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Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Preview and Prediction

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It's college football border rivalry and grudge game season as the Minnesota Golden Gophers arrive in Iowa City with the coveted bronze pig once again on the line against a school-record 9-0 and No. 8-ranked Iowa Hawkeye squad.

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Minnesota laid down the hammer on the Hawkeyes in 2014 at home in the Twin Cities, winning 51-14 in a game that exemplified the late season woes of that Iowa squad.

The Gophers lead the all-time series against Iowa 62-44-2, including a 42-36-2 edge when playing for “Floyd,” and three out of the last four contests.

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Minnesota at Iowa

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Iowa -12.5

Three Things to Watch

1. A “healthy” competition

Both Iowa and Minnesota have suffered through a key stretch of players being hauled off the field with injuries. The Hawkeyes saw themselves nearly regain full strength after their bye-week in a game with Maryland. They're likely to get the rest of the way there this week, with the return of RB Jordan Canzeri and possible return of RT Ike Boettger.

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The Gophers are moving back toward full strength themselves, after injuries that have sidelined no fewer than 12 different starters this season to date, with each missing an average of five games.

With all sides playing with nearly the teams they envisioned at the start of the season, it could make for another competitive game.

2. Gopher QB Mitch Leidner and his offensive weaponry

In spite of the injuries that have seen his team limp to a 4-5 record in 2015, Gophers QB Mitch Leidner has put together a relatively impressive season, going 168-of-288 for 1,908 yards on the year. That includes three straight 250-yard performances (Nebraska – 301, Michigan – 317, Ohio State – 281) and games in which he's also found three different 100-yard receivers in the trio of KJ Maye (116), Drew Wolitarsky (114), and Brandon Lingen (111).

Their overall quartet of offensive firepower will need to be in peak performance mode as it faces the B1G and NCAA interception leader in CB Desmond King, up-and-coming sack-master in MLB Josey Jewell, and an Iowa pass defense yielding just 199.4 yards per game.

3. The Hawkeyes' “4 Deadly Horsemen”

The Hawkeyes have found themselves lacking any sort of depth at the RB position the last few years, which prevented an effective execution of their traditionally run-first offense. Early season injuries in 2015 have proven that weakness has been turned into a strength, as injuries have given the Hawkeyes a depth they haven't recently enjoyed.

With the re-insertion of Jordan Canzeri into the rotation this week, the Gophers will be forced to defend against a very talented 4-back attack, led by Canzeri and Akrum Wadley, and assisted by LeShun Daniels and Derrick Mitchell. Any one of whom is capable of breaking the “big play” from scrimmage that changes the trajectory of an entire game.

Final Analysis

The Hawkeyes are playing focused and disciplined football, not to mention looking to apply some much needed salve to the “scar tissue” of last season's spanking in Minneapolis. They'll be doing it in front of the season's largest home crowd, in a prime-time night game, under the lights, for a school record all-time best 10-0 start, and possible hop into the College Football Playoff top 4, where they currently reside at No. 5.

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It's fitting that this is a night game. If the execution and dedication of this Iowa team holds true to season's form, it could spell “lights out” on the Gophers' 2015 bowl hopes.

Prediction: Iowa 37, Minnesota 10

— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, a member of the Athlon Contributor Network and a native Iowan currently based in Southern California. Boleyn attended both the University of Iowa and UCLA, and is a former contributing writer for The Daily Iowan and a die-hard Hawkeye. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.