No. 20 Iowa, Minnesota look to bust out of Big Ten West tie

Field Level Media

November 10, 2021 at 6:00 pm.

Every team in the Big Ten West has at least two conference losses and, as a whole, the division owns a collective record of 21-23 in league play.

No. 20 Iowa and Minnesota have had their share of issues, but at least they’re part of a four-way tie atop the West standings heading into Saturday’s showdown in Iowa City.

“Everyone has challenges. Look at the Big Ten right now,” Minnesota coach PJ Fleck said this week. “That’s what’s great about college football.”

Fleck signed a new seven-year, $35 million contract earlier this month, but the Golden Gophers (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) did not author a strong performance in their first game after the ink dried. They went 3-of-13 on third downs, committed a pair of turnovers, missed a field goal and an extra point, and allowed six sacks in a 14-6 home defeat to Illinois.

“We didn’t have a very good day. We didn’t play our best football,” Fleck said.

Minnesota likely won’t be getting any sympathy cards from Iowa (7-2, 4-2), which totaled 14 points in back-to-back losses to Purdue and Wisconsin before slipping past Northwestern 17-12 last week.

Alex Padilla came on for Spencer Petras (shoulder) in the first quarter and led three scoring drives, allowing the Hawkeyes to escape with a victory. Padilla likely will start this weekend, marking the first time in 18 games that anyone other than Petras has begun a game under center for Kirk Ferentz’s squad.

“I am proud of our guys, just how resilient they were,” Ferentz said after the Northwestern game. “They have been that way all season long and certainly this week and tonight was no exception. I am happy for our football team. We needed a win, and the guys did a great job fighting for that.”

With Padilla likely making his first career start Saturday, Ferentz knows to expect a learning curve from his sophomore quarterback.

“It’s like driving a car in some ways,” Ferentz said. “At some point you have to get on the highway or drive in the city. It’s all positive. But there’s going to be ups and downs, like every player.”

Iowa running back Tyler Goodson has recently endured some ups and downs of his own. The junior ran for 141 yards and a touchdown last week after getting limited to a season-low 27 rushing yards on 13 attempts against Wisconsin seven days earlier.

Minnesota, meanwhile, could use some more consistency out of quarterback Tanner Morgan. The senior has thrown for an average of 146.3 yards per game over the last three contests and has no touchdowns and three interceptions over that stretch. His season high for passing yards is only 209, and he has six touchdowns and seven interceptions on the year.

Iowa has won each of the last six meetings in the series. In fact, the Hawkeyes have not even trailed against the Golden Gophers since 2016 — a span of nearly 250 minutes. Iowa won last year’s matchup 35-7 as Goodson carried 20 times for 142 yards and two scores.