Season Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes

This is GopherDigest fifth edition of the season previews and we look at Minnesota's week five opponent, Iowa Hawkeyes

Each of the past three years the team that ended the year with the worse record won Floyd of Rosedale. The team that has won the last three years has also been the home team. This is not only a trophy game, but this is also the Gopher's homecoming game this year as they look to remain undefeated against the hated Iowa Hawkeyes in TCF Bank Stadium.

The Hawkeye Offense:

If recent history has taught us anything, its that the projected starters at RB for the Hawkeye's likely won't be the running backs you face later in the season. Fortunately for the Hawkeye's they've made a bit later into summer this year without losing the projected starter(s). If AIRBHG (Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God) doesn't take out the projected starter, the Gophers will once again face Mark Weisman. Weisman ran for 177 yards at 8.4 yards per carry against the Gopher last year. Fortunately for the Gophers the Hawkeyes must replace two starters along the offensive line though they get back LT Brandon Scherff who missed much of last year with an injury. The Hawkeyes have good size up front so they may be able to move around the Gopher DL a bit, especially the undersized, speedier, defensive ends. Running the Hawkeye's offense this year will likely be Cody Sokol who has some junior college experience but didn't play at all last year as he redshirted. If Sokol's throwing motion is similar to it was when he was in junior college, it is a bit funky. Despite an odd throwing motion, Sokol has decent arm strength though that wasn't all that important in Greg Davis' offense last year as they had were much more horizontal than vertical. The Hawkeyes return two of their top three receivers from last year including a matchup nightmare in 6'7" 265 lb TE C.J. Fiedorowicz. Last year Iowa's passing attack finished 80th in the nation at 215.5 yards per game which was 23 more yards through the air than Iowa had against the Gophers last year in their 31-13 victory.

The Hawkeye Defense:

On the season the hawkeyes run D was not much better than the Gophers, allowing 162 yards per game. While they allowed an average of 162 yards per game the Hawkeyes allowed just 102 yard on the ground against gophers at just 3.2 yards per carry. The Hawkeyes haven't lost much off of that defensive line and they finally have some experience after playing a lot of youthful players the last two years. To go along with that experience they also have some decent size though the pass rush is definitely not their strength as they finished with just 13 sacks (115th in the nation). The strength of the Iowa defense this year will likely be their linebacking core as they return all three starters from last year's squad and all three are seniors with good speed and good size. The Hawkeye's do however lack depth at LB and if the Gophers are able to sustain drives and run the ball well this group may wear down late in the game. Last year the Hawkeye's secondary came up big in the rivalry game with two of the teams three interceptions in the Battle for Floyd. This year they must replace a star in CB Micah Hyde as well as the starter at SS and a couple of key backups. If the Gophers can get a rushing attack going they may be able to take advantage of some inexperience in the secondary and get some big plays through the air.

3 Keys to the Game

1. Stop the run. Mark Weisman ran all over the Gophers last year, especially early, and demoralized a team looking to start off 5-0 and win three straight against the Hawkeyes. If Weisman and co. aren't able to run the ball as efficiently the Hawkeyes may have to turn to a fairly weak passing game, which is not what the team is built to do.

2. Don't turn the ball over. The Gophers had four turnovers in last year's Battle for Floyd compared to none for Iowa. If the Gophers hadn't turned the ball over they very likely could have made it a game, but Sophomore Max Shortell struggled at times and had three interceptions to go along with a Gopher fumble. If the Gophers can hold on to the ball, this should at the very least be a close game if not a Gopher victory.

3. Run the ball effectively. Last year the Hawkeyes were able to shut down Donnell Kirkwood and co. and force the Gophers to throw the ball, something the team was not built for. This year the Gophers will have another year of experience on the offensive line and at tailback and if the bowl game was any indication, then they will be a force to be reckoned with. If the Gophers can get the running game going, the play action pass will also open up as will the deep ball.

Prediction:

For the first time in four years I think the better team will win and Floyd will live in Minneapolis for at least a year. Greg Davis' offense isn't exactly intimidating and the Hawkeye defense while more experienced this year was quite bad last year and likely hasn't made any huge strides. The Gophers are also much better poised to take advantage of the weaker Iowa defense this year as QB Phillip Nelson seems to be ahead of where Shortell was last year and the offensive line and running backs are much more experienced and confident. Final score 24-17 Minnesota win.


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