The Big Ten West is heading into a wild final stretch with four teams tied for first place in the race. Two of those teams, Minnesota and Iowa, will meet on the college football gridiron this weekend with a chance to get a leg up in the final push for the division title.
P.J. Fleck and the Golden Gophers (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) fell into a four-way tie in the division after stumbling against Illinois last weekend, and facing the Hawkeyes (7-2, 4-2) isn't exactly the best way to get a rebound for Minnesota. Iowa has won six consecutive meetings in the rivalry, and eight of the last nine matchups dating back to 2012.
Will either team have an offensive attack that can establish control in this year's meeting, or could we get a low-scoring affair in the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy?
Minnesota at No. 20 Iowa
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Iowa -5.5
When Minnesota Has the Ball
Who will be running the football for Minnesota? Who is actually left to do so? Minnesota's depth at running back has been put to the test this season with injury after injury to running backs. At some point, that has to catch up to the Gophers, and it may have done just that last week against Illinois. For the first time this season, Minnesota was held to fewer than 125 rushing yards in a game (89 yards on 35 carries), and that bodes well for Iowa's defense. Iowa is second in the Big Ten against the run.
If Minnesota can't run the football, then the pressure will be on Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan to lead the way, but he has had a rough season as well with seven interceptions to six touchdowns. Iowa's defense was picking everything off for a while this season (FBS-leading 19 INTs) and could quickly rack up a few more turnovers through the air again in this one.
When Iowa Has the Ball
Alex Padilla is set to make his first start for the Hawkeyes at quarterback this weekend. Padilla replaced an injured Spencer Petras last week against Northwestern and gave the offense a bit of a lift. Padilla led the Iowa offense to three scoring drives in what was a low-scoring contest against the Wildcats. He may not have to do a bunch in this game if Iowa's defense takes care of things.
Padilla may have to make some plays, however. Iowa's rushing offense hasn't been grinding out the production it is accustomed to this season, and the Minnesota rushing defense is having one of the better statistical seasons in the Big Ten.
Don't expect a shootout in this Big Ten West contest. This is a matchup of teams that aren't going to light up the scoreboard and defenses that will grind out some momentum. But this will be Iowa's game to lose, and the Hawkeyes just don't lose to the Gophers in these types of situations. Advantage, Iowa.
Prediction: Iowa 20, Minnesota 13
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