Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some Pre-Turkey Day Musings

…Unless Buck Bravo, the resident mayor of Positivity in the Gopher blogosphere, can talk me out of this, I am now of the belief that this Gopher season was not a success after all. Up until the Iowa Debacle (ID) I kept trying to talk myself into how that no matter how badly November had gone (and it was bad), that a 7 win season coming off a 1-11 year was a success. But this feeling I’ve had since, oh, about midway through the first quarter of the ID, does not feel like success. I spent the rest of the weekend drowning my sorrows in the “7 Win Coolaid” and yet I sit before you today and cannot and will not put a positive spin on this year.

I heard the analogy of this season with the Minnesota Twins 2008 season, and that’s really what brought me around. The Twins were not expected to compete in 2008, and yet thanks to that plucky bunch of overachievers, there they were in the pennant race all season long. When the trade deadline rolled around, GM Bill Smith and company had an opportunity to trade for a quality reliever (I’m not even going to broach the topic of the Twins needing a power hitter because they’ve needed one since Harmon Killebrew retired, and yet each and every year they refuse to do anything about getting one. God forbid they’d deal some prospects for a real-deal middle-of-the-order bat), yet flatly refused. Of course their bullpen fell apart by the end of the season, and I was appalled that there were actually fans and media types saying “Hey it’s ok! We had a great season because we weren’t supposed to win in the first place! We exceeded expectations so that’s all that matters!”

That, my friends, is a loser’s attitude. And up until the ID that was the attitude I had with the Gophers. Well no more. You cannot start 7-1, lose your last four, and call the year a success. You just can’t. An improvement? Sure. But not a success. Not with inexcusable losses to both Northwestern and Michigan AT home, and not after suffering your worst Big 10 loss EVER- in the history of the program, like worse than anything Wacker ever did- when you were only a touchdown dog. Oh and despite a very pro-Iowa crowd, that game was at home too. Yeah no, can’t call that a “success” at all.

Do I want to fire Brewster? Am I calling for his head? No, absolutely not. Glen Mason left this program in shambles, and Brewster’s putting in a lot of work to clean things up. The recruits continue to roll in, the team gets a gorgeous new outdoor stadium next year, and the core of your team gets a year older and (hopefully) a year better. Things are definitely looking up in Gopher Nation, which is why we can all be realists and admit that this while this season was an improvement over 2007, it was not a success. Better luck next year.

... After the ID, I officially hate Iowa (and their fans. And their whole damn state) more than any other team/fans in sports. I have never seen a more obnoxious, arrogant, and ridiculous group of fans in my life than I saw at the Metrodome Saturday night. Jermo and Josho and Lenny and Josho’s pa’s section were some of the few Gopher fans who stuck out that disaster until the bitter end, and it just made me angry to see the Iowa fans gloating and acting like idiots. I had a few comments that cannot be repeated here that I was dying to unleash, but considering we were about the only Gopher fans left in the upper deck (and I feel I should remind you at this time that yes, this really was supposed to be a Gopher home game), I was fearing for my safety a little bit and decided to take the high road (for Iowa fans, the “high road” is where you don’t act like a complete a**hole when you win. Or in general. That concept apparently hasn’t made it down I-35 to you folks yet. Maybe someday). But yeah, for the record, if you’re wondering who hates Iowa? I definitely do.

...All-Conference Teams were announced for the Big 10 Monday. Not surprisingly Eric Decker was a first-teamer on both the coaches’ and media teams, VanDeSteeg was a 1st teamer with the media and 2nd with coaches, Big Play Traye Simmons was a 2nd teamer on both, and Jack Simmons was a 2nd teamer with the media but not the coaches. Biggest shocker? Adam Weber named by the coaches as the 2nd best QB in the conference (the media went with Juice Williams). Really? Did they watch the last month of the season? A research project for the offseason would be to find out if this was the worst season ever for quarterbacks in the Big 10, because I can’t imagine there being another one as bad as this. After Daryll Clark, Terrelle Pryor improved a ton from the beginning of the year, but man after those guys it was just awful. They shouldn’t even have named a 2nd team quarterback.

... Finally, no podcast this week because of Thanksgiving. Jermo and I will stuff ourselves with turkey and be back next week. Travel safe and have a Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Gophers need...

... a famous fan to support us in the national spotlight.

Just like Bill Cosby does for his Temple Owls.

Brew not wasting any time

As I'm sure everyone read yesterday, Phil Meyer "resigned" as Offensive Line Coach for the Golden Gophers. I say "resigned" because this "resignation" feels not unlike Dan Monson's "resignation" from the basketball team a couple of years ago. The guess is that Meyer was asked to resign.

