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Iowa vs. Minnesota Prediction: Pivotal Big Ten West Showdown Set for Minneapolis

Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers book looking for a win to improve their chances of winning the division.

The race for the Big Ten West crown took a wild turn in Week 11, and now Iowa is looking to take the inside track with just two weeks left to go. To do that, the Hawkeyes (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) will have to find a way to scratch together a win on the road against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-3, 4-3), who would love to create their own path to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 12

Here's what you need to know about this weekend's critical Big Ten West matchup.

Iowa at Minnesota

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 4 p.m. ET
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Minnesota -2.5
Tickets: As low as $59 on

When Iowa Has the Ball

Brace yourselves because Iowa's offense is anything but beauty in motion. There is not a whole lot to like about the way the Hawkeyes operate their offense, which averages just 17.9 points per game this season along with a jarring 251.1 yards per game. 

The running game does have a potential breakout star in the making with freshman running back Kaleb Johnson following in the mold of a typical Iowa running back. Two weeks ago, Johnson rushed for 200 yards in a big win over Purdue, but he was limited to 57 yards last week against Wisconsin.

Spencer Petras remains the quarterback for better or worse. He has gone nearly a month without throwing an interception, which has been good, but he isn't a candidate to light up Minnesota's pass defense.

The Golden Gophers rank fourth against the pass in the Big Ten this season. Minnesota has allowed just eight touchdown passes and has intercepted 12. Expect that trend to continue in Minnesota's favor this weekend.

When Minnesota Has the Ball

Like Iowa, much of the success of the Gophers is dictated by what happens with the running game. And Minnesota has one of the top running backs in the conference with Mohamed Ibrahim. Ibrahim is coming off a big week with 178 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a rout of Northwestern, and he is still in the running to be the Big Ten's leading rusher by the end of the season. However, gobbling up a ton of rushing yards against Iowa is not easy to do.

The Hawkeyes thrive on defense, and this unit has bailed Iowa out of a handful of games already this season, including last week against Wisconsin. Iowa has also allowed just three rushing touchdowns, the fewest by a Big Ten team this season.

Minnesota may be without quarterback Tanner Morgan once again as well. That would mean freshman Athan Kaliakmanis would likely run the offense. Kaliakmanis has been used more in recent weeks as Morgan worked through a concussion issue. Kaliakmanis would be up against the stiffest pass defense he has faced yet, although he did throw for 175 yards against Penn State a few weeks ago.

Final Analysis

Experts are expecting quite a low-scoring contest between Iowa and Minnesota, and that seems to make perfect sense. With that being the case, which offense do you trust more to get a key score? It has to be Minnesota, even if the Gophers have to rely on a backup freshman quarterback. Go with the home team here to win a tight one because Iowa's defense will refuse to allow this game to be too one-sided.

Prediction: Minnesota 23, Iowa 13

Podcast: Week 12 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread + Reaction to CFB Playoff Top 25 Rankings

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB, on Instagram, on TikTok, and Like him on Facebook.