Floyd of Rosedale is once again up for grabs as the Hawkeyes take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the final game of the year at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa is playing for the all-important sixth win, making them bowl eligible, as well as an even .500 record in the Big Ten. Minnesota, on the other hand, is 3-6, and currently occupying last place in the Big Ten conference. Bragging rights between the rivals are on stake this weekend!
Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, the interior offensive line is once again decimated. Eric Steinbach and Alonzo Cunningham, the two starting guards, are down due to injury, as is Sam Aiello, the top reserve at guard. This leaves Andy Lightfoot and Kory Borchers to man the starting roles, as Robert Gallery and David Porter are once again the bookends. Like clockwork, Bruce Nelson starts again at center. Fortunately, the Minnesota defense isn't exactly a force to be reckoned with, giving up well over 400 yards a game as well as over 25 points per contest. Their defensive line is small yet quick, but Iowa's powerful rushing style should be able to subdue the push from the Gophers. Furthermore, the Gophers' lack of size will hurt their ability to keep blockers off the linebackers, which helps the Hawks' chances for a big run. The Gophers have only logged 13 sacks on the year, as compared to the Hawkeyes' 16.
Kyle McCann will get the nod at quarterback, to the chagrin of some fans. However, after his big day against the Wildcats, it's hard to turn down the senior, especially considering the occasion. Any fans worrying about his propensity towards committing turnovers against good defenses need not worry; the Gophers have intercepted only 7 passes all year, compared to the 12 that Iowa quarterbacks (10 by McCann) have thrown. At the other end of the field, Minnesota will trot out their quarterback tandem of Asad Abdul-Khaliq and Travis Cole. Adbul-Khaliq is a gifted runner as well as a passer, and despite Cole's reputation as a pocket-passer, Abdul-Khaliq has notched better numbers throwing as well.
Minnesota boasts a very good backfield with the triad of Tellis Redmon, Marion Barber III, and Thomas Tapeh. The three backs have combined for 1714 yards, which is over 190 yards per game. Combine that with the talents of Abdul-Khaliq and super receiver Ron Johnson, and the Minnesota offense is obviously dangerous. However, if any defense in the conference can contain them, Iowa's can. The Hawkeyes still lead the Big Ten in yards given up, with just a hair over 300 per game. With Derrick Pickens and Jerry Montgomery starting at defensive tackle once again, the cards are stacked even more in the Hawkeyes' favor.
The weather couldn't be nicer for the fans, as forecasts are around a high of 70 for the game, under sunny skies. The unseasonably warm weather should drive attendance figures higher than the predicted 60,000. Be sure to pack your sunscreen and shades, as odd as it sounds for a November game usually marked by bitter cold and snowstorms (not that they'd notice in the HHH Metrodome).
HTO.com prediction: 49-6, Hawkeyes! Wait until you see what these Hawkeyes do when they're really, REALLY fired up.