Whether or not the offensive line problems were actually Meyer's fault is up for debate, but the fact remains that his unit was a glaring problem ever since the conference season started.

In any case, Coach Brewster, as is his M.O., doesn't seem to be wasting any time in finding a replacement. It appears that Tim Davis, Director of Player Personnel under Nick Saben at Alabama is possibly in line to take the position.

I'm not a great "available offensive line coaches" mind, but Davis appears to have some nice experience coaching in the trenches. From Kent Youngblood's article this morning:
"Davis has an extensive résumé. He was assistant offensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins before re-joining Nick Saban at Alabama. He was an assistant at Southern California for the 2002-04 seasons, spending one year focused on guards and centers and two years as the offensive line coach. USC won at least a share of the national title in two of his three seasons at the school. Davis was tight ends/offensive tackles coach at Wisconsin from 1997 to 2001."

Monday, November 24, 2008


I have tried to make this blog a place that portrays Gopher football from a fan's perspective. I've admitted several times to not always being objective and to often being biased. Here it comes...

If I had to rate the most unpleasant days of my entire I think that Saturday November 22, 2008 would probably rank in the Top 5... at the very least in the Top 10.

Nothing can ruin a fantastic day of spending time tailgating in the newly painted Gopher camper with friends and family like sitting in a section at the Metrodome surrounded by Iowa fans as their squad puts the proverbial wood to the Gophers.

The Hawkeye fans were NOT gracious in their victory. I know that is hard to believe, but it's true. I tried yelling back... heaven KNOWS I tried... but I had lost my voice somewhere between playing cornhole in the parking lot and yelling at the Gophers during the first quarter. It's probably better that I couldn't yell, the outcome would not have been good.

(There was, however, there was an Iowa fan walking down the steps sometime during the beginning of the 4th quarter who was yelling "Who hate Iowa, NOW?" I quickly raised my hand and in a very hoarse voice tried to yell, "I DO... MORE THAN EVER!!!" There was also an Iowa fan who walked up to me in the concourse after the game and said "Wow, 55-0 huh?" My response was calm. "Yeah, I was there, but thank you for the recap. Enjoy living in Iowa.")

Seriously Gopher fans... WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!?!? It's two days later and I am still having trouble believing, like Ron Burgundy would say, that just happened. I said going into the game that in the history of being a Gopher fan I never wanted to win a game more than this one... which is probably what made it so painful

It also might have been the jackass Iowa fans, but we've already touched on that.

So how about a season recap? I think that Down With Goldy said it best, so I'll leave this one to them.
"Gopher Football. Embarrassing. Anyone who calls this season a success should be stabbed in the face."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Losing to Wisky

Wiskey always gets the better of me and on Saturday Wisky got the better of the Gophers and me.

Much has already been written about this game, and Jeff did a great job of recapping things from his perspective in the stands at Camp Randall. Clearly our Gophers played well enough to win... sometimes. And clearly they played poorly enough to lose... enough that they actually did lose.

I've decided that I'm not going to focus today on what the Gophers did poorly, how they gave the game away, how I felt there were a couple of coaching errors, how the offense sputtered through most of the second half, how Adam Weber took a sack in the endzone instead of throwing the ball away, etc.

I'm going to focus on some things that I was really happy to see on Saturday.

Fight... No matter what you think of this Gopher football team, I don't think you can dispute that this team constantly fights for their coach. When the Weber fumbled on the second play of the game I was thinking "here we go again." It didn't get any better when Wisconsin scored after they got the ball and then the offense went 3 & out on their next 2 possessions. They did muster a first down before the end of the Q, but quickly had to punt after that. But the defense got the ball back on Wisky's next possession and the offense wasted no time in getting the ball into the endzone to tie the game! Suddenly on their next possession the offense looked like what they were supposed to be this year, scoring 2 more touchdowns on just 5 offensive plays.

The second half was obviously a far different story as Wisconsin came out strong scoring on their first three possessions of the half, then followed that up with two safeties, while their defense held us to just 3 points. And back came the "here we go again" feelings.

But down by 11 points in the 4th the team didn't give up. And Adam Weber suddenly looked like the same guy who threw for 2 TD's in the first half as he marched the team downfield 60 yards in 11 plays and threw a (slightly off-target) bullet to Shady Salomon for the TD. Shady then punched it in for the 2-pt conversion, and holy crap... WE'RE BACK IN IT!

We know how the game ended, but the point is that the team never gave up, they kept battling even through an absolutey flurry of points from all angles by Wisconsin.

