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September 28, 2013

Preview: Minnesota-Iowa

The Storyline
This game could be called a trend-setter or a season-changer for both programs. A win to begin Big Ten play would help bolster their status as each programs looks to become a factor in the Big Ten this season. Iowa (3-1) travels to TCF Bank Stadium to take on host, Minnesota (4-0) to battle for Floyd of Rosedale. Both programs want Floyd of Rosedale in their trophy case after Saturday's contest so it should be a good one.

The Offense
On offense, the Hawkeyes are led by tailback Mark Weisman. Through four games, Weisman is averaging 117 yards per game. His partner in crime is junior tailback Damon Bullock. Bullock has added about 50 yards per game on the ground through the nonconference schedule. Up front, the Hawkeyes are relatively inexperienced. In 2012, true freshman Austin Blythe started nine games at guard, but did not play against Minnesota due to injury. Brett Van Sloten has solidified the left tackle position since the start of the 2012 season. Other than Blythe and Van Sloten, the Hawkeyes have no other lineman with double digit career starts. They block up front for redshirt sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock who is tabbed "the real deal" through four games. Rudock completed over 60 percent of his passes which includes five touchdowns. He's also added four touchdowns on the ground. His favorite target is Kevonte Martin-Manley. Martin-Manley leads the team in receptions (20) and receiving yards (169). Rudock likes to spread the ball around to a number of different options including the most talented Hawkeye on offense in tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. At 6-foot-7, Fiedorowicz gives Iowa a legitimate red zone target. Like Iowa teams of the past, the Hawkeyes will try to establish their ground game while moving the ball through the air when needed. The Gophers have yet to see an offense like Iowa's this season, and it should present a good challenge for the defense.

The Defense
Iowa is loaded at the linebacker position. They have three talented linebacker in seniors James Morris, Anthony Hitchens, and Christian Kirksey. Hitchens leads the team in tackles for loss with 4, followed by Morris with 3. The linebacking trio also rank one, two, and three in tackles early in the 2013 season. The secondary is led by senior corner B.J. Lowery. Lowery has three interceptions on the season including two that he returned for touchdowns against Western Michigan. Starting at the opposite corner position is true freshman Desmond King. King has accumulated three pass break-ups in his four career starts. At safety, Tanner Miller returns a ton of experience with 28 straight starts heading into matchup. The Iowa defense only has two sacks on the season. One of the sacks is credited to starting defensive tackle Darian Cooper. Defensive end Dominic Alvis started all twelve games in 2012 and leads all defensive lineman in tackles for loss with 2.5. The Minnesota run game will be up against in inexperienced front four, but a talented group of linebackers. It will be a good test for a Minnesota team that has established the run in nonconference action, but now needs to prove they can do the same in Big Ten play.

Prediction: Minnesota 27, Iowa 20

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