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Bouncing Around the Big Ten: Iowa, Minnesota meet with Big Ten West hopes on the line

A look at the Iowa-Minnesota game, and a glimpse around the rest of the conference.

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Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim stiff arms a Nebraska defender during a Big Ten Conference college football game on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — No one in the Big Ten West controls their own destiny as Minnesota and Iowa meet in a crucial matchup, while Nebraska looks to snap a four-game skid. Here’s a look at both games, as well as a glimpse around the rest of the conference.

Iowa and Minnesota clash in pivotal Big Ten West contest

For the past few weeks, it appeared as if Saturday’s Iowa-Minnesota game would be nothing more than a battle for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy.

All of a sudden, there will be much more at stake than just the pig-shaped trophy when the teams meet in Minneapolis.

Thanks to two straight home losses by Illinois, the Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers are in a four-way tie for first place with Illinois and Purdue in the Big Ten West with 4-3 league records.

Iowa (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) and Minnesota (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten) enter Saturday’s game on three-game winning streaks. After this week, the Hawkeyes will end their regular season at home against Nebraska, and the Golden Gophers will close at Wisconsin.

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Since getting blown out at Ohio State 54-10 on Oct. 22, Iowa has recorded wins at home against Northwestern, at Purdue and home against Wisconsin to gain bowl eligibility and get back in the hunt to appear in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 3.

Iowa’s offense has been among the worst in the country all year, but defense and special teams continue to keep the Hawkeyes in games.

“We have enough guys at the top that have been really strong,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I couldn’t sign off on that three weeks ago, four weeks ago. But you bet on people, and you bet on people that you’ve been around and see how they respond.”

Since a lopsided 45-17 loss at Penn State on Oct. 22, Minnesota has home wins over Rutgers and Northwestern and a road win over Nebraska sandwiched in between.

The biggest question is the status of Golden Gophers starting quarterback Tanner Morgan, who missed the Northwestern game after suffering an upper-body injury against Nebraska.

Regardless of whether it’s Morgan or backup Athan Kaliakmanis under center, Minnesota will continue to ride senior running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who has rushed for 1,261 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.

Ibrahim had 36 carries against Northwestern, but Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said he isn’t concerned about fatigue.

“You’re not going to make the club if you’re not in the tub,” Fleck said. “That’s 2022. He’s mentally, physically and emotionally ready to do it come Saturday.”

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Nebraska hosts Wisconsin in battle of interim coaches

A pair of interim coaches will battle for one of college football’s newest rivalry trophies when Wisconsin visits Nebraska in a Big Ten Conference game on Saturday in Lincoln.

Established in 2014, the Freedom Trophy is up for grabs, and Nebraska (3-7, 2-5 Big Ten) will attempt to win it for the first time while snapping an eight-game losing streak to Wisconsin (5-5, 3-4 Big Ten).

The Cornhuskers clinched a sixth consecutive losing season, the longest stretch since finishing below .500 from 1956-61, with 34-3 loss at No. 3 Michigan last week. The Huskers gained 146 yards, their fewest since netting 132 in a 2018 loss at Michigan.

Both cold weather and big crowds play into SDSU's home-field edge, which it will likely have throughout the entire FCS playoffs

Nebraska has dropped four games in a row after starting 2-1 under interim coach Mickey Joseph, scoring only 25 points in the past three games.

“I think overall the kids are playing hard under the circumstances they’re playing under,” Joseph said. “They’re not quitting.”

Wisconsin lost 24-10 at Iowa in its most recent game, dropping to 3-2 under interim coach Jim Leonhard. The loss kept the Badgers from joining what is currently a four-way tie for first place in the Big Ten’s West Division at 4-3.

“We’ve got to find a way to punch our way out of it,” Leonhard said after Wisconsin managed just 227 yards and turned the ball over three times. “You have to get comfortable in uncomfortable situations. We’ve got to learn from adversity with a loss.”

Sophomore running back Braelon Allen, who has six 100-yard rushing games this season, gave Wisconsin a 1,000-yard rusher for the sixth year in a row (not counting the COVID-shortened 2020 season). He’ll face a Nebraska defense that allows an average of 191 yards per game on the ground.

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Though there was some uncertainty surrounding the starting quarterback spot for Nebraska, Joseph said Casey Thompson will start for the Cornhuskers.

Last week’s Big Ten scores

Saturday, Nov. 12

Minnesota 31, Northwestern 3
Iowa 24, Wisconsin 10
Michigan 34, Nebraska 3
Penn State 30, Maryland 0
Ohio State 56, Indiana 14
Purdue 31, Illinois 24
Michigan State 27, Rutgers 21

This week’s games

Saturday, Nov. 19

Wisconsin at Nebraska, 11 a.m.
Illinois at No. 3 Michigan, 11 a.m.
Northwestern at Purdue 11 a.m.
Indiana at Michigan State, 11 a.m.
No. 2 Ohio State at Maryland, 2:30 p.m.
No. 11 Penn State at Rutgers, 2:30 p.m.
Iowa at Minnesota, 3 p.m.

College Football Playoff Rankings

  • Ohio State and Michigan both stayed at No. 2 and 3, respectively.
  • Penn State climbed three spots to No. 11 after a shutout win over Maryland.
  • Illinois lost to Purdue and fell from No. 21 to being out of the top-25.

Clear your schedule

Three FBS games you should tune into this weekend:

No. 22 Oklahoma State at Oklahoma — 6:30 p.m. Saturday — Though this game may not have the implications many would have thought at the beginning of the season, the Bedlam matchup is one of college football’s best rivalries. And there aren’t many more left to tune into, with Oklahoma set to join the SEC in 2025 or earlier, according to reports.

No. 7 USC at No. 16 UCLA — 7 p.m. Saturday — The Pac-12’s last chance at a College Football Playoff berth is USC, but a trip to UCLA, playing in front of a sold out crowd awaits Caleb Williams and company.

No. 12 Oregon at No. 10 Utah — 9:30 p.m. Saturday — A huge day in the Pac-12 is capped off with a contest that could determine which of these two teams goes to the Pac-12 title game and possibly the Rose Bowl.

Note: This report was compiled in part through previews from Field Level Media.

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at zlambert@mitchellrepublic.com or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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