Each week during the season the Hawkeye Headquarters staff will predict the outcome of the Iowa football game.

Blake Hornstein (5-2): I’ve got to be honest, I’m taking this week’s column personally.

“I’m sure many guys in this room didn’t think we were going to win.” Tory Taylor said to the media after Iowa’s 15-6 win over Wisconsin.

Was the most beloved man in Iowa City talking to me, after I picked Iowa to fall in Madison 24-10? Probably not. But it makes me think, maybe there’s a force with this team that we just can’t see.

What the Hawkeyes are doing is rather unthinkable. Take a terrible offense, take its quarterback and top two weapons off of it, and they’re still winning football games.

They’re officially the worst offense in the sport — and they’re 6-1. Aaron Rodgers is a doubter. Pundits and fans alike are mad. Everybody is mad at Iowa — and they love it.

Speaking of Aaron Rodgers, how the heck is he throwing a football and off crutches just a month after shredding his Achilles tendon? The only explanation is there is some supernatural force in sports working right now.

I’m certainly not betting against Aaron Rodgers — and I’m not betting against the suddenly lovable Hawkeyes who continue to defy logic and common sense.

Cheers to things that are impossible to wrap your brain around. Who cares? That’s football, or what it’s all about, rather.

Iowa 13, Minnesota 3

Ryan Jaster (6-1): The lede has to be that I now have a lead in the standings for the first time in two seasons of this format, but we’ll move on quickly for Blake’s sake.

My 6-1 matches the Hawkeyes and last week’s (some would say blind) faith was rewarded. But when you win at Wisconsin, others start to see the light.

The shift is obvious in the football fandom, and the joy was only increased by the Crossover at Kinnick, which was just an absolute celebration of all things Iowa women’s basketball.

And somehow, still not enough has been said about what Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald and everyone involved with that program has done to ascend a mountain that once had much longer odds than the one now popularized by Iowa football week to week. So I’m here with a crossover of my own.

As the all-time Iowa career scoring mark elevated from Ally Disterhoft to Megan Gustafson to Caitlin Clark*, so has the Hawkeyes’ level in the game – from NCAA tournament to Elite 8 to national final.

That’s incredible, measurable progress that the most casual of Iowa fans can latch onto, even if they did switch their avatars from Hawkeyes to Cubs the minute the men lost last season.

Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes need a run. This is the year to do it — and they’re overdue, really. The three consecutive years of finishing 8th in the AP poll ended 19 years ago. The Orange Bowls are further in the rear view mirror than they appear because Kirk is still here, but where were you on the fifth day of 2010? Everyone’s over the Outback Bowls – even Outback. The rare wire-to-wire-ranked 2019 with a Holiday Bowl win over USC doesn’t cut it as a peak for anyone but me because I was on the sidelines all year. (It’s my 1981.) But just as people are coming around on Nate Stanley, the hindsight on that season is getting clearer as well.

Too bad the 20/20 isn’t intact to understand that if 10-6 in 2015 was celebrated, then so should 15-6 in 2023. I never believed in 2023 Wisconsin, so Tory Taylor definitely wasn’t talking about me after the game – or Joel McHale. But how far can belief take these Hawkeyes?

There has been talk this week of Iowa in the playoff. (Playoff?!) The Athletic’s David Ubben declared “one of the most toxic situations” is “so much closer to making the Playoff than anyone realizes.” Then doubled down on his tweet with a full article.

If the Hawkeyes can’t do that, they need to reach one of the classic January 1 games that are now played on or around that date – the Selection Committee Bowl Games. It’s the same boat Fran is in. If McCaffery had a couple of Sweet 16s and an Elite 8 sprinkled in, no one would care about a one and done in Birmingham on occasion.

Despite what’s behind these Hawkeyes, everything is still ahead of them on the football field.

As Blake referenced above, the outside world is “Mad About Iowa,” but some inside the fanbase have also gone mad – at each other. We can’t have fighting when the Hawkeyes are 6-1 and Floyd of Rosedale is on the line. Don’t take your eyes off the prized pig.

