One of things that sticks out for me when examining this year's Minnesota football team is a pass defense that is giving up an average of 255 yards per game. Despite being 3-1, they have the worst pass defense in the Big Ten. They've picked off the opposing QB just one time and given up nine touchdown passes.
They gave up 228 yards and three touchdowns in their opener against Oregon State and followed that by giving up 247 and four TD's against FCS Indiana State.
In their Big Ten opener against Penn State they gave up 335 yards through the air to sophomore QB Trace McSorely.
Iowa's passing attack hasn't exactly been one that opponents fear, but this seems like something Iowa might be able to exploit on Saturday.
Iowa is able to expose Minnesota's shaky pass defense, fact or fiction?
DEREK: Fiction. It's not that I don't think they can, I just think Iowa will commit to the run game early and often. I've said that for a couple weeks now but I think it really does come to fruition against Minnesota. One of the themes of the week that I received from the players during Tuesday's media availability was their insistence on getting back to Iowa football. To me, that's getting back to controlling the line of scrimmage on offense and stuffing the ball down the opponent's throats until they yell for mercy.
That will certainly open up the passing game and possibly the vertical threat of Jerminic Smith. But I think it begins and ends on the ground this game. Iowa doesn't win unless they can run the ball with a lot of effectiveness. It sets everything up in this offense. Even if defenses set out to take the run game away, they have to remain committed to it.
Because even when defenses set out to stop the run and leave themselves vulnerable against the pass against Iowa, the Hawkeyes get away from their identity, aren't comfortable, and fail to take advantage through the air because they're not as efficient and it gets them in too many third and longs when they fail to convert.
They have to run the ball to set up third and shorts because those are the type of third down attempts they can convert. They have to play in front of the sticks, not behind. You do that by running the ball.
DYLAN: I'd like to say fact here, but I haven't seen anything from Iowa's passing attack that would suggest they are capable of this. They lost their leading receiver in Matt Vandeberg last week in practice and Riley McCarron filled in nicely, but Beathard doesn't have the weapons nor the time in the pocket for this to become a reality.
I tend to agree with Derek in the fact that Iowa will come out of the gate running the football. Usually when a team is struggling like Iowa is they need to get back to basics and for Iowa that is running the football.
They haven't had much success over the last few games on the ground and part of that is teams expect it from Iowa and another part is Iowa just shooting themselves in the foot with silly penalties that don't set them up well on second and third downs.
I think the Hawkeyes will likely have more success through the air than they have in recent games, but I don't believe that C.J. Beathard will light it up by any means. If I were to venture a guess I'd say he throws for around 200 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. Look for Iowa to use some quick throws as that is what Penn State had success with early on last Saturday against Minnesota.