Friday, September 26, 2008


I have been struggling all week trying to decide how optimistic to allow myself to be for this game against Ohio State. (By the way, I REFUSE to say "the" in front of their name.) There are several out there who are VERY optimistic, thinking that the Gophers not only can, but will win this game.

I've avoided (you may have noticed) making a prediction for the very reason that I can't make up my mind how optimistic to be. There are a lot of things that we know about the Gophers after the non-conference schedule, most notably that the Gophers are better than they were last year... that wasn't tough to achieve.

I still tend to believe that there are more questions at this point than answers, and the Big10 schedule is going to help to answer them.

Going into the Bowling Green game I said that I would be happy if the Gophers could hang with Bowling Green throughout the game, but I didn't expect a win... which I was happy to be wrong about.

I am going to approach this game with the same kind of healthy skepticism that I felt about Bowling Green, of course hoping to be proven wrong again.

Matching up... I was glad to see Coach Brewster, in his weekly press conference on Tuesday say that he thought it was "optimistic" to say that the Gophers match up well with OSU. If the Gophers are to win this game they are going to have to have to play over their heads and beat OSU at every facet of the game. I believe if they play against OSU the way they did against Florida Atlantic this will be a very close game.

Defense... Obviously big improvements from last year. To go from giving up 463 yards passing from Rusty Smith of FAU last year to 153 yards passing this year is a huge improvement. The OSU offense is a question mark, in my mind. We know they have some big time players, and with Beanie Wells playing, they will be tough running the ball.

With Terelle Pryor under center the Gophers are going to have to defend against the kind of QB that they haven't seen this year. Pryor is a guy who can create with his legs, he is a very accurate passer, and he is a threat to make a big play happen at any moment. If the pocket collapses, he'll run outside of it, if the passing lanes aren't there, he'll run. He presents the Gophers with questions that they haven't had to answer against Ohio State teams in the past.

Having said that, he's also young, and likely to make some mistakes. The key for our defense is going to be to get to Pryor early and often. Hit him hard, put him on his back, take away his confidence.

So here are the questions: Can our defense stop a big time running game? Can our DB's continue to break up passes and hit hard against big time WR's? Where has the pass rush been? Are we going to figure out a way to have a pass rush at some point this season?

Offense... Despite what USC was able to do to Ohio State a couple of weeks ago, the Buckeyes have one of the best defenses in the country. They are big, fast and they have a lot of experience. They probably also have a bit of a chip on their shoulder since everyone is questioning them now.

Maybe I'm the only person in Minnesota who feels this way, but I still have some questions about this offense. We have not played Big10 competition yet, and the competition that we have played has not been able to take Decker out of our offense.

Everytime that we have needed a big play, it's Weber to Decker. And I have no problem with that, but if this is supposed to be the spread offense, the ball needs to be distributed a lot more. I'm concerned about what happens when a team like Ohio State puts two defensive backs (two Big10 defensive backs, not two Sun Belt DB's) on Decker, and suddenly he's not open on every play? Will Weber try to force the ball to him anyway, like he did in the end zone when FAU picked him off? Or will he try to go to someone else? And who exactly IS that someone else? As pointed out earlier this week, despite having not played since the Bowling Green game, Duane Bennett is still the second leading receiver on this football team.

Those are the big questions for me. Additionally, does Weber have enough options to throw to if the running game gets shut down? Is the running game real? Can an inexperienced and banged up offensive line hold their own against Big10 competition?

In closing... You may have noticed, I have a lot of anxiety about this game and about the Big10 schedule. The schedule sets up really well for the Gophers to have a nice Big10 season with a lot of winable games at home. 6 wins should be our lowest expectation at this point, and I don't think that even 8 wins is out of the question.

I can't believe how much better we've been to this point than last year, but the competition takes a humongous jump this week and I am concerned that some of the weak spots that we've been able to overcome against weaker competition will become glaringly obvious against conference opponents who will have better coaching and players to exploit them.

So I'll stick with my healthy skepticism looking ahead to tomorrow... if the Gophers can play tough on the road in a very difficult test in a tough environment, and keep this game close, I'll feel a lot better about answering some of those questions.


1 comment:

Tyler said...

Having positive mind will motivate us to get the best we want. It should be happened to Gophers when there are many people believe that they would become a winner, they should approve it. It can be a motivation for Gophers to become a winner.