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Not an oinker: Iowa meets Minnesota in key Big Ten West clash

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Nov 12, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) runs the ball against the Northwestern Wildcats during the third quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

For the past few weeks, it appeared as if Saturday’s Iowa-Minnesota game would be nothing more than a battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy.

All of a sudden, there will be much more at stake than just the pig-shaped trophy when the teams meet in Minneapolis.

Thanks to two straight home losses by Illinois, the Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers are in a four-way tie for first place with Illinois and Purdue in the Big Ten West with 4-3 league records.

Iowa (6-4 overall) and Minnesota (7-3) enter Saturday’s game on three-game winning streaks. After this week, the Hawkeyes will end their regular season at home against Nebraska, and the Golden Gophers will close at Wisconsin.

Since getting blown out at Ohio State 54-10 on Oct. 22, Iowa has recorded wins at home against Northwestern, at Purdue and home against Wisconsin to gain bowl eligibility and get back in the hunt to appear in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 3.

Iowa’s offense has been among the worst in the country all year, but defense and special teams continue to keep the Hawkeyes in games.

“We have enough guys at the top that have been really strong,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I couldn’t sign off on that three weeks ago, four weeks ago. But you bet on people, and you bet on people that you’ve been around and see how they respond.”

Since a lopsided 45-17 loss at Penn State on Oct. 22, Minnesota has home wins over Rutgers and Northwestern and a road win over Nebraska sandwiched in between.

The biggest question is the status of Golden Gophers starting quarterback Tanner Morgan, who missed the Northwestern game after suffering an upper-body injury against Nebraska.

Regardless of whether it’s Morgan or backup Athan Kaliakmanis under center, Minnesota will continue to ride senior running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who has rushed for 1,261 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.

Ibrahim had 36 carries against Northwestern, but Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said he isn’t concerned about fatigue.

“You’re not going to make the club if you’re not in the tub,” Fleck said. “That’s 2022. He’s mentally, physically and emotionally ready to do it come Saturday.”

–Field Level Media