WEATHER REPORT: Umm…it's indoors.
When I think of Floyd of Rosedale, a lot of images come to mind.
I can't help but recall Hayden, and how he enjoyed tormenting Gopher fans with his West Texas colloquialisms. I think about heart breaking and bowl altering losses. I think about staying up ‘late' as a kid and listening to the Iowa at Minnesota night games on the radio with my family. I think about goalposts coming down in the H-cubed dome. I think about my daughter being born two days before Iowa's 2002 Big Ten clincher in the dome, and getting to watch that game in the hospital lounge with my father.
I remember being behind the visitor's bench in Kinnick Stadium in 2001 just as the game ended, and seeing Robert Gallery and a swarm of Hawkeyes running right at me, as I was standing next to the pig.
I think about…well, I think about the state of Minnesota for the one and only time each and every year.
Come to think about it, as I guess I just did…for a school that my elders still consider a rival to Iowa, I didn't realize there was so much history tied up in this game for me. I never really guessed that there were so many memories, emotions, etc, in this ‘rivalry', because in my years of watching Iowa football games, the Hawks are 16-8 against the Gophers, dating back to the 1981 season.
Iowa trails the all time series 37-58-2, so I have seen more than 43 percent of Iowa's all time wins against the Gophers. No wonder the baby boom generation and older still hold the Gophers with more than a bit of contempt.
It's a fact that Minnesota has beaten Iowa more than any team it has played. It's also a fact that the pig that some around the country poke fun at is the symbol of an attempt to ease the mean spirited and racist history of this rivalry. If you have not read George Wine's ‘Black and Gold Memories', I highly recommend getting a copy of that book. If you don't know the name and story of Ozzie Simmons as it pertains to Floyd, then you have some history to brush up on. Here is a Quick Lesson.
In thinking out loud to start this preview, I guess I have come to the conclusion that this game still matters quite a bit in the rivalry sense, and it usually has implications for an Iowa program that looks to improve its bowl position at this time of year.
Minnesota head coach Glen Mason has taken the Gophers to a few consecutive bowls, and they are once again bowl bound this year, so this game is of huge importance to their program.
REELING IN MINNESOTA
In Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, ‘reeling' typically has more to do with fishing than anything else.
But in 2004, we are talking about the Golden Gopher football program.
The morning of October 9th, little more than one month ago, Minnesota was 5-0 and sported a lofty national ranking.
They were at Michigan, and they had the Wolverines on the ropes. But a comeback by the home standing boys in blue tore the hearts out of the Gophers for the second straight season. Minnesota had squandered a huge fourth quarter lead to Michigan the year before that spawned another tailspin.
Since that game, the Gophers are losers in four of their last five games, including a perplexing loss at Indiana. They had beaten Illinois 45-0 at home the week before, and Illinois beat Indiana last week. Go figure.
The Gophers enter tomorrow's game against Iowa with a 6-4 record overall, and 3-4 in league play. They are undefeated at home, and winless on the road.
Once considered one of the favorites to win the Big Ten, they are reduced to playing the role of spoiler, yet again.
I am sure that their football players have heart, but collectively, they have not shown it since their loss to Michigan. It's a disturbing trend of football in Minnesota under Mason; beat the patsies, then lose a tough game to a good team and the wheels fall off. No, make that the axles fall off.
The biggest thing Minnesota has going for it in this game is that it's a home game…or is it?
Some call it the Homer Dome, some call it Triple H or H-cubed, Mike Ditka called it the roller dome and many call it an eyesore.
My favorite moniker for the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is Kinnick North. It has been called this name as of late due to the tens of thousands of Hawkeye fans who make their biannual pilgrimage to Minniehaha for this football game. Some 25,000 did just that in 2002 to experience the joy of Iowa's first Big Ten championship in 12 years.
They had so much fun with that win, that they tore down the goalposts, a scene that has been replayed on SportsCenter countless times and a scene that will forever stand the test of time.
We still remember Ron Hawley knocking down a goal post…but this was something different.
One of my favorite all-time broadcasting calls came out of that game, when ESPN's Mark Jones said ‘Jermelle Lewis is working Minnesota like a part time job.' I just laughed as I typed that one. That was just brilliant, funny and poignant all at the same time.
How many Hawkeye fans should our friends to our north expect this year? I am guessing close to 20,000.
A friend of mine, let's call him Barney, told me back in the summer that he had called Minnesota's ticket office to inquire about ducats for this game. He gave the ticket taker his phone number, area code 319, to use another Mark Jones calling card, and the ticket taker replied, ‘Oh, another Iowa fan?' Barney said, ‘yes, how could you tell?' To which the ticket liaison replied, ‘Every call I am getting for this game has that same area code.'
Technically, this will be a home game for the Gophers. But we all know different.
