Iowa Football

Play Action: Iowa Hawkeyes at Minnesota Golden Gophers

The Iowa Hawkeyes and Minnesota Golden Gophers meet Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. (The Gazette)
The Iowa Hawkeyes and Minnesota Golden Gophers meet Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. (The Gazette)

Random thoughts on Saturday’s Iowa-Minnesota matchup.

Minnesota

The Gophers are young. Like, way, way young.

There are 113 players on the roster and 59 are freshmen. Six of the 22 offensive and defensive starters are freshmen, including five on offense. Those frosh have produced 72 percent of Minnesota’s total offense.

How this team, especially that youth, responds after a 42-13 waxing two weeks ago to Maryland will be telling.

This team’s two best players are out for the season with injuries.

Running back Rodney Smith got hurt in Game 2 against Fresno State. Tremendous cornerback Antoine Winfield Jr. was hurt against Maryland.

Winfield Jr.’s absence seems especially difficult for the Gophers. Iowa’s not the passiest team around, but it’ll be interesting to see if it targets his replacement, whether it’s freshman Jordan Howden or freshman Benny Sapp Jr. (son of the former Iowa and Northern Iowa player).

Junior Tyler Johnson and freshman Rashod Bateman rank fifth and eighth, respectively, in the Big Ten in catches per game.

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz mentioned them both at his Tuesday news conference.

“To me, if you’re going to start with (their) football team, it’s not just (Johnson). He’s a really good player. But it’s also the (entire) receiving corps.” With starting cornerback Matt Hankins a question mark for Iowa because of injury, how Iowa defends Johnson and Bateman could be important.

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Iowa

Iowa’s also coming off a bye week, also coming off a loss the previous week, to Wisconsin.

The Hawkeyes said all the right things at their Tuesday news conference, insisted they’ve moved on, loved the rest and recovery last week, etc. But have they?

— Believe it or not, this is the Hawkeyes’ first road game this season.

There may be easier places in the Big Ten Conference to hit the road, but there may not be. TCF Bank Stadium usually doesn’t provide the most intimidating environment for opposing teams.

There are sure to be a lot of Iowa fans in attendance, too. You know, Kinnick North and all.

Here are two other questions for the Hawks.

1. Can the run game get going consistently?

Iowa ranks just 10th in the Big Ten in rushing yards, which is very un-Iowa like. Having a healthy Ivory Kelly-Martin back surely will help.

2. How will this week’s versions of starting linebackers perform?

Barrington Wade is getting his first start and first real playing time on the outside for the injured Nick Niemann. Djimon Colbert gets the nod on the weakside. Jack Hockaday has been the only real linebacking constant, taking over in the middle.

Prediction

Iowa 28, Minnesota 14

Maryland was able to run all over Minnesota two weeks ago. Don’t be surprised if Iowa tries to do the same. A true freshman walk-on starting quarterback (Zack Annextad) versus Iowa’s stellar defensive line seems like a mismatch, too. Floyd of Rosedale’s coming back to Iowa City.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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