2011 Iowa Hawkeyes Football

Big Ten football fans

Iowa Hawkeyes @ Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Preview

It’s time to pig out.

One of the colorful signature trophy games that makes the Big Ten and college football so thoroughly fun will stage its latest renewal this weekend in Minneapolis. The Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2) could become bowl eligible on Saturday with a win over lowly Minnesota (1-6) in the teams’ annual battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy. The battle for the pig named Floyd creates inspiration amidst the perspiration, and last season, the underdog in this game scored a stunning upset precisely because it played a lot harder than the favorite did.

Last season, the Golden Gophers exerted themselves and played to the limit of their capabilities. An energized performance enabled Minnesota to shock the Hawkeyes, 27-24, in Minneapolis. Minnesota entered the game at 2-9. Iowa was 7-4 and coming off tough losses to Northwestern and Ohio State. Minnesota had snapped a nine-game losing streak with a win over Illinois the previous week.

This season, the teams are again headed in opposite directions entering the game, which only makes it that much more important for Iowa and head coach Kirk Ferentz to be on their guard after snoozing last season and losing Floyd of Rosedale to an inferior but far more emotionally invested opponent. Minnesota, in its first year under head coach Jerry Kill, is 1-6. The Gophers are mired in a four-game losing streak that started with a loss to FCS North Dakota State and continued with blowout losses in each of their first three Big Ten games. Minnesota has been outscored 144-31 in conference play.

Iowa has won four of its last five. Last week, the Hawkeyes trounced Indiana 45-24. The Iowa offense put up 456 yards. Marvin McNutt caught three touchdown passes, and Marcus Coker ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns. The Iowa offense should thrive against a Minnesota defense that ranks 115 th nationally in points allowed. Last week, Minnesota allowed 346 rushing yards in a 41-14 loss to Nebraska. Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg has thrown 16 touchdown passes and just four interceptions this season. Everything adds up to an Iowa win, but then again, look at what happened last season, when college football observers gave Minnesota no chance in this matchup. Iowa can’t take the Gophers for granted this time around.

Despite his team’s struggles, this week Kill signed a seven-year contract that will keep him at Minnesota through February 2018. That development could give the Gophers extra incentive to play hard this week in support of a coach who is loved by his players. Iowa should win, but we’ve heard that story before in this Big Ten trophy rivalry. We’ll see if Iowa learned its lesson from 2010.

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By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer