Are the Hawkeyes for real? Floyd will let us know

Andrew Logue
Iowa is making its fourth trip to Minneapolis in five seasons. The Hawkeyes hoisted Floyd of Rosedale after a 23-7 win a year ago.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- The Floyd of Rosedale Trophy represents more than bragging rights.

Saturday, it's also a symbol of legitimacy.

The winner of an 11 a.m. showdown between Iowa and Minnesota solidifies its status as a contender in the Big Ten's West Division.

The loser would have an uphill climb to the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 6 in Indianapolis.

"It's classic Big Ten," Hawkeye defensive tackle Carl Davis said. "Just line it up, smash-mouth football."

It's an old-school rivalry, given added significance in the age of conference realignment.

Four teams sit atop the West Division standings with one loss. Nebraska (8-1 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) and Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1) bring solid credentials into November. Iowa and Minnesota bring baggage.

The Gophers (6-2, 3-1) have finished with more than seven wins just once the past decade (going 8-5 last year).

"This is a rivalry game," coach Jerry Kill said. "It means a ton to our state. It means a ton to our university, and where we're at right now.

"So I think you literally concentrate on that, and then you go to the next (game)."

The Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-1) have posted an 18-18 Big Ten record since 2009.

"I wish we were undefeated," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We set out the season to try and win every game, just like every team in our conference, I'm sure."

Skeptics can point to Minnesota's lackluster passing attack (49.7 percent completion rate, 140.5 yards per game).

A 28-24 loss to previously-winless-in-the-Big-Ten Illinois also raised eyebrows.

Are the Gophers legitimate?

"If you don't have to compete against them, you can make (comments) like that," Ferentz said. "If you actually watch film and watch how programs are built and watch how teams are built …

"You know, it's a lot easier to talk about things if you're not having to do it. People are probably saying the same thing about us."

Yes, they are.

The Hawkeyes were embarrassed throughout a 38-31 loss at Maryland, and sheepishly escaped with narrow victories against Northern Iowa and Ball State.

"That's how things go sometimes, when you're dealing with young people and so forth," Kill said of Iowa. "You get on a roll, you gain confidence.

"They've always gotten better as the year goes on. ... Everybody starts to question (the Hawkeyes), and then they roll it off and all of a sudden they got nine, 10 wins. They don't panic. They don't listen to anybody outside.

"They just keep doing what they do."

Iowa seemed to regain its identity during last week's 48-7 dismantling of Northwestern.

Running backs Mark Weisman and Akrum Wadley combined to rush for 200 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

It was a breakout performance for Wadley, a redshirt freshman Newark, N.J.

"He's a confident kid out there," Weisman said. "He wasn't nervous at all, really. Just came out there ready to play."

The Gophers, meanwhile, average 4.7 yards a carry for the season and 216 rushing yards per game.

With Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon (7.5 a carry, 162 a game) and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (6.7 and 138.9) scheduled to visit Kinnick Stadium later this month, Minnesota could serve as a litmus test.

"They're a real good running team, so we're going to have to be stout up front," Hawkeye defensive end Drew Ott said. "It's going to be hard on us, because they've got good physical linemen and they've got a good running back and quarterback."