Recognize the BYE Problem
Ross was kind enough to write about Iowa’s post bye-week blues earlier this week. Look, Iowa is 2-8 after bye-weeks when playing on the road. The last time they actually won a post bye-week road game was, somehow, in 2012, when they defeated Michigan State in one of the sloppiest games I’ve ever seen. By sloppy I mean a bad football game.
The key to breaking that slump is recognizing that you’re in a slump when it comes to these types of games. And I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise when I find that it’s the offense that usually dooms the Hawkeyes in these types of games (or any game for that matter). Iowa should realize: Wow we suck on the road after BYE weeks. Iowa should say: Maybe we should do something about sucking and play disciplined football. I mean, I would say “maybe Iowa should try something a little different” but we know that isn’t happening. Just realize the problem and play through it.
Find the Hate
Along those same psychological lines, Iowa had better find some emotion for this game. The Hawkeyes have won five of the last six against Minnesota, even though they’ve been close games the last three contests. This Hate Week feels relatively timid as compared to years past. That’s probably because Iowa lost a game they could’ve won, Minnesota was embarrassed by Maryland and lost their best defensive player, and P.J. Fleck pays a great deal of lip service to Ferentz and the Iowa program. It’s hard to be emotional against a program that really doesn’t do much to irritate you besides make your wins uncomfortable.
Being said, Minnesota has incentive to win this game for those exact reasons. Fleck does admire Iowa, they have lost five of the last six and they want to turn the program around. The Iowa v. Minnesota rivalry isn’t akin to Michigan v. Ohio State, as neither team has that historical aura surrounding them. Minnesota’s head coach doesn’t need to beat Iowa like Michigan’s head coach needs to beat Ohio State. But beating Iowa consistently would mean that Fleck has Minnesota turning a corner, and the Hawkeyes should recognize that heading into tomorrow’s game.
Pick a Safety
Minnesota’s best defender, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. was lost for the season due to an injury he sustained during the Maryland game. That’s bad news for two reasons: he’s their best defensive player/defensive back and also their best returner. Now, Iowa typically does not zero in on players like, say, every other modern college football program. Brian Ferentz is not known to “scratch the itch,” as Hayden Fry used to say. Typically is not “always,” though. The Hawkeyes had good success against the Badgers when they threw the ball deep. Recognize that Winfield’s replacement is not Winfield, and give that a try.
Play for Field Position
Minnesota’s offense is bad. Iowa’s offense is bad. Minnesota’s defense is good. Iowa’s defense is better. This should be a low-scoring affair because of the complete incompetence on offense from both sidelines. For that reason, Iowa really shouldn’t take any chances if it looks like they’re going to be in a close game. Yes, I’m sitting here saying that Iowa should be conservative against Minnesota. The Gophers have played the Hawkeyes close the last three games. By close, I mean that the last three games have been decided by a combined 19 points. Iowa doesn’t have the offense to be out there taking chances. Punt the ball, Kirk. Punt to win.