Golden Gophers take undefeated record and playoff hopes into Kinnick Stadium to face the Hawkeyes
Welcome to the big time, Minnesota. The College Football Playoff selection committee may not be giving the Gophers enough respect after they improved their record to 9-0 (6-0 in Big Ten) with a win against Penn State last week, but maybe a win in Kinnick Stadium will do the trick. Of course, Iowa loves ruining big dreams this time of the year in its home stadium. Could Minnesota's hopes and dreams be the next to go up in flames in Iowa City?
Iowa (6-3, 3-3) is looking for a rebound this week after a tough loss at Wisconsin last week. The Hawkeyes should be a good test for Minnesota as P.J. Fleck and the Gophers look to row their boat to another big win to stay in the playoff hunt.
Minnesota at Iowa
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 16 at 4 p.m. ET
Spread: Iowa -3.0
When Minnesota Has the Ball
Minnesota got a well-rounded effort from its entire offense last week against a solid Penn State defense, and there is no reason to suspect that they are about to abandon that approach this week. Tanner Morgan was as effective and efficient as they come in the big win last week, completing 18-of-20 pass attempts for 339 yards with three touchdowns. Rashod Bateman was responsible for 203 of those yards on seven receptions. Three different Minnesota players caught a touchdown pass in the win.
Minnesota's offensive line really had the performance of the week last week. Against a talented Penn State defensive line, the Gophers prevented the Nittany Lions from having much of an impact up front until late in the game. This week, Minnesota will be facing another stingy defensive front, led by A.J. Epenesa and Brady Reiff on one side of the line. That could make it tough to get Rodney Smith and Mohamed Ibrahim going on the ground, although Minnesota will be fine picking up a few yards at a time without breaking open a big run as long as the passing game remains effective.
When Iowa Has the Ball
Staying away from Antoine Winfield Jr. would be a wise approach for Iowa. Winfield picked off two passes against Penn State last week, and both created momentum shifts while preventing Penn State from scoring points. He has already set a school record with seven interceptions this season, so Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley will have to be careful with his reads. Stanley has not thrown an interception in the last two games, but he can still improve his accuracy to help the Iowa offense move down the field. Stanley had a big game last year against Minnesota when he passed for 314 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-31 victory. If this game gets as high-scoring as last season's, Stanley could put Iowa in a good position to make a few more plays at home this year.
Minnesota's defense picked up three interceptions last week, but the Gophers did give up yards to Penn State. If Iowa can avoid making the crucial mistakes with the football, then the Hawkeyes pose a viable threat to Minnesota's undefeated season.
A week after one of the biggest wins in program history, Minnesota is confident and continuing to grow as a team that expects to win. But they have to pass a few speed bumps on their way to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game, and a road trip to Kinnick Stadium is one of the toughest bumps that there is. Minnesota's dream season runs into a wall against a motivated Iowa team ready to play the role of spoiler, and the Hawkeyes' defense holds off the Gophers.
Prediction: Iowa 27, Minnesota 23
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Patreon, on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.