Each week throughout the football season, I will interview a member of the media who covers the Gophers' opponent for that week. This week, we'll talk with an old friend of mine. Scott Dochterman covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and he was gracious enough to give us a few minutes to discuss Saturday's game.
GopherSports.com: What effect, if any, does Floyd of Rosedale's current residence in Minnesota have on this game?
Scott Dochterman: Last year you could say Iowa's players showed little interest in playing Minnesota after a pair of heartbreaking back-to-back losses ended their goal of a Big Ten championship. Conversely, Minnesota's players were excited to play for the pig. That showed in Minnesota's 27-24 win. Minnesota possessing the Floyd of Rosedale has Iowa's full attention this year. Last year the game was an afterthought for the Hawkeyes.
GopherSports.com: How much have the Hawkeyes been talking about last year's game?
Scott Dochterman: Most of the players talked this week about how disappointed they were in their performance. Running back Marcus Coker said he had a sick feeling in his stomach when watching the Gophers rush the sideline for Floyd. To a man, they all remember the loss. That's somewhat unusual for a team that prides itself on looking forward, not backward.
GopherSports.com: Who/what has the Hawkeyes' attention this week as it pertains to Minnesota?
Scott Dochterman: Minnesota's ground attack, specifically MarQueis Gray, is a focal point for the Iowa defense. His athletic ability and frame make him hard to bring down, and Iowa uncharacteristically has struggled against and the run and especially against running quarterbacks.
GopherSports.com: The Hawkeye offense seems to be on a roll the last couple weeks. Why?
Scott Dochterman: Iowa has a balanced offensive attack. Quarterback James Vandenberg is accurate and the Hawkeyes boast perhaps their best-ever combination of wide receivers in Marvin McNutt and Keenan Davis. Iowa also has a veteran offensive line and a powerful running back in Coker. That balance has allowed Iowa's offense to be successful in moving the ball every game but one this year.
GopherSports.com: Who should Minnesota fans keep an eye on for this team? Anyone playing particularly well for Iowa?
Scott Dochterman: McNutt might rank as the best receiver in Iowa history. He now owns the school's all-time touchdown reception mark with 24 after a three-TD performance last week against Indiana. He's deceptively fast with three TDs of 80-plus yards in his career. He's tall at 6-foot-4 and athletic. He's hauled in some of Iowa's most memorable catches, and could become Iowa's all-time leader in receiving yardage by season's end.
GopherSports.com: Are there any position-vs.-position, or game-within-a-game battles that you're interested in this week?
Scott Dochterman: I'm interested in watching the play-by-play battle between Minnesota's offensive line and Iowa's defensive line. Iowa has struggled to stop the run (3.8 yards per carry) and generate a pass rush from its front four. Last year Minnesota was able to pound the ball at a much better Iowa defensive line, so I'm anxious to see if much has changed for either team.
GopherSports.com: How does Minnesota win this game?
Scott Dochterman: Force early Iowa turnovers and convert them into points. Hold on to the ball with long, sustaining drives and score on every red-zone opportunity. Take risks when applicable, such as the early onside kick last year. Play loose and with passion; that was the key last year.
GopherSports.com: How does Iowa win this game?
Scott Dochterman: On defense, stop the run and make Minnesota one-dimensional. Offensively, convert third downs and avoid turnovers. Iowa has much more to lose in this game, but Iowa shouldn't don't play like it.