The Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-3) hit the road to Iowa City to face the No. 24-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CT in a fight for the Floyd of Rosedale.
Can Iowa score on offense?
The Hawkeyes’ offense is awful. They rank 130th nationally in total offense (247.4 total yards per game) and 113th in scoring offense (20.9 points per game). Kicker Drew Steven is by far their most productive player, with 50 points to his name thanks to 12 field goals and 14 extra points.
Iowa will be without starting signal caller Cade McNamara, the former Michigan transfer who suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter of a 26-16 win over Michigan State. McNamara wasn’t exactly airing it out prior to his injury. He was only completing 51.1 percent of his passes, averaged 101 passing yards per game, and had only thrown a passing touchdown in two of his five starts.
Deacon Hill, Wisconsin’s former third-string quarterback, has been worse. Immobile and inaccurate, the 6’3”, 258-lb. quarterback is 27-of-70 in six games this season, completing 38.6 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions to his name.
To make matters worse, the Hawkeyes lost top tight end Luke Lachey to a season-ending right ankle injury and just this week learned that tight end Erick All has also been lost to a torn ACL. Those two accounted for 42.4% of the team’s receptions, 52.6% of their passing yards, and three of their six receiving touchdowns. Wide receiver Nico Ragaini is the only pass catcher with double-digit receptions, with 10 catches for 83 receiving yards.
Their top offensive weapons at this point are running backs Leshon Williams and Kaleb Johnson. Both are capable of making explosive plays on the ground. Johnson sprung a 67-yard touchdown run to open up a 7-0 lead against Purdue, and Williams’ 82-yard touchdown run was the only time Iowa found the end zone against Wisconsin. Minnesota is expected to have top linebacker Cody Lindenberg back this Saturday and they’re going to need him to help bottle up these two backs.
Please tell me the Gophers will be able to score
So how are the Hawkeyes 5-1 with the worst offense in the country? Their defense. It’s the same story every year and this year is no exception. The Iowa defense has limited five of their six opponents to 16 points or fewer this season. They surrendered a season-high 31 points to Penn State, who ranks 5th nationally in scoring offense, averaging 44.3 points per game.
What more is there to say? This is your typical Phil Parker-coached defense. They are fundamentally sound, limit explosive plays, and wait for opposing offenses to make a mistake. This is also a veteran unit, with seven seniors and 10 total upperclassmen among the starting 11.
Godspeed and good luck to the Gophers, whose offense only ranks slightly higher than the Hawkeyes’. Minnesota ranks 119th in total offense (313.3 total yards per game) and 110th in scoring offense (21.7 points per game). I hope they figured some things out during the bye week.
But who will score more points on Saturday?
The Gophers have lost eight straight to the Hawkeyes. Six of those losses have been one-score games. Minnesota has not won in Iowa City since 1999. That is a streak of 10 straight road losses to their division rival. P.J. Fleck is 0-6 against Kirk Ferentz. The Gophers have also never beaten a ranked opponent on the road under Fleck. Even with Iowa boasting the worst offense in the country and losing three starters to season-ending injuries, recent history seems stacked against Minnesota. Please, God, have mercy on us. Iowa 10, Minnesota 9.