Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-5 SU, 4-6 ATS) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (9-2 SU, 7-3 ATS), 12:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, November 21, 2009, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Minnesota +9.5/Iowa -9.5
Two weeks ago, the Iowa Hawkeyes had a chance at a national championship. Now, they don’t even have a chance at a Big Ten title.
After a 17-10 loss to Northwestern in which quarterback Ricky Stanzi left the game with an ankle injury, the Hawkeyes still had a chance to win the Big Ten title by winning at Ohio State. With James Vandenberg quarterbacking the team, Iowa lost 27-24 in overtime to the Buckeyes. Now, the Hawkeyes will try to end their regular season strong by defeating Minnesota at home on Saturday.
Against Ohio State, Vandenberg was 20-for-33 for 233 yards and two touchdowns, but he threw three costly interceptions. Marvin McNutt had six catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns. The Hawkeyes defense held Terrelle Pryor to only 93 passing yards, but the Buckeyes totaled 229 rushing yards.
Iowa has only won one Big Ten game this season by more than 11 points, and that was a 42-24 win over Indiana in which the Hawkeyes were down 24-14 entering the fourth quarter.
Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher share the load in the backfield for the Hawkeyes. Robinson has 703 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while Wegher has 502 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Iowa has multiple weapons at wide receiver. McNutt has 29 receptions for 625 yards and seven touchdowns, while Derrell Johnson-Koulianos has 34 receptions for 624 yards and two touchdowns. Trey Stross also has 27 receptions, and Toney Moeaki has 26.
Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber has struggled this season, completing 53.9 percent of his passes for 2,168 yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Minnesota has struggled to find one consistent running back. Duane Bennett, Kevin Whaley, DeLeon Eskridge and MarQueis Gray have combined for 1,117 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Eric Decker is the team’s leading receiver with 50 receptions for 758 yards and five touchdowns. The coach say’s he will play this week and is close to 100%.
Minnesota has not been very good this season. Over the past two weeks, the Gophers lost to Illinois and barely beat South Dakota State by a field goal. Those two games came just a couple weeks after a 20-0 loss to Penn State and a 38-7 loss to Ohio State. Still, the Gophers are 6-5 overall and are bowl-eligible. A win over Iowa would certainly get them into a bowl game.
Last season, Iowa blew Minnesota out, 55-0. Iowa did have Shonn Greene at running back and a healthy Stanzi at quarterback, so the Iowa offense isn’t nearly as strong as it was when these teams played last season. Weber was 14-for-28 for 127 yards and two interceptions in that game. Minnesota totaled just seven rushing yards. If Minnesota isn’t able to establish a solid running attack against Iowa, the Gophers will once again struggle to score any points. Weber can’t carry the offense himself. He needs the help from his running backs and his offensive line. Iowa is giving up 128.7 rushing yards per game this season, so the Hawkeyes will allow some yardage. But the Hawkeyes have allowed the 10th fewest passing yards per game (165.7) while giving up nine touchdown passes and coming away with 20 interceptions.
Iowa is 4-1 ATS in its last five games but 2-3 ATS this season at home. The Hawkeyes are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games against Minnesota. The Gophers are 1-4 ATS in their last five road games.
Ryno’s Pick: Iowa has played better on the road than it has at home. And the Hawkeyes have won most of their games by only a few points, including four straight fourth quarter comebacks at one point. Vandenberg played pretty well managing the game in his first game as a starter besides the three interceptions. The Hawkeyes are coming off two straight losses and probably want to end the regular season on a positive note. They beat Minnesota 55-0 last season, so it would be a big turnaround for the Gophers to win the game or even keep it close. And if the Gophers only beat South Dakota State by three points, it would also be a big turnaround in one week to beat Iowa or even keep it close. Take Iowa -9.5.