Daily Breakdown: Gophers slight underdog against Hawkeyes

Minnesota will look to getting back into a winning streak after its victory against Illinois Saturday.

Merrick Jackson celebrates his forced fumble with Thomas Barber at the homecoming game against Illinois at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 21.

Max Ostenso

Merrick Jackson celebrates his forced fumble with Thomas Barber at the homecoming game against Illinois at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 21.

Drew Cove

Minnesota (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten) is facing Iowa (4-3,1-3 Big Ten) Saturday for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy.

The game will feature another shot for quarterback Demry Croft, who is listed as a co-starter on the depth chart. The Gophers haven’t won in Iowa City since 1999, when Glen Mason was the head coach of the team.

When Minnesota runs the ball:

The Gophers’ offense was almost entirely supplemented by the run game against Illinois. Running back Shannon Brooks did not play, but Rodney Smith and Kobe McCrary earned playing time. Smith later left the game with an injury. McCrary has two games with over 100 yards, both when Brooks or Smith have been out of the game.

Minnesota ranks third in the Big Ten for rushing offense, averaging 188 yards per game. Iowa’s rush defense ranks eighth in the conference, allowing almost 146 yards per game.

Minnesota’s three main backs each have over 250 yards, including Smith who has almost 550 yards this season.

Matchup to watch: RB Rodney Smith vs. LB Ben Niemann

Advantage: Minnesota

When Iowa runs the ball:

Iowa has one running back with almost 600 yards this season: Akrum Wadley. 

The Hawkeyes’ ground game is ranked third to last in the Big Ten, ahead of only Indiana and Illinois. They are second to last in the conference in rushing touchdowns scored with six, ahead of only Purdue.

Minnesota had a bit of a slump in the beginning of the Big Ten season for rush defense, but had a better showing against Illinois. The Gophers held Illinois to 121 yards on the ground Saturday.

Matchup to watch: DL Steven Richardson vs. RB Akrum Wadley

Advantage: Minnesota

When Minnesota throws the ball:

Minnesota has had two starting quarterbacks this season. Quarterback Conor Rhoda got the first six starts, while Croft started the last game.

Croft has a run and pass threat that adds another element to Minnesota’s already clogged rushing core. But the redshirt sophomore threw two interceptions against Illinois Saturday, and only complete five of 15 passing attempts for 27 yards.

In the last two games, Croft and wide receiver Tyler Johnson had connected for four touchdown receptions.

Matchup to watch: WR Tyler Johnson vs. DB Josh Jackson

Advantage: Iowa

When Iowa throws the ball:

Quarterback Nate Stanley is the Hawkeyes’ starter, and he is leading the seventh-best passing offense in the Big Ten. Stanley has thrown for over 1500 yards this season, and has 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Besides his threat in the backfield, Wadley has 263 receiving yards on the season. Nick Easley is the highest targeted receiver with 31 targets and 326 yards for the season.

Minnesota’s secondary is still depleted with injuries, most notably safety Antoine Winfield Jr.

Matchup to watch: CB Adekunle Ayinde vs. WR Nick Easley

Advantage: Iowa

Prediction:

Iowa 26, Minnesota 17

The Gophers had lost three consecutive Big Ten games until their win over Illinois, who remains winless in the conference. With the game at home and Iowa’s passing offense and defense, the Hawkeyes should win this one.

Daily prediction record: 6-1

What else you need to know

Start time: 5:30 p.m. CT, Saturday Oct. 28

Location: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa

TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

Point Spread: Iowa by 7

Minnesota depth chart

Iowa depth chart