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Iowa, Minnesota meet on Friday the 13th with more than just Floyd of Rosedale at stake

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

MINNEAPOLIS — Iowa’s first trophy game of the football season arrives on Friday the 13th on a 30-degree evening in Minnesota. Tradition collides with superstition in this oddest of autumns.

Floyd of Rosedale has belonged to the Hawkeyes for five consecutive “one-year rentals,” as coach Kirk Ferentz put it. His players, who will dress in layers for the first time this year, are eager to renew that lease.

Floyd the bronze pig was prominently displayed in the Iowa weight room this week, Iowa offensive tackle Mark Kallenberger said, a reminder of a rivalry that dates to 1891.

“This is a very competitive game. We’re going up to Minnesota. They’re going to bring it to us. I know they want that trophy back. We’ll just have to do our job and prepare for the game. It’s going to be a fistfight,” Kallenberger said.

“We don’t want that (trophy) taken away from our building.”

Kallenberger is right about the competitiveness of Iowa’s oldest rivalry game. Four of the Hawkeyes’ five wins in the current streak have come by a touchdown or less, including a 23-19 triumph at Kinnick Stadium last November that handed Minnesota its first loss after the Golden Gophers opened 9-0.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz (left) is 3-0 against Minnesota's P.J. Fleck. Here, the coaches chat before last year's game in Iowa City, when the Hawkeyes ended the Gophers' undefeated season.

But Iowa senior linebacker Nick Niemann pointed out the most important thing about Friday’s 6 p.m. kickoff on FS1: It’s a Big Ten West matchup; and the Hawkeyes are already 0-2 in those this fall.

More:Jay and Nick Niemann are reunited as Hawkeyes, and couldn't be happier

“There’s a little something extra there, but you don’t want to think about it that way and get caught up in all that stuff,” Niemann said of the 98-pound trophy. “We’re trying to go out there and get wins.”

Iowa and Minnesota are both 1-2 and coming off convincing victories. In an eight-game Big Ten season, however, the loser Friday will also lose see any slim shot at a league title disappear. The winner gets to at least keep an improbable dream alive.

For Iowa, the key will be stopping junior running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who has plowed through defenses for 571 yards and 10 touchdowns already. His 190.3 rushing yards per game is the highest total in the nation. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor has departed for the NFL; Ibrahim is his replacement as a rival running back who can single-handedly destroy the Hawkeyes’ defensive gameplan if the tackling isn’t on point.

It will help Iowa that defensive tackle Austin Schulte and middle linebacker Jack Campbell are both on pace to see their first action of the season in this game. Reinforcements will be required.

The Gophers would love to see Ibrahim chewing up yardage, and the clock, because their defense was shredded in season-opening losses against Michigan and Maryland. Each opponent produced a first-quarter touchdown on one-play drives: a 70-yard run by the Wolverines’ Zach Charbonet and a 76-yard pass from the Terrapins’ Taulia Tagovailoa to Jeshaun Jones.

It’s typically a good thing for a defense to get off the field quickly. That hasn’t been the case for Minnesota.

The Hawkeyes will try to get sophomore running back Tyler Goodson on track again after his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season highlighted Saturday’s 49-7 win against Michigan State. Goodson made his first career start a year ago against Minnesota, the first true freshman to begin a game at running back in Ferentz’s 22 seasons as Iowa head coach.

Iowa also will try to win the turnover battle, to give its offense more chances against that young Gopher defense. The Hawkeyes have forced eight in their first three games; Minnesota has come up with only two.

Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck has beaten every Big Ten West rival except Iowa in his first three seasons. The significance of this game is not lost on him. Nor is what it will take to finally break through against the Hawkeyes.

“We have to find a way to be better than we ever have,” Fleck said this week, with his team coming off a 41-14 victory at Illinois.

Earlier:How 'zany' P.J. Fleck has led a Minnesota turnaround, with Iowa up next

This game was originally scheduled for the third Friday in September before the Big Ten scrapped its original schedule and embarked on a belated one that began Oct. 24. Officials at Fox Sports were apparently determined to bring the Floyd of Rosedale battle into prime time.

Minnesota is in a stretch of playing three Friday games in four weeks. Iowa will host Nebraska at noon Nov. 27 in its traditional Black Friday meeting.

Ferentz said preparing for football games while losing one day of practice is just one more challenge in a year full of them.

“Football teams tend to get into a rhythm, if you will. There's a pattern to what we do in-season, out of season, all that,” Ferentz said. “But nothing's been in sync this year since March.

“So it's a perfect year to have more Friday nights or more unusual weeks.”

An Iowa-Minnesota matchup on a Friday evening, with just a scattering of players’ families in TCF Bank Stadium, will certainly be unusual.

IOWA (1-2) at MINNESOTA (1-2)

When: 6:05 p.m. Friday

Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

TV: FS1 (Aaron Goldsmith and Brady Quinn)

Line: Hawkeyes by 3.5

Weather: 32 degrees and sunny; winds from the south-southeast at 12 mph

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.