Gophers face Iowa in rivalry game with Big Ten West implications

Nico Ragaini #89 of the Iowa Hawkeyes scores a touchdown against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the first quarter of the game at TCF Bank Stadium on November 13, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  ((Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images))

The University of Minnesota football team is at Iowa on Saturday as the Gophers face the Hawkeyes in the annual battle for Floyd of Rosedale.

It’s a huge game for both teams, with the lead in the Big Ten West at stake. Minnesota (6-3) enters Saturday’s game one of four teams tied atop the division at 4-2. The others are Iowa, Wisconsin and Purdue. The Badgers are hosting Northwestern, and Purdue faces Ohio State.

Minnesota’s recent struggles against Iowa are well-chronicled. PJ Fleck has not beaten the Hawkeyes, he’s 0-4 with the Gophers and 0-5 for his career. Minnesota hasn’t beaten Iowa since 2014, and hasn’t won in Iowa City since 1999. Last year, Kirk Ferentz added a little fuel to the rivalry game, calling three straight timeouts late in regulation and the game in hand in a 35-7 win. After the game, Ferentz said, "We thought we’d take Floyd with us and leave the timeouts here."

The Gophers are looking to bounce back from last Saturday’s 14-6 loss to Illinois, fresh off entering the College Football Playoff rankings and signing Fleck to a new seven-year contract. The Gophers ran for just 89 yards in the loss, after rushing for more than 300 in wins over Maryland and Nebraska.

The Hawkeyes are 7-2 on the season, but have lost two of their last three after being ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation. They’re top five in the nation with a +12 turnover differential, and one of the top teams in the country with 19 interceptions. They also feature one of the top rushing defenses in the Big Ten.

On offense, Alex Padilla will likely get the start at quarterback over Spencer Petras after Padilla led Iowa to a 17-12 win over Northwestern last week.

The Gophers will need their best game of the season from the offensive line, and quarterback Tanner Morgan, who was intercepted twice in last week’s loss to Illinois. A win over the Hawkeyes, and the Gophers remain atop the Big Ten West with two regular season games to play.

Kickoff is set for just after 2:30 p.m. at Kinnick Stadium.