NCAA Friday Night Football: Minnesota/Iowa Preview

by Alec McMordie

Minnesota host Iowa on a Friday night in a rivalry that goes back to 1891. Since 1935, these two teams have played for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy. With both teams beginning their Big Ten seasons with 0-2 records before winning last week, this is a critical game for both of these programs.

Iowa is just a few plays away from being 3-0 this season. They opened up with a 24-20 loss at Purdue before losing narrowly at home last week to Northwestern by a 21-20 score. The Hawkeyes earned their first win of the season last week with a 49-7 victory at home over Michigan State.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz got his team back-to-basics against the Spartans by rushing the ball 41 times for 226 yards. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Spencer Petras threw the ball 89 times in his first two career starts before completing 15 of 27 passes last week for 167 yards with a touchdown. Iowa is scoring 29.7 points-per-game while averaging 386.0 yards-per-game.

The Hawkeyes’ defense and special teams broke open the game last week. Holding a 21-0 lead in the second quarter, Iowa’s special teams extended that lead with a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Hawkeyes’ defense then scored on a 54-yard interception return to go into halftime with a commanding 35-0 lead. Iowa played their best defensive game of the season last week with three interceptions, two sacks, and five quarterback hurries. The Hawkeyes are allowing only 17.3 points-per-game along with just 315.0 yards-per-game.

Ferentz returned 12 starters in his twenty-second year with the program from the group that finished 10-3 last season after their 49-24 win over USC in the Holiday Bowl. Despite the disappointing start, Iowa still has designs on winning the Big Ten West to earn a shot at the Big Ten championship game.

Minnesota returned 13 starters from the team that finished 11-2 with a 31-24 victory over Auburn in the Outback Bowl. Expectations were very high for head coach P.J. Fleck in his fourth year with the program. The Golden Gophers opened their season with a disappointing 25-point loss at home to Michigan. Minnesota then traveled to Maryland the next week, where they lost a nail biter by a 45-44 score.

The Golden Gophers bounced back last week with a 41-14 victory at Illinois as a 7.5-point favorite. Junior quarterback Tanner Morgan was reliable under center by completing 17 of 27 passes for 216 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Morgan completed 66% of his passes last year for 3253 yards with 30 touchdowns while averaging 10.2 yards-per-attempt. Minnesota was led by junior running back Mo Ibrahim, who ran the ball 30 times for 224 yards and four touchdowns. Ibrahim has 571 rushing yards this season on 97 carries. His 190.3 rushing yards-per-game average leads the nation.

Minnesota is scoring 36.3 points-per-game while averaging 444.3 yards-per-game, which is the top mark in the Big Ten West. However, the Gophers’ defense has been a work-in-progress after losing five of their top six tacklers from the group that ranked tenth in the nation last year by allowing only 306.6 yards-per-game. Minnesota is allowing 480.0 yards-per-game this season along with 36.0 points-per-game.

The winner of this game remains alive to win the Big Ten West, while the loser will have to pick up the pieces to become bowl eligible to salvage their season. BetAnySports has Iowa as a 3.5-point road favorite with a total of 58. FS1 has the broadcast starting at 7 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2021 Al McMordie's All Rights Reserved.