City in 1999. This will be a HUGE game for the Gophers, especially coming off a probable loss to Ohio State the week before. Prime-time under the lights at Kinnick will not help, but as I said above, if Minnesota can strike first and take the home crowd advantage out of the picture then the fact that the Gophers have more talent and are better coached should allow them to win this game. However, as we have seen plenty of times in the Battle for Floyd, the best team does not always win. Minnesota needs to win the turnover battle, play smart on offense, and get pressure on the quarterback. if they can do all three of those things, Floyd will be on the plane home, rather than being left behind. I see the Gophers pulling out a win in a game that will be a lot closer than 2014, but not as tight as it could be. Minnesota 31, Iowa 20.