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5 Minnesota players to watch against Iowa
Ibrahim again is centerpiece of Gophers’ offense
Iowa is two wins — along with an expected No. 21 Illinois loss to No. 3 Michigan — away from a Big Ten West division title.
But the Hawkeyes cannot afford to look too far ahead with Minnesota looming. The Gophers have one of the top defenses in the country and are favored to win Saturday’s contest in Minneapolis.
Here are five Minnesota players to watch in a game ripe with division title implications:
RB Mohamed Ibrahim
Mohamed Ibrahim is the centerpiece of the Gophers’ offense.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound running back has accumulated 1,261 rushing yards so far this season while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
His 18 rushing touchdowns in 2022 are more than what Iowa’s three running backs — Kaleb Johnson, Leshon Williams and Gavin Williams — have combined.
Ibrahim’s success is nothing new.
Ibrahim, the 2020 Big Ten Running Back of the Year, is second in Minnesota program history in rushing yards and first in rushing touchdowns.
If he plays in the Gophers’ bowl game, he may have a shot at breaking Darrell Thompson’s all-time rushing record that has been in place for more than three decades.
Ibrahim missed last year’s matchup against Iowa because of an early season-ending injury, but he racked up 144 yards against the Hawkeyes in 2020 while averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
DB Tyler Nubin
With a team-high four interceptions, Tyler Nubin has been a key part of Minnesota’s secondary as a senior.
Two of his four interceptions came in Minnesota’s 31-0 win over Rutgers on Oct. 29.
Opposing quarterbacks have completed 35.3 percent of passes when targeting the receiver Nubin is covering, per Pro Football Focus.
The safety from Saint Charlies, Ill., is in his third season as a consistent starter.
Nubin, last year’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl Defensive MVP and an all-Big Ten honorable mention, led the Gophers in 2021 with three interceptions.
QB Tanner Morgan or QB Athan Kaliakmanis
Tanner Morgan, if available, will be preparing for his fourth career game against Iowa.
The first three did not fare well for him. All three were Iowa wins, and Morgan completed less than half his passes in two of the three games.
Morgan’s 67.3 percent completion rate in 2022 is the best of his career. His seven touchdowns versus five interceptions are better than what Iowa has, but it’s still not ideal.
Morgan’s status for Saturday is unclear, though, after he suffered an injury in the Gophers’ Nov. 5 win at Nebraska and missed the Nov. 12 win against Northwestern.
Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck told reporters Monday Morgan was at Sunday’s practice and has been progressing “really good.”
If Morgan is not available Saturday, Iowa fans will likely get their first glimpse of Athan Kaliakmanis at quarterback.
Kaliakmanis, a redshirt freshman from Antioch, Ill., was 7-of-13 against Northwestern with 64 passing yards and 28 rushing yards. He made his first career start when Morgan missed the Oct. 22 Penn State game with a head injury.
The 6-4 quarterback has completed 46.6 percent of his passes this season and has one touchdown and three interceptions.
LB Mariano Sori-Marin
Mariano Sori-Marin is among the veterans on a defense that has allowed only 13.1 points per game.
The linebacker has a team-high 69 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. He had a season-high 15 tackles in Minnesota’s 45-17 loss to Penn State on Oct. 22.
Sori-Marin was an all-Big Ten honorable mention last season.
Away from the football field, Sori-Marin’s family had an important role in Cuban history.
His grandfather and great-uncle were part of the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and his great-uncle was involved in the CIA’s failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 before getting killed by a firing squad upon his capture.
DL Danny Striggow
Danny Striggow is the latest Big Ten edge rusher who could be a challenge for Iowa’s offensive tackles.
Striggow leads the team with 3.5 sacks in 2021 and is tied with Sori-Marin for the team lead with 4.5 tackles for loss.
But like Morgan, Striggow’s status is not clear after he missed Saturday’s win over Northwestern. Fleck did not rule out a return against Iowa, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
This is Striggow’s first season with a major role on the defense. He has taken more snaps this year than in 2020 and 2021 combined, per PFF.