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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: TCF Bank Stadium (50,805) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: ABC. Home Record: Iowa 2-1, Minnesota 3-0. Away Record: Iowa 1-0, Minnesota 1-0. Neutral Record: Iowa 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Conference Record: Iowa 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Series Record: Minnesota leads, 61-43-2.
GAME NOTES: The Minnesota Golden Gophers will put their unbeaten record on the line Saturday afternoon when the Iowa Hawkeyes pay a visit to TCF Bank Stadium in what marks the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams.
Iowa has rebounded from a disappointing season-opening home loss to Northern Illinois by winning three straight games. This past Saturday, the Hawkeyes turned in their most thorough performance on both sides of the ball as they toppled Western Michigan, 59-3. The 59 points are the most in a single game for the Hawkeyes since 2002.
Minnesota is 3-0 at home so far this season, and Saturday's game will be the team's Homecoming. The Golden Gophers were also in action this past weekend as they took down San Jose State, 43-24. Following this tilt, they'll hit the road for two straight games against Michigan and Northwestern.
Minnesota leads the all-time series, 61-43-2, although Iowa claimed a 31-13 victory in last year's meeting to take home the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy. The trophy has gone to the annual winner of this game since 1935.
It had been more than a decade since Iowa lit up the scoreboard like it did last week against WMU. In that contest, the Hawkeyes racked up 446 yards of total offense, 258 of which came on the ground. Coach Kirk Ferentz mixed up the distribution as four different players logged 10 carries or more. Quarterback Jake Rudock was not asked to do much, but he was effective when called upon, completing 10-of-15 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Eight different Hawkeyes caught at least one pass. Through four games, the strength of this unit has been the running game as Iowa averages 244 yards per game on the ground.
Iowa's defense allowed only 209 total yards and nine first downs against the Broncos. More importantly, the team got four non-offensive touchdowns in the blowout victory. Junior wideout and return specialist Kevonte Martin-Manley broke the game open with two punt returns for touchdowns in a span of less than a minute in the second quarter. Not to be outdone, senior defensive back B.J. Lowery is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his role in the victory. Lowery picked off two passes and returned both of them for scores, the first player in school history to accomplish that feat.
On the season, Iowa's defense ranks in the top-five in the Big Ten in both rushing yards allowed per game (91.5, 5th) and passing yards allowed (199.2, 4th). The Hawkeyes have yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season.
Minnesota starting quarterback Philip Nelson sat out last week's game with a hamstring injury, and redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner took full advantage of his opportunity to start. While he only threw for 71 yards on 5-of-12 passing, Leidner ran for 151 yards and four TDs in his first career start and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week. His four touchdowns tied a Gophers' single- game record for a quarterback set by Curtis Wilson in 1967, and he was the first Minnesota player to notch four rushing scores in a game since Marion Barber in 2003. David Cobb (125 rushing yards) also ran for a pair of scores in the win over SJSU, marking the first time the team racked up six rushing TDs in a game since 2004.
Defensively, Minnesota has also been strong in stopping the run, as opponents have averaged just 102.8 yards per game on the ground. Aaron Hill leads the way with 24 tackles to go along with an interception and a fumble recovery. Theiren Cockran has gotten solid penetration, having posted 5.5 tackles for loss and a team-best three sacks through four games. In last week's win, the Golden Gophers allowed only 47 rushing yards (2.8 ypc), although that was largely because SJSU abandoned the running game to try and keep the game close in the second half. Spartan quarterback David Fales found plenty of holes in Minnesota's secondary, finishing with 439 yards and three TDs on 22-of-35 passing.
Both of these teams can run the ball, but this game will likely come down to who can generate the most big plays. Will Iowa have an answer for Leidner now that he's got some game film? Can the Hawkeyes generate any more non-offensive scores? A key stat to keep in mind: Minnesota is 10-2 with Iowa as its Homecoming opponent.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 34, Iowa 27
09/25 10:33:14 ET