Column: Iowa is a must-win on Saturday

Iowa should prove to be Gophers’ easiest opponent among its next four.

David Nelson

In case people didn’t get the memo, the Gophers football team might boast one of the toughest end-of-season schedules of any Big Ten program.

It starts with Iowa at home. Next, it’s No. 13 Ohio State at home. Then, the No. 15 Cornhuskers in Nebraska. Finally, the Gophers go to Wisconsin to take on the No. 25 Badgers.

Yikes.

Out of all those games, it’s arguable that the Hawkeyes are perhaps the least intimidating, which is exactly why the Gophers need to defeat them on
Saturday.

Before Minnesota’s last game, some might have said it would be “nice” to defeat the Hawkeyes.

But after a disappointing showing against Illinois, Minnesota firmly placed itself in an undesirable must-win situation.

Had the Gophers defeated Illinois by even a couple of points, the whole feeling around the program might be different.

But right now, the loss shook the confidence of fans and brought back memories of other painful losses as evidenced by a handful of articles around the metro.

At this point, ESPN projects the Gophers to go to either the San Francisco Bowl or the National University Holiday Bowl.

While they might not be the more prestigious New Year’s Day bowl games, those two contests would help expose the program to future recruits.

However, the Gophers might kiss those bowls goodbye if they falter against Iowa.

Throughout the season, Minnesota has remained a team that carries a whole lot of swagger and confidence — like many teams that went on to perform well during the bowl season.

The current Gophers squad is arguably the best under head coach Jerry Kill and his staff. The team boasts one of the best running backs in the country, an unbelievably athletic tight end who can make big plays on offense and a defense that has performed tremendously, despite inconsistencies down the stretch.

A plethora of talent like that is something that should not be wasted.

The Hawkeyes should push the Gophers all game long Saturday, but Iowa holds deficiencies of its own.

During this season, the Hawkeyes have swapped quarterbacks, and they currently rank in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in many statistical categories.

This is an average football team compared to Minnesota’s final three opponents.

While the Gophers could still make a respectable bowl game without a victory Saturday, people who have watched this team for years know luck rarely falls on its side.

So if Minnesota truly wants to solidify its place in a decent bowl game, it needs to make the most of its opportunity this weekend against Iowa.