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Hawk Central Huddle: First road game of the season Rodney White, rodwhite@dmreg.com

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The Big Ten West is now a waiting game.

Can Iowa run the table, or come close? Can Wisconsin lose at least twice to give the Hawkeyes a chance at reaching the conference title game in Indianapolis?

None of that talk is worth much if Iowa (3-1, 0-1) doesn't take care of business where it needs to. That attitude includes a road win at Minnesota on Saturday.

Here's a little more about the expected starters for the Hawkeyes heading into the 2:30 p.m. Big Ten Network game:

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OFFENSE

Quarterback: Nate Stanley (6-foot-4, 242 pounds, junior) — The target is pretty simple of late. Hit 20 points and you win. The Hawkeyes are 9-0 when they reach that threshold since the start of last season. More alarming: Iowa has scored 20 points in just nine of the past 17 games.

Running back: Ivory Kelly-Martin (5-10, 200, sophomore) The original starting running back looked fine against Wisconsin (14 carries, 72 yards) after sitting out the Iowa State and Northern Iowa games with an ankle injury. Expert the workload to again increase after the bye.

Fullback: Brady Ross (6-0, 245, Jr.) — The touches-to-first-downs ratio remains so good that I'm just going to mention it again. Eight touches this season, seven times the sticks have moved. Four have come via the rush, and three are via the pass.

Tight end: Noah Fant (6-5, 241, Jr.)  Fant catapulted into the all-time record books for receiving touchdowns by a tight end (16) with his pair of scoring grabs against the Badgers.

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Tight end: T.J. Hockenson (6-5, 250, Soph.) — You cannot knock Hockenson's knack for big receptions. His three grabs against Wisconsin for 125 yards more than doubled the Hawkeyes' next-highest yardage total. But he also leads the team with 238 receiving yards on the season. And that's a problem. 

Split end: Brandon Smith (6-3, 219, Soph.) — We said two weeks ago that Smith needed a breakout game. Two catches and 24 yards was not what we meant by that. Plus, our Chad Leistikow observed that he was operating on a bum wheel. Tough times for the sophomore.

Wide receiver: Nick Easley (5-11, 205, senior) — After being held to just one reception against Wisconsin, it's better to think about another eye-popping stat from that 10-catch day against Northern Iowa. That was the first double-digit performance in catches by na Iowa player since 2011. (Yay! And eek!)

Left tackle: Alaric Jackson (6-7, 320, Soph.) — Time for some positive offensive line statistics! Like, the four sacks allowed by the Hawkeyes this season is the smallest total in the Big Ten Conference.

Left guard: Ross Reynolds (6-4, 295, Sr.) More positives! As a senior, Reynolds knows that his class is aiming for a four-year sweep of Floyd of Rosedale, just as in the Cy-Hawk series.

Center: Keegan Render (6-4, 307, Sr.) — One of the biggest keys to offensive rhythm is first-down success. The Hawkeyes have been fine in this regard, averaging 5.5 yards on 118 first-down plays this season.

Right guard: Dalton Ferguson (6-4, 308, Sr.) — Going into his third consecutive start, it looks like Ferguson has the job for the remainder of his Hawkeyes career if he can maintain his solid play.

Right tackle: Tristan Wirfs (6-5, 320, Soph.) Iowa has been dominant up front compared to its opponents. Granted, the defensive line helps a lot. But the Hawkeyes are still more than doubling the ground-game output of their opponents (167.2 yards to 84).

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Iowa wide receiver Nick Easley breaks down the Minnesota defense and speaks of the need for a fast start Saturday Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

 

DEFENSE

Left end: Anthony Nelson (6-7, 271, Jr.) — So before the Wisconsin game, that team rushing average was 42 yards. It doubled after the Wisconsin loss, but that total is still fourth-best in the nation.

Left tackle: Sam Brincks (6-5, 275, Sr.) — With such a strong defensive line, it's no surprise that the starting foursome has remained the same for each game this season. Brincks is part of that secure group.

Right tackle: Matt Nelson (6-8, 295, Sr.) — The Iowa sports information folks like to point out every week that Matt Nelson is the tallest player on the Hawkeyes' roster. And after a one-tackle performance against the Badgers last week, I have nothing better to say than to point that out.

Right end: Parker Hesse (6-3, 261, Sr.) — No matter how much you may want A.J. Epenesa to see more snaps, I don't think the change is gonna come at this spot, where Hesse will be making his 28th consecutive start.

