Iowa vs. Minnesota: Hawkeyes Defense Will Be Tested by Golden Gophers

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer ISeptember 27, 2013

IOWA CITY, IOWA- SEPTEMBER 7:  Linebacker Anthony Hitchens #31 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during a break in the action in the second quarter against the Missouri State Bears on September 7, 2013 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 28-14. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

If Iowa expects to defeat Minnesota on Saturday in Minneapolis, the Hawkeyes will have to be sound on the defensive end. 

Minnesota (4-0) comes into the game averaging 41.8 points per contest, ranked 21st in the nation, according to That includes posting a combined 138 points against FBS opponents UNLV, New Mexico State and San Jose State.

Meanwhile, Iowa (3-1) ranks 26th in points allowed per game this season. The Hawkeyes held Missouri State and Western Michigan to a combined 17 points but allowed a combined 51 points against opponents Northern Illinois and Iowa State.

Minnesota's offense is about as one-sided as it gets. The Golden Gophers rank 13th in the nation in carries per game and 120th in passing attempts per game. That includes ranking 13th in rushing yards per game and 120th in passing yards per game.

Sep 21, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner (7) runs for a touchdown in the first quarter against the San Jose State Spartans at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, freshman quarterback Mitch Leidner passed for 71 yards, but the Golden Gophers still racked up 43 points on the back of 353 yards and six touchdowns on the ground—led by Leidner's 151 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Linebacker Anthony Hitchens leads a physical Iowa defense.
Linebacker Anthony Hitchens leads a physical Iowa defense.Matthew Holst/Getty Images

That's where Iowa's defense comes in.

The Hawkeyes rank 29th in the nation in yards allowed per carry this season. They have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. 

In the 30-27 loss to Northern Illinois in Week 1, they held dynamic dual-threat Jordan Lynch to 56 yards on 22 carries but allowed him to pass for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Lynch has gone on to rush for a combined 348 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games.

So as explosive as Minnesota's offensive attack has been, Iowa appears to have just the defense to limit the Golden Gophers on the ground.

That sets up a very intriguing matchup at TCF Bank Stadium. If Minnesota struggles on the ground, will the Golden Gophers open up their attack a bit, or will they stick to what they do best?

If Iowa's defense can at least slow Minnesota's ground attack, the Hawkeyes should have enough on offense to take the game. Like Minnesota, Iowa primarily relies on its running game (ranked sixth in the nation in carries per game), but the Golden Gophers don't have as formidable a run defense as the Hawkeyes, and the Hawkeyes do have some balance with sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock.

One thing's for sure: It's going to be an exciting clash in Minneapolis on Saturday. Look for a physical battle in the trenches.


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