STRENGTH VS. STRENGTH VS. WEAKNESS
Minnesota ranks 7th in rushing offense nationally, putting up nearly 250 yards per game on the ground. They are 14th nationally in total offense.
Iowa ranks 4th nationally in stopping the run, allowing just 68.2 yards per game on the ground. Iowa is 10th in the country in total defense.
As Howard Cosell once said, "This is a classic confrontation." Or maybe he didn't say that, and it was what the oriental guys said in the Jon Cusak movie ‘Better Off Dead', they who learned English by listening to Cosell and imitating his distinctive delivery. I just can't be certain.
That match up is worth the jacked up price of admission for this game.
Wisconsin, who ranks 6th nationally in stopping the run, held Minnesota to 73 yards rushing on 18 carries last week in Madison.
THE key to beating Minnesota is to make them one-dimensional. That is quite a football axiom, but it's especially true of teams that do not possess the ability to come back from significant deficits. Should the Hawks jump out to a 17-0 lead against Minnesota, the way they did against Purdue last week, you should feel real good.
Minnesota has some weapons at receiver, and they can hurt you with the pass. But that is only the case if their running game is working, which sets up their play action game. So they CAN be a good passing team, but only if it's by their choice to go to the air. When they are forced to go to the air, they will turn the ball over.
Michigan State is the ONLY Iowa opponent to gain more than 100 yards on the ground against Iowa this season.
That was your strength vs. strength ditty. Here is some strength vs. weakness:
Iowa is 2nd in the Big Ten in passing yards per game, just three yards per game off the top spot. Minnesota is dead last against the pass, and 107th in the nation. Minnesota is 92nd in the nation in total defense.
They allow 154 yards per game on the ground, which is not great. But Iowa is 115th in the nation in rushing yards per game.
It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what Iowa is going to do against Minnesota.
The question will be if Minnesota will join the rank and file of Iowa opponents this season and blitz the heck out of the Hawks.
Iowa has been a popular team to blitz for the past two seasons, but this year, Drew Tate has made teams pay for that. He is as elusive in the pocket as any Iowa quarterback I can remember, and he actually is more dangerous on the run than he is in the pocket, as Penn State showed a few weeks ago. If you can hem him in, it gives you a better chance. Bringing heat up the middle only allows him to get to where he wants to be; in the flats.
But he is a good enough runner that if you bring the heat off of the edge, he can beat you with his legs up the middle. It would not shock me to see Minnesota bring in a fleet footed and sure-tackling spy on Tate, and come off the edges.
Even though Iowa did not gain a lot of yards on the ground last week, they were still able to gain a few yards on the ground in crucial times, and that allowed Iowa to use it's play action and waggle game. That is what any semblance of a rushing offense can do for this team.
The fact that this game will be played indoors on a consistent and dry surface, void of any wind, is a good thing for the Iowa offense. However, urban legend has it that the ventilation system has been turned on when the Twins come up to bat, thus helping their balls travel farther. If you feel an odd breeze when Iowa is on offense in this game, you are feeling some home cooking. But it's not the kind of wind that will hurt Iowa's passing game. Now, the piped in sound might have more of an effect on Iowa's offense. But what can you do?
- Matt Roth has posted 28 tackles (21 solo),10 TFL, six sacks and forced three fumbles in six conference games. He ranks first in conference sacks and forced fumbles and second in tackles for loss. Roth 's 29 career sacks ranks third best, and trails Jared DeVries (42,1995-98) and Mike Wells (33,1990-93).Also, he has 39 tackles for loss, which ties him for third place with Jim Johnson (1987-90). Wells (54,1990-93) ranks second behind DeVries (78,1995-98).
- Iowa has 19 players who have recorded one or more receptions this season (a school record), while 15 different Hawkeyes have recorded one or more rushing attempts.
- Iowa is 35--4 when leading at the half and 38-2 when leading after three quarters under Coach Ferentz. In the last three years, Iowa is 24-1 when leading at the half and 27-0 when leading after three quarters.
- Iowa has recorded seven or more wins four straight years, which is a feat that has only been accomplished once before at Iowa. Iowa 's 1981-87 teams all recorded seven victories or more. The Hawkeyes won seven games in 2001, 11 in 2002, 10 in 2003 and have won seven in 2004. The Hawkeyes ' 35 wins the last four years, is the third most victories over a four-year span at Iowa. The Hawkeyes won 37 games from 1984-87, and 36 games from 1983-86.
- The National I-Club and the UI Alumni Association invite all fans to the "Hawkeye Huddle" from 6-9 p.m. Friday. The "Hawkeye Huddle "will be held at The Depot, located at 225 Third Avenue South in Minneapolis. The free reception features refreshments, snacks, Hawk Shop door prizes, Herky, and the Iowa cheerleaders.
