Know Thy Opponent: Iowa

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The Gophers put Floyd of Rosedale on the line this weekend when they travel to Iowa for an 11 a.m. game tomorrow. We spoke with Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette to learn about the Hawkeyes. You can follow Scott on Twitter at @ScottDochterman and you can read his Gazette stories here.

GopherSports: Scott, thanks for taking the time to speak with us, as we certainly appreciate it. Can you provide a general scouting report on Iowa?

Scott Dochterman: Iowa is a team in transition and searching for an identity. Thus far, the team is out of sync with only one touchdown pass. The communication between quarterback James Vandenberg and his wide receivers at times has not been on point. Defensively, Iowa has shaken things up a bit with new defensive coordinator Phil Parker. Iowa traditionally incorporates a two-deep, 4-3 zone with few personnel changes. But this year has involved nickel and dime units with more press man coverage. It's a team without a lot of confidence but it still has enough players that make plays.

GS: Iowa has had their issues with injuries at running back this year, but Mark Weisman has been a beast the last two games. Tell us a little bit about him.

SD: Weisman is a suburban Chicago kid who transferred to Iowa from the Air Force Academy. Weisman sat out last year and really started to get looks in spring practice. When regular starting fullback Brad Rogers went down with various injuries during summer camp, Weisman stepped in and won the job. But Weisman was little more than a primary blocker until he was thrust into service two weeks ago against Northern Iowa. Starting running back Damon Bullock went out with a concussion and backup Greg Garmon suffered an elbow injury. Third-teamer Mike Malloy didn't dress because of a week-long illness so Weisman was inserted at running back. His physical style of running really lifted Iowa that game, and Weisman backed it up with a 217-yard performance against Central Michigan.

GS: This game is always important, but Minnesota has won two straight against Iowa. At media availability this week, did you sense a feeling from the Hawkeyes really wanting to win this game and not drop a third-straight game to one of their main rivals?

SD: Senior center James Ferentz admitted he was embarrassed by the way the Hawkeyes played without emotion against Minnesota the last two years. He told reporters, "During the week all you have to do is throw on the past few years' film to get a little bit of motivation and yeah maybe if you're tired halfway through practice, you just think about that kind of image and what you want to put on tape this year." There's an empty trophy case inside the Hawkeyes' locker room after losing six straight trophy games. Although all the games were tough losses - five by a total of 11 points to historic rivals Iowa State, Minnesota and Wisconsin - the Floyd of Rosedale trophy itself means the most to the program. Iowa always cares about this game, but you can sense its importance this week.

GS: Greg Davis and Brian Ferentz are both new to the offensive Iowa coaching staff? How has the Hawkeye offense changed until their leadership?

SD: Greg Davis has changed the terminology in the passing game, which has led to a lot of inconsistency thus far. The wide receivers have more option routes than before but there's more confusion in spontaneous situations, like back-shoulder throws. The Hawkeyes still like to run the ball and use both its traditional inside/outside zone on offense. Brian Ferentz is a fiery leader for the offensive line, which was sorely needed. He's helped turn that unit from an eyesore in week one against Northern Illinois into a positive the last few weeks.

GS: Who is a an under-the-radar player Gophers fans should keep an eye on this week?

SD: Middle linebacker James Morris might be the Hawkeyes' best player and he continues a long line of talented linebackers that recently includes Chad Greenway and Pat Angerer. Morris is now a junior, is bigger and stronger at the point of attack, he's got good quickness and a smart player. He made several key plays against Iowa State, including a 50-yard interception return, that nearly swung the game into Iowa's favor. He's one of the league's best linebackers, which is saying something in the Big Ten.

GS: Finish this thought. Iowa will win if...

SD: James Vandenberg can have enough time to throw the football and hit open targets. But that suggests Minnesota defensive end D.L. Wilhite or nose tackle Ra'Shede Hageman will give him time. Likewise, with the Gophers' ball-hawking secondary, it will be difficult for Iowa's disjointed passing game to make strides this week. Vandenberg has shown propensity to make plays before, but he'll need to do it this week at another level for Iowa to win Floyd back.

GS: Thanks for your time Scott. We are looking forward to seeing you on Saturday.

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