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Gophers-Iowa: 5 things you can count on

A throwback matchup between the two rivals is about to go down in Iowa City on Saturday afternoon.
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The Minnesota Gophers will come out of the bye with a trip to Iowa City as they'll battle the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Floyd of Rosedale on Saturday afternoon.

The Gophers (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) will not only look to get back on track after a disappointing start to the season but also end an eight-game losing streak to the Hawkeyes, which dates back to 2015.

It should be a throwback battle in the Big Ten, so here are five things you can count on.

Injury questions for the Gophers

One of the biggest storylines for the Gophers this season has been their injuries and Saturday's game contains questions for two of their biggest stars.

Linebacker Cody Lindenberg has yet to play this season after suffering an injury late in fall camp and his availability is uncertain for Saturday's game against the Hawkeyes. Lindenberg was Minnesota's leading tackler one year ago and his absence has been felt on a defense that has allowed 26.7 points per game (10th Big Ten).

But the bigger absence is in the Gopher backfield, where Darius Taylor has missed the last two games with a leg injury. Taylor has been the catalyst for the Gophers' offense, winning three straight Big Ten Freshman of the Week Awards and running for 532 yards and four touchdowns this season.

P.J. Fleck is tight-lipped about injuries, so it's unclear whether either player is trending toward a return or even practiced this week. Regardless, the Gophers could need all hands on deck in a game that will have a thin margin for error.

Stopping Iowa's offense

The Hawkeyes' offense has been a punchline over the past couple of seasons and this year has been no different. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is in danger of losing his job thanks to a contract that mandates the Hawkeyes must win seven games and average 25 points per game. While Iowa has six wins, the Hawkeyes are averaging just 20.9 points per game this season.

This is mainly because of an offense that can't seem to get going. Tight end Erick All suffered a torn ACL during last week's win at Wisconsin and the Hawkeyes rank toward the bottom of the FBS in every meaningful offensive category.

Perhaps this is why Iowa has adopted the slogan "Punting is Winning" and there figures to be plenty of punts in Iowa City.

A battle of special teams

Speaking of punts, special teams will likely play a key role in this game. Despite the memes, Tory Taylor is one of the best punters in the country and has the capability of ripping off 60-yard bombs that can flip field position.

This will be key considering the Gopher offense hasn't exactly been a juggernaut. Athan Kaliakmanis has been disappointing through his first six games and co-offensive coordinators Greg Harbaugh and Matt Simon don't seem to have an answer if the running game gets going.

With Minnesota's special teams having its own suspect moments, this is where Iowa could have the edge in a game that has little margin for error.

A close game

The Hawkeyes have dominated the rivalry in the win-loss column over the last eight years but the games have mostly come down to the wire as six of the past eight matchups have been decided by one possession.

In addition, the Gophers have dominated the last two matchups statistically but come up empty-handed. Minnesota held the ball for 40 minutes in a 27-22 loss to the Hawkeyes in 2021 and ran for 312 yards in a 13-0 loss last season.

So what seems to be the difference? It could be game management. Fleck has been notorious for his poor decision-making with timeouts and field position and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been a master throughout his 24-year tenure at Iowa.

It even got to the point where Ferentz mocked Fleck for using his timeouts late in a 35-7 victory in 2020, saying he decided to "leave the timeouts in Minneapolis."

Regardless, key decisions from the sideline could be what tips the game in favor of either team on Saturday.

A low-scoring loss to the Hawkeyes

We would love to tell you about some key playmakers on either offense but this matchup figures to be one that throws college football back about 100 years. Saturday's game carries an over/under of 30.5 points and there's a chance that number may be too high considering the state of both teams.

If you're looking for a back-and-forth battle, you may be in luck only because both punters will be exchanging bombs while the offenses routinely go three-and-out.

In the end, it could come down to decision-making and special teams and both fall into the advantage of the Hawkeyes.

Prediction: Iowa 3, Gophers 0