- Iowa 's last game at Minnesota on Nov.23, 2002, is the largest crowd ever to watch a Golden Gopher game in the HHH Metrodome (65,184). In fact three of Minnesota 's four largest crowds have come against the Hawkeyes.
.500: Both Kirk Ferentz & Glen Mason are one game below .500 in their college coaching careers.
9th: Minnesota's national ranking in turnover margin
10th: Iowa's national ranking in turnover margin
2: Minnesota natives on Iowa's roster: Tom Busch & Derreck Robinson
35-13-1: Minnesota's home record against Iowa, all time
38: Consecutive games that Iowa will have been on TV. Iowa's game at Minnesota in 2001 was the last Iowa game not televised
23: Number of points Iowa has scored in its last two games
40.8: Number of points Minnesota has averaged in home games this year
15.6: Number of points Iowa has allowed in road games this year
11:02: Time of kickoff. Not 11:03, but 11:02
HN.COM PUBLISHER JON MILLER'S IOWA-MINNESOTA PREDICTION
You can rest assured that I will be picking Iowa to score 23 points this week. I have picked them to do just that in each of their last two games, and they have hit that number on the mark. I could care less about point spreads, because I don't gamble, and I can promise you that outside of an NCAA tourney pool entry for a fin, I never will.
But 23 points is such a good number for this Iowa team. That means two touchdowns and three field goals. Here is an excerpt of what I said in this space last week: ‘It's Ankney over Altoona in this one, as Ankeny's Kyle Schlicher kicks three field goals.'
See? It's as easy as that. I just never guessed he would have six attempts.
I like Iowa to make Minnesota one dimensional in this game, I like Iowa to be +2 in the turnover department in this game, and I like Drew Tate throwing for more than 300 yards in this game. I also think Damien Sims scores his first touchdown in this game.
If all of those things come to pass, I will need to add the following caveat to next week's preview: This feature is for entertainment purposes only.
IOWA 23 -- MINNESOTA 13
I love the smell of bacon in the middle of the afternoon. And bring your ear plugs…those sirens get awful annoying when you try and tear down goal posts at Kinnick North.
JON'S IN SEASON GAME BY GAME PREDICTIONS
Week One: Iowa 48, Kent State 10 (Iowa 39, Kent State 7, actual score)
Week Two: Iowa 24, Iowa State 6 (Iowa 17, Iowa State 10)
Week Three: Arizona State 23, Iowa 17 (ASU 44, Iowa 7)
Week Four: Michigan 26, Iowa 10 (Michigan 30, Iowa 17)
Week Five: Iowa 23, MSU 13 (Iowa 38, MSU 16)
Week Six: Iowa 23, Ohio State 19 (Iowa 33, OSU 7)
Week Seven: Penn State 17, Iowa 15 (Iowa 6, PSU 4)
Week Eight: Iowa 23, Illinois 9 (Iowa 23, Illinois 13)
Week Nine: Iowa 23, Purdue 17 (Iowa 23, Purdue 21)
Jon's Game Week predictions since the start of the 2001 season: 41-6 (87.23% accuracy) Losses: 2001: Iowa State & Michigan; 2002: USC; 2003: Michigan State & Ohio State, 2004: Penn State.
Listen to Jon Miller & Jim Zabel, the legendary voice of the Iowa Hawkeyes, after the game on ‘Sound Off', exclusively on 1040, WHO. The show will begin approximately an hour after the game ends and we will break down the Saturday games as well as take your phone calls for three hours If you live in Des Moines, tune into WHO-TV 13 and watch ‘Sound Off' Sunday nights after the newscast for more Hawkeye insight from Jon Miller. Visit www.kgan.com for Jon's weekly, ‘State of the Hawkeye Nation' column. And stay right here at HawkeyeNation.com to read all you could possibly want to read regarding your Iowa Hawkeyes.
If you are in the Des Moines area, you can stop by Off Campus Apparel and Novelties next to the Merle Hay Mall and pick up a copy of Hawkeye Nation magazine. The November Issue also includes Scout.com's Annual Football & Basketball Recruiting Special, more than 100-pages worth. And if you are looking for the best place to watch a Hawkeye game in Des Moines, then stop by Pal Joey's on the SE corner of 63rd and Grand. In the KC Metro area, The Other Place just west of Metcalf on 80th Street is also another great spot to watch the Hawks play. CLICK HERE for a Hawkeye Game Watch Location near you.
One final note: I would like to thank IowaDoc1995 for sending me one of his game photo's from this year. It was Ed Hinkel's diving catch against Iowa State from his vantage point in the stands. He sent me a framed, blown up shot of that catch. It's being proudly displayed on the wall of my ‘Hawk Room' this very minute.