Iowa football: Q&A with a Minnesota Gopher expert

IOWA CITY, IOWA- OCTOBER 28: Running back Rodney Smith #1 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers runs up the field in the second quarter between defensive back Amani Hooker #27 and defensive end Parker Hesse #40 of the Iowa Hawkeyes on October 28, 2017 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
IOWA CITY, IOWA- OCTOBER 28: Running back Rodney Smith #1 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers runs up the field in the second quarter between defensive back Amani Hooker #27 and defensive end Parker Hesse #40 of the Iowa Hawkeyes on October 28, 2017 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images) /

The Iowa football program faces the Gophers Saturday so we reached out to an expert to get the inside scoop on what to expect from Minnesota this weekend.

The Iowa football program faces their longest rival Saturday afternoon in their second Big Ten conference game. As the Iowa football team gets ready to take on the Minnesota Gophers, we wanted to check in with a resident Gopher expert, Jeff Clobes.

Clobes is a former season ticket holder and a Minnesota native who has been a fan since he was a child and attended graduate school at the University of Minnesota. Here is his take on what the Iowa football team can expect as they face off against the Minnesota Gophers.

Minnesota has had two big blows to the running back position with both Brooks and Smith out of the season. How has this impacted Minnesota’s running game?

Obviously, this has had a big impact—Rodney Smith could make people miss and was shifty. Shannon Brooks seemed to have pretty good vision and would get the yardage that was needed, and as a bonus, he threw for a pretty sweet TD a few years ago against Iowa…. (note: Due to the redshirt rules he’ll probably play in a few games later in the season and not use up his eligibility). The new starter, Mohamed Ibrahim, has looked adequate so far, but filling the shoes of Smith/Brooks isn’t easy. The other thing impacting the running game in general is that our QB is not much of a running threat, so the read option is not as effective.

How surprised were you to see Zach Annexstad named the starting quarterback? Does he give the Gophers the best chance to win?

It wasn’t surprised after the spring game and it seemed like Annexstad was throwing the ball well in open practice in August. Zach grew a lot and passed Tanner quickly. He does give us our best chance when healthy. He needs to get healthy though—he has a high ankle sprain which has limited his ability.

How important is this game to Minnesota’s season?

Honestly, it’s probably the most important game of the season. We aren’t going to a Rose Bowl, and we probably won’t be going to a bowl game that gets anyone excited (if we even make a bowl game).

We haven’t beaten Wisconsin since 2003, and with the Gophers playing the Badgers in Wisconsin, that streak likely won’t change. Thus, to Gopher fans, it’ll be the biggest game of the season. It would be nice to have a trophy in the trophy case. Moreover, it’s just important to avoid going 0-2 in the Big Ten and build some momentum and positivity with this game.

Who are the top playmakers for the Gophers that Iowa needs to be aware of?

On the offensive side of the ball, it would the Gophers trio of WR’s: Tyler Johnson (SR) and a pair of freshmen receivers, Chris Autumn-Bell and Rashod Bateman. For the first time in a while, the Gophers have some athletic receivers that can make a play on the ball.

Also, our kicker Emmit Carpenter is great, but the team is probably not that great when a kicker comes to mind for this question.

Minnesota is 14th in yards allowed per game. What is the key to the defense’ success so far? How do you feel the defense matches up with Iowa’s run-oriented offense?

Well, it’s hard to think there’s a lot of success after Maryland just scored 48 points against us (granted one touchdown was a pick-six). The stat is a bit deceiving as two of the teams the Gophers played were cupcakes (New Mexico State and Miami of Ohio), but the Gophers did hold a high scoring Fresno State team to only 14 points.

The secondary has played well, but Minnesota’s best defender, Antoine Winfield Jr. injured his foot in the Maryland game and is now out for the season. I think the team was a bit thrown off when he left the game in the first half and subsequently gave up some big plays to Maryland. It’ll be interesting to see how Minnesota will overcome his absence.

In terms of matching up with Iowa’s run oriented offense, Minnesota has been gashed for some big runs, so if Iowa keeps plugging away, they’ll likely break off some big runs. Again, Antoine Winfield Jr. made a lot of key tackles from the secondary, and when he left with injury during the Maryland game, the defense dropped off.

Are you surprised by the 3-1 start?

Most Gopher fans would have guessed we would be either 2-2 or 3-1 with 3-1 being the likely record. The Maryland/Fresno State games were toss ups, and Miami of Ohio and New Mexico State games were cupcakes so 3-1 would be about what was expected. I think how we got to 3-1 was a little surprising. The games against the cupcake opponents were dominant wins (even against cupcakes in the recent years, there wasn’t a lot of dominance shown). Fans were pleasantly surprised that we beat Fresno State, but then along came that Maryland game….

What went wrong against Maryland?

The Gophers just gave up the big play, a lot. We gave up touchdowns of 26, 81, 54, 64, and 21 yards respectively (not to mention the pick-six). Maryland simply looked like the bigger team and more athletic team. Again, Winfield getting hurt didn’t help. Overall, not a lot went right.

Furthermore, the Gophers have traditionally struggled in their first Big 10 game after the non-conference season.

What’s your final prediction for the game?

Since 2000, in the rivalry games played in Minnesota, it’s 5-5.  I feel like the result will be somewhere between the 55-0 Iowa beat down of the Gophers in 2008 to close down the Metrodome and the 51-14 Gopher victory at TCF in 2014 (so maybe that’s not a really wild prediction).  Both teams are coming off losses and bye weeks.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm in Minnesota about the game, which leads me to think Minnesota will not have a strong home field advantage. Additionally, the Iowa football team is the better team.

20-13 Iowa

What’s your final prediction for the Gopher’s season?

We’re already at three wins, and I’d slot us in for perhaps two more—I think most Gopher fans would be pleasantly surprised with six wins (but really wouldn’t be excited about it either). Unfortunately, our two easiest opponents are on the road (Illinois and Nebraska), and PJ Fleck doesn’t have a Big Ten road win yet, so I guess we’ll have to see it to believe it.

Anything else Iowa fans should be aware of this weekend when taking on the Gophers?

Inside the red zone, Minnesota will use the Wildcat with Seth Green at quarterback. Seth Green is a former quarterback who has switched to tight end this year. Minnesota has predominantly run out of the wildcat, mainly with Green himself as the runner. The Wildcat has been quite effective so far, but it has yet to be deployed against a stout big ten defense.

light. Related Story. Three keys for Iowa beating Minnesota

And as always, there will be plenty of “Who Hates Iowa” chants from the student section. In reality, most Minnesota fans are fine with Iowa football fans (other than those random years where the Iowa football program is a top-10 team and the fans can turn a little more insufferable). We can all agree that Wisconsin is the worst.