Minnesota and Iowa will face off Saturday in Iowa City and neither team can afford another loss if they hope to stay in the Big Ten Conference race. The Golden Gophers and Hawkeyes entered the week three games behind No. 5 Wisconsin in the West Division and both still have the Badgers on their remaining schedule.
Minnesota ended a three-game losing streak with a 24-17 win against Illinois on Saturday, and the Golden Gophers ran for 292 yards while limiting the Illini to 282 total yards. Minnesota will need to know where Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell is lining up at all times, as he leads the Big Ten at 11.7 tackles a game after finishing second in that category last season. Jewell missed last week’s 17-10 loss against Northwestern with an injury, but he’s expected back this week and his presence should be key. Minnesota also has a game-changing linebacker in sophomore Thomas Barber, the brother of former NFL running back Marion Barber, who is tied for second in the Big Ten at nine tackles per game, reaching double digits in all four conference games.
TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, FS1. LINE: Iowa -7.5.
ABOUT MINNESOTA (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten): The quarterback situation has been bleak for the Golden Gophers this season, as Conor Rhoda lost his starting job to Demry Croft two weeks ago, but Croft was just 5-for-15 passing for 47 yards in the win against Illinois, throwing one touchdown and getting intercepted twice. Look for Minnesota to lean on running backs Rodney Smith, Shannon Brooks and Kobe McCrary against Iowa. Brooks missed last week’s game with an undisclosed injury and Smith left in the fourth quarter with a head injury, but both are expected back this week.
ABOUT IOWA (4-3, 1-3): The Hawkeyes have a solid running game as well, and senior Akrum Wadley has already dealt Minnesota a big blow in his career, scoring on 26-yard run with 8:35 left to break a 7-7 tie at Minnesota last season and the Hawkeyes held on for a 14-7 victory. Ankrum’s workload has increased of late, as he has combined for 49 carries and 205 rushing yards the past two games. He’s also shown his versatility in reaching the end zone, scoring four touchdowns rushing and three receiving this season.
1. Iowa defensive back Joshua Jackson leads the Big Ten with 1.9 passes defended per game.
2. Iowa has outscored its opponents 73-23 in the fourth quarter this season.
3. Minnesota WR Tyler Johnson needs one more TD reception for eight on the season, which will tie the sophomore record at the school.
PREDICTION: Iowa 28, Minnesota 21