Schwartz: Minnesota Game An Uphill Battle

November 14, 2019

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

In case you’re wondering how little oddsmakers respect 9-0 Minnesota, consider this: the Hawkeyes are 6-3 yet winless against Big Ten teams with even a whiff of a pulse.

They can’t score regularly, struggle inside the red zone, and are suffering through what might be the least effective offensive line in Kirk Ferentz’s two decades.

And they’re favored by three over the undefeated Gophers.

While it’s true Minnesota hasn’t won in Kinnick Stadium in years, they must be wondering what they have to do to convince America that they’re for real. First it was, “Yeah, but let’s see what happens against Penn State,” and then they beat Penn State. Sure, their schedule has been a little light, but then again, so is the Big Ten.

A Hawkeye win on Saturday can be summed up in one word: upset. It’s not unrealistic, but it’s unlikely. Minnesota owns a swagger this season that the Hawkeyes, themselves a competent yet confused crew, can only daydream of having. Plus, Minnesota is actually good.

If Iowa is going to win – a huge if for a team that doesn’t have a single Big Ten win against an above .500 team – the defense will have to exceed its already strong 2019 play, create turnovers, and maybe even score one or two defensive touchdowns. What’s the alternative? Hope the offense takes a magical leap? That’s fantasy, not strategy.

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Few might have thought before the season that Minnesota, Iowa’s Week 10 opponent, would represent its last chance at a signature win. Yet here we are. The Gophers have to go just 2-1 over their last three games to win the Big Ten West, while Iowa once again has 8-4 in its sights. It’s not a bad record – it’s pretty good, actually, in the grand scheme of a college football season – but one can either look at Iowa’s destiny as 8-4, or as 1-3/0-4 against quality Big Ten opponents, which feels a lot worse.

The weirdest thing in all this are the odd pangs of nostalgic joy I felt last weekend watching Minnesota hold off Penn State. It brought back feelings of the 2015 Hawkeyes and their run to the Rose Bowl. I’m not sure I know a single University of Minnesota football fan, but last Saturday I felt happy for them, happy that a large group of people, long-suffering in the sports fandom sense, got to feel joy.

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If Iowa upsets Minnesota and Wisconsin wins out, including a season-ending victory over Minnesota, the Badgers will go to the Big Ten Championship Game. It would be sad for Gophers fans if that happened, so the humanity in me is rooting for Iowa to beat Minnesota (naturally) and Minnesota to beat Wisconsin. Let the Gophers have their fun.

Of course the ideal scenario is the unlikeliest: Iowa wins out, Minnesota loses out, and Wisconsin finishes 1-2 with its lone win coming against Minnesota, which sends the Hawkeyes to Indianapolis. It’s a pipe dream. It’s ridiculous. It’s not going to happen.

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This is Minnesota’s year.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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