Outside linebacker: Barrington Wade (6-1, 233, Soph.) — Nick Niemann is out for at least a couple of weeks, and so it's next-man-in time. Wade becomes the sixth starting linebacker in five games for the Hawkeyes.

Middle linebacker: Jack Hockaday (6-1, 235, Sr.) — Hockaday hasn't given up his starting slot since first earning it back in Week 2. A team-high 28 tackles justifies his place on the depth chart each time out.

Weak-side linebacker: Djimon Colbert (6-1, 234, freshman) Week 1? Kristian Welch. Week 2? Colbert. Weeks 3 and 4? Welch. Week 5? Colbert. The freshman and junior are still locked in their starting tango, although the rotation of linebackers renders this designation somewhat overhyped.

Left cornerback: Matt Hankins (6-1, 185, Soph.)  Is Hankins ready for play after the bye? He's still questionable with an undisclosed injury suffered against Wisconsin. Julius Brents and Riley Moss are the replacements if Hankins can't go.

Strong safety: Amani Hooker (6-0, 210, Jr.) — Homecomings  can sometimes get you too amped. But Hooker has been in the spotlight enough to channel this energy. Expect his return to Minnesota to come with some impact plays.

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Free safety: Jake Gervase (6-1, 212, Sr.) The solo tackle leader two weeks ago, with four of his eight stops being of his own.

Right cornerback: Michael Ojemudia (6-1, 199, Jr.) — A rather ignominious ending on the fateful Wisconsin drive, as Ojemudia was beaten significantly twice on the drive, including on Alex Hornibrook's decisive touchdown pass.

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Iowa safety Jake Gervase on the challenge of a first road game and the importance of having a trophy at stake Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: Miguel Recinos (6-1, 193, Sr.) — The ho-hum year for REcinos continues. He's now 5-for-8 on field goals after chipping home a 24-yarder a couple weeks back.

Punter: Colten Rastetter (6-1, 213, Jr.) — Rastetter was about the only part of the punt game that didn't fail the Hawkeyes against Wisconsin.

Kickoff returns: Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6-1, 175, Soph.) — Smith-Marsette was briefly committed to playing football for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Three days later, the New Jersey native announced he was coming to Iowa instead. He'll no doubt look to prove his choice right this weekend.

Kickoff and punt returns: Kyle Groeneweg (5-10, 186, Sr.) Groeneweg is one of the two primary special-teams culprits in that costly phase of the game against the Badgers. The key is not to let one mistake turn into an overeager response this week.

MINNESOTA PROJECTED STARTERS

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Zack Annexstad (6-3, 215, Fr.)

Running back: Mohamed Ibrahim (5-10, 205, Fr.) OR Bryce Williams (6-0, 200, Fr.)

Wide receiver: Rashod Bateman (6-2, 2-00, Fr.)

Wide receiver: Demetrius Douglas (6-0, 190, Fr.)

Wide receiver: Tyler Johnson (6-2, 200, Jr.)

Tight end: Ko Kieft (6-4, 250, Soph.)

Left tackle: Donnell Greene (6-7, 320, Sr.)

Left guard: Conner Olson (6-5, 300, Soph.)

Center: Jared Weyler (6-4, 300, Sr.)

Right guard: Blaise Andries (6-5, 215, Fr.)

Right tackle: Sam Schlueter (6-6, 305, Soph.)

DEFENSE

Defensive end: Winston DeLattiboudere (6-3, 250, Jr.)

Defensive end: Carter Coughlin (6-4, 245, Jr.)

Defensive tackle: Gary Moore (6-4, 300, Sr.)

Defensive tackle: O.J. Smith (6-2, 320, Sr.)

Linebacker: Kamal Martin (6-3, 235, Jr.)

Linebacker: Thomas Barber (6-1, 235, Jr.)

Linebacker: Blake Cashman (6-2, 235, Sr.)

Defensive back: Coney Durr (5-10, 190, Soph.)

Defensive back: Jordan Howden (5-11, 185, Fr.)

Defensive back: Jacob Huff (5-11, 210, Sr.)

Defensive back: Terell Smith (6-1, 195, Fr.)

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: Emmit Carpenter (6-0, 200, Sr.)

Punter: Jacob Herbers (6-2, 215, Jr.)

Kick returner: Demetrius Douglas (6-0, 190, Fr.)

Punt returner: Antonio Shenault (5-11, 190, Sr.)

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Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz thinks the Floyd of Rosedale is the best trophy in college football. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

 

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