You know who Minnesota hates? Me, after I pointed out the hypocrisy of the Gophers embracing songs, colors and terminology associated with their rival when they revealed black uniforms with a “Back in Black” tagline. (I don’t think I’ve ever incited a tweet-delete before.) So even if Minnesota is now only mildly infuriated by Iowa, two can play this game, as we all saw last night: It’s Golden Gophers vs. Golden Hawkeyes now.

Look, I’m old enough to remember 2021. And 2022. Iowa might be in control now with a clear path to a division title, but the Big Ten West could easily still come down to the final week.

But this week? It’s Minnesota. The Gophers haven’t beaten the Hawkeyes in Iowa City since 1999, Ferentz’s first year. Floyd of Rosedale doesn’t really remember that place called Minneapolis he used to live when he was younger — it’s been eight years and he’s a bronze pig. How can you not pick the Hawkeyes to win for a ninth year in a row?

The Totally Irrelevant Prediction agrees, projecting a 20-14 Iowa win thanks to two first-half pick sixes and two second-half field goals. The Hawkologist’s prognosis is a 2 on the 6-point pain index. And if all of that actually happens, I might take my PS2 and retire, living happily ever after and going out on top.

2023 can end for the Hawkeyes on a high note, too. All’s well that ends well. 2015 didn’t. 2021 didn’t. This column didn’t.

Here’s a look at what others from near and far expect, starting with the weather from Local 4’s Tyler Ryan:

David Eickholt: The Hawkeyes aren’t going to take too many risks in the passing game. I’m of the belief that if Iowa wins the battle of the line of scrimmage, they’ll come away with the win. Iowa defensive line coach Kelvin Bell said on Wednesday that Minnesota has won the battle in the trenches the previous two years and that’s been a big point of emphasis for them throughout the week.

My three keys for Iowa are:

1) Establish the run: Yes, it’s not a shocking one, but that’s Iowa’s best chance to move the ball given the quarterback situation and the lack of proven playmakers on the perimeter. The Hawkeyes will have to keep the Minnesota defense honest by taking a shot or two downfield in the play-action game, but I expect PJ Fleck to stack the box.

2) Make Athan Kaliakmanis make the plays: The Hawkeyes have to take away the run and force Kaliakmanis to go up against Iowa’s defensive backs. DeJean has been one of the most versatile and electrifying players in college football this season. If he gets his hands on the ball, he has a chance to take it to the house every time. I’m curious if Kaliakmanis will pinpoint DeJean on every play or if he’ll test them.

3) Special Teams: LeVar Woods has one of the best special teams units in the country again. Punter Tory Taylor might be one of the greatest punters in Big Ten history. He’s truly one of Iowa’s most valuable players for how he flips the field. Last week against Wisconsin, Taylor punted 10 times for a career-high 506 yards. He had five punts of 50+ yards, including two 60+ yarders, and six were downed inside the 20-yard line.

Minnesota hasn’t beaten Iowa inside Kinnick Stadium since 1999 and I don’t see that changing on Saturday. The Gophers don’t have enough offensive weapons to push this Iowa defense out of their comfort zone. Iowa also has the better special teams.

In what’s sure to be an ugly, ugly football game—

Iowa 16, Minnesota 10

CBS Sports
Dennis Dodd: Iowa
Tom Fornelli: Iowa
Chip Patterson: Iowa
Barrett Sallee: Iowa
Shehan Jeyarajah: Iowa
David Cobb: Iowa
Jerry Palm: Iowa

Bill Connelly: Iowa 22, Minnesota 15

Athlon Sports
Steven Lassan: Iowa
Joe Vitale: Minnesota
Luke Easterling: Minnesota

Bleacher Report
David Kenyon: 
Iowa 31, Minnesota 9

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Tristan Wirfs #74 of the Iowa Hawkeyes lifts the Floyd of Rosedale trophy after the 23-19 win over the Minnesota Gophers on November 16, 2019 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)