Iowa Football: What We Know About Minnesota

Dylan Burn of Hawkeye Insider gets you brushed up on what you should know about Minnesota before Saturday morning.

Iowa and Minnesota have played each other every year dating all the way back to 1914.  The Golden Gophers lead the series with a record of 61-45-2, but the Hawkeyes have won three of the last four meetings with the exception being the beatdown Minnesota put on Iowa back in 2014.  The teams played each other fairly evenly last season in Iowa City, but Iowa would escape with a 40-35 victory in a shootout.

Lets dive in and look at what we know about these Gophers.

They Hate Iowa

This is one of the biggest things we know about Minnesota.  They even have a special little chant which reaffirms their hate for the Hawkeyes.  However, it stems a little deeper than just the fan base in this one. 

Their starting senior QB, Mitch Leidner, especially does not like the Hawkeyes mainly because of the way they recruited him.  The above video will tell you all you need to know.  That was taken at this years Big Ten Media Days.  

Like last week's opponent, the Northwestern Wildcats, the Gopher faithful and their players circle this one every year.  I don't know what it is, but man they just want to beat the Hawkeyes as badly as possible whenever the two teams meet.

Experience at QB

Mitch Leidner is one of the most experienced QB's the Big Ten has to offer.  He's played in 39 games for the Gophers and has amassed nearly 6,000 passing yards in his career. 

He's not going to light up the stat sheet or wow you in terms of his ability, but he's a game manager and has been solid for the Gophers for the past three and a half seasons.

He picked Iowa apart back in 2014 completing 10-13 passes for 138 yards and four touchdowns.  He also ran the ball 11 times for 77 yards in the game. 

He was solid last season completing 19-27 for 259 yards and a TD, so Iowa knows that Leidner is probably going to be solid against them this go around, especially with the aforementioned chip on his shoulder.

However, the Hawkeyes have been solid giving up just an average of 181 yards per game through the air over the course of the first five games.

Bad Pass Defense

I just mentioned that Iowa has one of the better pass defenses in the Big Ten, but for Minnesota it's a different story.  They are the worst in the Big Ten in terms of passing yards given up per game at 255.  They have also given up the third most amount of touchdowns through the air over their first four games.

This has been something Iowa hasn't been very good at to start the year.  In fact, the Hawkeyes have one of the worst passing attacks in the Big Ten right now.  And with Matt Vandeberg done for the year, they need options.  Riley McCarron filled in nicely, but C.J. Beathard only targeted his tight end George Kittle once in the game on Saturday, which was puzzling.

Jay Scheel and Jerminic Smith are still figuring it out right now, but do have the ability to make some big plays.  Iowa needs to exploit this pass defense this weekend because it has been less than stellar early on here.

Effective Run Game

This doesn't bode well for Iowa.  The Gophers have had one of the better rushing attacks in the conference so far this season.  They are averaging about 228 yards per game on the ground and the Hawkeyes are giving up around 182, which is good for 10the best in the conference.  

The Gophers will run most of their stuff through Rodney Smith who has 82 carries for 402 yards this season.  They'll use Kobe McCrary and Shannon Brooks as well, both of whom are averaging over seven yards per carry.  

The Hawkeyes have given up back-to-back 100 yards rushers now to Robert Martin and Justin Jackson, so Smith, who has gone over 100 yards twice and ran for 99 in another game, could very well be seeing a bunch of carries come Saturday given Iowa's struggles stopping the run.  Iowa needs to get some things figured out this week because Minnesota will without a doubt try to exploit the run defense.

Both Brooks and Smith went over 100 yards in their overtime loss to Penn Sate last week.

Will Make Mistakes

During some of my early research here I discovered that Minnesota is being penalized at an alarming rate.  They have committed 35 penalties over the first four games and were penalized eight times in their game this past Saturday in Happy Valley. 

This likely won't make a huge difference, but Iowa is typically a team that doesn't make a lot of those mistakes in terms of being penalized, so this could honestly be something to keep our eyes on. 

If Minnesota keeps shooting itself in the foot with all these penalties, it could be something Iowa can take advantage of.

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