One week after scoring their biggest win of the season, the no. 8 Minnesota Golden Gophers face another big test against the no. 20 Iowa Hawkeyes. Kickoff is set for 4:00 EST on Saturday, November 16 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. The game will be nationally televised on Fox.
Oddsmakers list the Hawkeyes as 3-point favorites at home over the undefeated Golden Gophers. The game also has an over/under of 44.5 points. Be sure to check out all of the Week 12 college football odds.
For anyone who was still doubting the legitimacy of Minnesota’s undefeated record, the Golden Gophers made a statement by knocking off Penn State as home underdogs last week. That win, combined with several lopsided wins over some of the lower-tier teams in the Big Ten, leaves little doubt that the Golden Gophers are for real.
Of course, Minnesota now has to prove that they can win big games over quality opponents in back-to-back weeks. They also have to prove that they can beat a quality team on the road. The silver lining is that the Gophers can edge a little closer to clinching a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game with a win. A road win over Iowa this week will also improve Minnesota’s standing with the College Football Playoff committee.
Iowa, on the other hand, has to shake off a close loss to Wisconsin last week. The Hawkeyes deserve a lot of credit for nearly erasing a 21-6 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter. But Iowa ultimately came up a 2-point conversion short of tying Wisconsin late in the game and perhaps forcing overtime.
The loss likely costs the Hawkeyes any hope of winning the Big Ten West division this season. On the bright side, Iowa is 6-3, meaning they will play in a bowl game for the 17th time in the last 19 seasons. That being said, the Hawkeyes can still improve their bowl stock if they can finish strong. A 10-win season is still on the table as well if the Hawkeyes can win out and win their bowl game.
More important than any bowl game for Iowa is their desire to beat Minnesota for the fifth consecutive year. Every year, the winner of this border war is awarded the Floyd of Rosedale, which in layman’s terms is a statue of a bronze pig. In order to stay undefeated, Minnesota will need to beat Iowa for the first time since 2014. They will also need to win in Iowa City for the first time since 1999.
After last week’s win over Penn State, I’m hesitant to pick against Minnesota. Admittedly, things will be a little more difficult on the road. But the Gophers were awfully impressive in that game. More importantly, I think they’ll remain hungry and motivated to face their rivals, especially since they’re still underdogs despite being 9-0. I’d be shocked if this wasn’t a close game in the fourth quarter, which is also pushing me to lean toward Minnesota and the points.
The Minnesota offense impressed me the most during the win over Penn State. I dismissed some of their point totals against weaker Big Ten teams. But scoring 31 points against the Nittany Lions is no joke. Granted, the Golden Gophers didn’t run the ball the way they usually do. But they were able to manufacture a functional rushing attack against the best rush defense in the country and even came up with a couple of explosive plays on the ground. That makes me optimistic about their chances of getting some production on the ground against a tough Iowa defense this week.
Of course, quarterback Tanner Morgan may have stolen the show. Again, I was quick to dismiss some of Morgan’s impressive numbers this season because Minnesota hadn’t faced many quality teams. But he had his way with the Penn State defense, connecting on 18 of his 20 passes for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. I’m willing to admit now that his performance this year has been no fluke. Morgan is currently averaging almost 11 yards per pass attempt while throwing just four interceptions. Again, that makes me optimistic that the Minnesota offense will fare well against the Iowa defense.
It’s possible that the Iowa offense won’t be able to keep up with the Golden Gophers. If you take away the 30 points they scored against Rutgers, the Hawkeyes are averaging under 17 points per game against power-conference opponents and have scored no more than the 26 points they managed against Purdue. The Iowa rushing attack is solid but unspectacular and quarterback Nathan Stanley, while reliable, is rarely able to carry a team on his back. I also worry about the Minnesota secondary forcing turnovers if Stanley is forced to throw 30-plus times.
Admittedly, I may be overreacting a little to one impressive win by Minnesota. However, keep in mind that Iowa has lost to the other top teams in the Big Ten they’ve faced. Escaping with a 1-point win over Iowa State is the most impressive feat the Hawkeyes have accomplished all year. They are far from world-beaters, which makes me more comfortable taking Minnesota and the points in this game.