Iowa vs. Minnesota, Friday 7 p.m.
Two of the Big Ten’s biggest disappointments face off Friday night when the Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-2) go up against the Iowa Hawkeyes (1-2). Each team had sky-high expectations for the season that quickly fell apart thanks to some frankly embarrassing losses by each team.
P.J. Fleck’s Gophers started the season with a whimper against the Michigan Wolverines, who eviscerated them by a score of 49-24. The boat remained capsized into their next matchup versus the University of Maryland, where the Gophers’ defense let up 21 straight points in the first quarter and 17 straight in the fourth, ultimately leading to a 45-44 overtime loss. The Gophers managed to right the ship a little bit with a win against Illinois last week.
Iowa’s story this season has slightly more room for optimism, but not by much. The Hawkeyes lost their first two games against Purdue and Northwestern by a combined five points, but came back last week to demolish an underperforming Michigan State team by a score of 49-7.
Minnesota has unquestionable offensive talent; quarterback Tanner Morgan, wide receiver Rashod Bateman and running back Mohamed Ibrahim have all been bona-fide stars the last two years. However, it’s clear they miss some of their defensive stars from last year like Carter Coughlin, who is now with the New York Giants.
Iowa, on the other hand, has seen their offense struggle through two of their last three games. In their one-point loss to Northwestern, quarterback Spencer Petras had a 1:3 touchdown to interception ratio. Perhaps more shocking is that the Hawkeyes, known for their ground-and-pound running game, only managed to rush for 77 total yards.
Each of these teams are coming off of a decisive win against an inferior opponent, and each of them will look to continue to build off that positive momentum.
Northwestern vs. Purdue, Saturday 7:30 p.m.
A battle between two of the most unlikely undefeated teams at this point in the season, the Northwestern Wildcats (3-0) and the Purdue Boilermakers (2-0), takes place on Saturday night.
Northwestern is coming off of a win versus unranked Nebraska, while the Boilermakers had an involuntary bye week due to Wisconsin football’s spike in COVID-19 cases. Prior to last week, each team defeated the underwhelming Iowa Hawkeyes by single digits. Northwestern’s record is rounded out by a 43-3 obliteration of Maryland and quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa; Purdue has a single-digit win against Illinois as well.
Northwestern’s normally-inept offense has been looking good this year behind quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who transferred from Indiana to be the Wildcats’ starting shot-caller. He has thrown for 511 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions so far this season.
The Wildcats also return one of the nation’s top linebackers in Paddy Fisher. The 6-foot-4 defensive captain already has 28 tackles through three games, and will only continue to add to those numbers against the Boilermakers.
It’s impossible to bring up Purdue football without acknowledging Rondale Moore. The star sophomore receiver initially opted out of the season, but came back with the reinstitution of Big Ten football. However, Moore has not played yet this season for undisclosed reasons. He was slated to come back against Wisconsin, so logic would indicate that he will be active for the Boilermakers this weekend; however, Head Coach Jeff Brohm and crew have kept that information close to the vest.
Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald is 4-1 all-time at Ross-Ade Stadium, and his Wildcats will look to extend that — and their lead against the rest of the Big Ten West — on Saturday night.