Why This Is the Most Important Floyd of Rosedale Game in Years

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Why This Is the Most Important Floyd of Rosedale Game in Years
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If you aren't a fan of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes or the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, chances are the outcome of the annual battle for "Floyd of Rosedale" has had very little meaning or significance to you. 

Who could blame you, though? After all, both of these teams haven't exactly been major players in the Big Ten for the better part of the last five years, at a minimum.

Iowa last was relevant back in 2009 when they finished second to Ohio State, and Minnesota hasn't had a winning season in the Big Ten since 2003. 

However, this weekend, as Iowa and Minnesota tangle for the giant pig statue for the 79th time and meet for the 107th time in history, there is a lot on the line for both teams for a change. 

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Iowa comes in at 3-1 and Minnesota is undefeated at 4-0. The Gophers came in with the same 4-0 record last season, and a loss propelled them to mediocrity and a 6-6 finish to their season. 

However, these two teams are a far cry from the versions we saw the past few years and it is likely that this battle will be less about pride and the rivalry itself and more about making a statement to the rest of the league

Sure, Iowa and Minnesota have come in to this game with good records or some expectations in the past, but thanks to some of the teams surrounding them in the division, this game could be a catalyst for something bigger.

No single team in the supposedly "stacked" Legends Division has shown to be a dominant team. Nebraska's defense has been questionable at best, Michigan State and Michigan appear to have quarterback issues and Northwestern has a murderers' row of a schedule and some defensive issues of its own to clean up. 

The point being, no team in the division is without faults and, for the winner of this game, it's a shot at becoming a team to look out for in the division race. 

When is the last time anyone has said that about Minnesota? 

They could be saying that if they get off to a 5-0 start. 

Of course, there's always the chance that these two teams fall flat on their faces the rest of the way, but heading into the conference season both look like teams that can at least play on the same field as everyone else. We haven't been able to say that about either of these teams in quite some time.

However, one shouldn't be too surprised by the sudden rise of the Gophers. It is the pattern of Jerry Kill-coached teams to make a good jump in his third year as a head coach. 

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Throughout his career he has done it time and again. In 2003, Kill took a Southern Illinois team that was 4-8 the previous year to an 11-2 finish and, in his gig at Northern Illinois, the Huskies went from 7-6 to 10-3 in 2010. 

At Southern Illinois, that 2003 team tied for the Gateway Football Conference title and made the FCS playoffs (still 1-AA back then), while the 2010 NIU team won the MAC West Division and went to the team's third straight bowl game. 

On the other sideline, this is a chance for the Hawkeyes to prove that wins against teams that are a combined 1-10 (including an 0-4 Missouri State squad) weren't because of the level of competition, but because of an improved level of play. 

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Iowa has found a bit more balance this season, thanks to quarterback Jake Rudock. The offense is putting up nearly 200 yards through the air on average to go along with a top-25 rushing game nationally (224 yards per game).

Minnesota comes in with one of the nation's best rushing attacks, ranking 13th nationally thanks to an average of 282.3 yards a game on the ground. The Gophers have also been incredibly efficient in the red zone, scoring on 19 of 20 appearances inside the opponents' 20-yard line. 

Both of these teams have parts to really like and parts that can win them quite a few games beyond Saturday, but Floyd of Rosedale stands as the first big test for both of these teams.

When the final whistle blows on Saturday, the questions of who is and isn't for real are likely to be answered and, for the winner, their chances to do something special increase dramatically.

No longer can the rest of the conference count the game against them in the win column before showing up.

So, as these two schools tangle once again in this bitter rivalry, the 2013 game means more than just the usual bragging rights—it means relevancy in the Big Ten Legends Division, and no one saw that coming for either of these teams at the beginning of the season.

 

*Andy Coppens is the Lead Big Ten Writer for Bleacher Report. For more of his thoughts on the Big Ten, follow him on Twitter.

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