Gophers-Hawkeyes: Scouting the Matchups

The Gophers only have a pig and pride left to play for, but the Hawkeyes are looking to make a run at a bowl game after a disappointing start to the season. We take a look at the offenses and defenses for each team, players to watch and more as the rivalry renews.

Minnesota at Iowa, Nov. 10 — The border rivals play for Floyd of Rosedale, a bronze pig. A pig and pride are all the Gophers have left to play for at this point. Iowa has suddenly found some life after a miserable start and can become bowl-eligible with a victory. The Hawkeyes have won three consecutive games against Minnesota in Iowa City.

A victory over the Gophers would make the Hawkeyes bowl-eligible for a seventh consecutive season. Minnesota leads the all-time series 59-39-2, but Iowa has won five of the last six and 10 of the last 14 meetings. The Gophers haven't won in Iowa City since 1999.

GOPHERS

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Gophers defense has received most of the criticism this season, but their offense has endured its share of struggles of late, too. Strangely, the Gophers' once-dominant running game has disappeared. They had only 95 rushing yards against Illinois last week and rank 48th nationally in rushing at 166.7 yards per game. Iowa ranks 35th nationally in total defense so this will be another tough test.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Iowa has perhaps the worst offense in the Big Ten, which means the Hawkeyes will likely have an offensive explosion against the Gophers. Minnesota's defense has become just dreadful. They rank 100th or worse nationally in eight defensive categories, including dead last in total defense. The Gophers have allowed 1,149 yards rushing the past three games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: LB Deon Hightower — Iowa has allowed 39 sacks this season so Hightower could be effective on the blitz. He will be key in stopping Iowa tailback Albert Young.

WR Ernie Wheelwright — The senior has two more games to impress NFL scouts. Sadly, it has come to that for the Gophers, but Wheelwright has pro ambitions and wants to finish on a strong note.

P Justin Kucek — He has a chance to earn first-team all-Big Ten honors. He has been very good in an otherwise disastrous season. He is averaging 43.2 yards per punt and has placed 18 inside the 20.

ROSTER REPORT: Senior center Tony Brinkhaus suffered a concussion early in the game last week and is listed as day-to-day.

Senior Desi Steib has regained his starting spot at left cornerback. True freshman Kyle Theret will move back to free safety.

Fullback Justin Valentine has moved to No. 2 at tailback, behind Duane Bennett. Valentine's move was out of necessity because of injuries to Jay Thomas and Amir Pinnix.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our record doesn't demand a lot of respect. But we have to go out there and earn respect from the other teams. We're playing for the pig [Iowa] and the ax [Wisconsin], so these are two big games for us." — Freshman quarterback Adam Weber.


HAWKEYES

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Hawkeyes have not turned the ball over in five of 10 games and lead the Big Ten with a plus-11 turnover margin. They have had 33 offensive plays gain 20 or more yards this season, including six last week at Northwestern. After averaging only 15 points in its first eight games, Iowa has scored 62 in its last two outings.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Iowa has the Big Ten's best red-zone defense, limiting opponents to scores on 20 of 30 trips inside the 20 (66.7 percent) with 12 touchdowns. The Hawekeyes are third in the conference in scoring defense (18.1 points per game), fourth against the run (121.7 yards per game) and sixth against the pass (219.3).

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Jake Christensen — The sophomore is 4-1 as a starter at Kinnick Stadium and has thrown nine of his 13 touchdown passes at home. His three interceptions are the fewest among all starting quarterbacks in the Big Ten (minimum 150 completions).

DE Bryan Mattison — The 6-3, 272-pound senior is fifth in the Big Ten and 12th in the nation with a career-high nine sacks. He also ranks second in the conference in forced fumbles (four) and is ninth in tackles for loss (11).

CB Charles Godfrey — The Big Ten co-leader in interceptions (five) has a tough challenge this week against the Minnesota receiving tandem of Eric Decker (59 catches, 756 yards and six touchdowns) and Ernie Wheelwright (53 catches, 656 yards and nine touchdowns).

ROSTER REPORT: LB Dezman Moses — The true freshman has replaced redshirt freshman Jermiha Hunter as the No. 2 outside linebacker on the depth chart for the Nov. 10 game. Moses has appeared in all 10 games and has seven tackles, including one tackle for loss.

CB Adam Shada — The senior is not listed on the depth chart this week and is expected to miss his second straight game with a sprained ankle. He started the first nine games and ranks fourth on the team in tackles (56) with five passes defended, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've put ourselves in position to maybe think about [bowls], but we're basically a one-step-at-a-time team. It would have been tough if we would not have pulled it off [at Northwestern]. That would have made it real challenging. We're showing that we're interested." — Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.



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