Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The newest, latest, most recent must-win game of the season

I really don't like the phrase "must-win." I get what it is supposed to mean, but it's a phrase that is way overused.

It's a term that people are going to be tempted to use about the Gophers game against Indiana this weekend... myself included.

Isn't it funny how we have gone into every game this season with a little bit of trepidation (again... myself included). It seems like every week we are saying "this is the week that we really learn about what this football team can be." But looking back, and looking forward, this really is THAT week. It really is the week where we figure out what this team is made of.

The Gophs are currently favored by 6.5 points, and after losing a game where they weren't necessarily very competitive the entire game against a very talented Buckeyes team, responding with a solid performance and a win over the Hoosiers is a must.

There, I said it.

Must-win reason #1: It's well known that I wasn't a big fan of Coach Mason in his last few years in Dinkytown, but one thing you have to give Coach Mason credit for is that his teams almost always won the games they were supposed to win. They won in the non-conference, and they beat the lower-end teams in the Big10. Getting back to that point in his second season as Gophers head coach, after a 1-11 season last year, would be a big step for Coach Brewster and the Gophers.

And those "supposed to win"type of games in the Big10 are plentiful for the Gophers this season... starting on Saturday with the Hoosiers.

Must-win reason #2: Winning this game would mean that the Gophers only had to find one more win in their final 6 games in order to become bowl eligible, and as I've mentioned in the past, any bowl game would be huge for this young team because it would give them an extra month of practice.

Must-win reason #3: This young Gopher team has tasted a little bit of victory in the non-conference schedule, but it's Big10 time baby! These guys have figured out how to beat down lesser competition, and now they need to figure out how to beat competition that is in their same ballpark. OSU was over our heads. But the Hoosiers are right in our wheelhouse. This will be a good litmus test to see if the Gophers are really as improved as we think.

Must-win reason #4: Can this Gopher team respond to a loss with an inspired effort? It really has felt like the Gophers have, so far this season, been fired up for every other game. They played well enough to win against NIU, but that was about it. Then they came out against Bowling Green and looked like a completely different football team. The week following, they came out slowly against Montana State, and allowed the Bobcats to compete, but still managed to win an uninspired game. In the final non-conference game of the season the Gophers looked like they had really figured it out, and crushed FAU. And then last week, a slow start, several mistakes, and outplayed in every facet of the game.

Can the Gophers again respond to a poor showing with an inspired performance?


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