No Decker, No Problem... We were all concerned about Decker being gone, and in the podcast last week Jeff convinced me that Decker being out was increasing Wisconsin's point spread in this game by 7 points. Who on earth was going to step up and become Weber's favorite target?

Holy smokes did the freshman step up in this game. Your leading reciever: true freshman Brandon Green. Oh, by the way, your second and third leading recievers: Broderick Smith and Shady Salamon, also true frehsmen.

Weber... I said I wasn't going to talk about what I thought Weber didn't do well, so I won't. But what did he do well? In the games that I've seen Weber play I've never seen in check through his throwing options better than he did on Saturday at Camp Randall, and I would argue we've never seen him show such a balance of throwing to running. He's starting to become more efficient (I will not mention accuracy here) because he knows when to tuck and run and he knows when to check down his options. Weber hit 5 different recievers for at least 2 catches each in this game.

Bottom line: Adam Weber, despite some mistakes and inaccuracy, played like a leader and fought threw everything that was thrown at him on Saturday at Wisconsin. While I agree with Jeff that Weber shouldn't just be handed the starting position next fall, I believe that the good certainly far outweighs the bad when it comes to Adam Weber. At this point he does far more to help the Gophers than to hurt them.

Mixing it up... As I've mentioned, it was really good to see all of the freshman receivers get in the act, but we had a pretty good idea that this was going to have to happen with Decker out. What I was really impressed to see was how involved Shady Salamon got with the offense this week. As a RB I think that Eskridge is really good. He's fast, he's got good vision and he's only going to get better. But to me, Shady brings a slightly different dynamic. It seems that he hits holes harder, and he's got better hands catching the ball out of the backfield. Shady was an important part of the offense on Saturday and I thought it was really good to see.

Overall obviously this is a very tough loss. But let's be honest, a lot of people though this game was going to be a blowout in Wisconsin's favor after how the Gophers played last week against Michigan. They played a very tough game, agaisnt a very tough oppponent and they never gave up fighting. I think that the Gophers can hold their head high.

All that matters now is Iowa... and beating the living #$*@ out of the Hawkeyes!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another Tough Loss at Camp Randall

Well a tough game for the Gophers Saturday at Camp Randall. I was there, in the second to last row, taking it all in. A few thoughts:
- This was really a game of swings- both in momentum and mood. We got to our seats a bit late, so I saw the first touchdown before we even sat down. A quick Gopher turnover leading to a Badger touchdown was exactly what could NOT happen for Minnesota to have a chance. I was thinking what a LLLOOOONNNNGGGGG afternoon it was going to be. Until…
…the Gopher D comes alive, forcing turnovers left and right. The U’s offense gets some short fields to build confidence (exactly what he had hoped for on the podcast!), and !gasp! they ACTUALLY MAKE SOME THROWS DOWN FIELD! HOLY CRAP! WE HAVE AN OFFENSE!!! Seriously, having some momentum and field position, Mike Dunbar made a couple of GREAT calls, especially the play-action fake option throw that set up the third TD. A thing of beauty. I also loved the call on the first TD to THROW on 3rd and goal instead of the expected QB sneak or option. Again, nice to see some originality for a change. The Gophs were rolling and up 21-7 until…
…the horrible Kyle Jefferson injury just before the half. Watching it live you couldn’t see what happened, and they didn’t replay it at all at the stadium, but when the trainers, then the medics, and then the ambulance came out onto the field, you knew it was bad. We did see him give the “thumbs up” as he was being carried out on the stretcher, so that was good to see. Still, the whole incident made me go from “fired up but worried” to “solemn but worried”. Oh and also cold. It was definitely cold at Camp Randall. For the Badger crowd (which was probably 95% Wisconsin fans. We need to work on taking Gopher Nation on the road), the injury and then him giving the “thumbs up” gave them life and rallied them a bit...
...Despite a 14 point halftime lead, I was still worried. I admittedly had zero confidence in the Gophers to hold this, because even before the half the Gophs had gone into “play not to lose” mode by taking a knee instead of trying to add more point. Wisconsin also had little trouble moving that ball the first half- they just had trouble hanging onto it. If the Badgers took better care of the ball in the second half, they were going to score points. Sure enough…
…Badger field goal to start the second half. Three and out from Minnesota, and the Badgers march down and score a touchdown. Even with the Joel Monroe field goal, the lead did NOT feel safe. Sure enough…
...A PJ Hill touchdown, TWO safeties, then a John Clay TD run give Wisconsin an 18 point swing with 7 minutes left. Ball game? I asked two Badger fans I was with that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very worried, how worried were they about a Gopher comeback? They were both at about a two…
…which changed to a 4 when Weber rallied the Gophs late with a drive that ended with a 13 yard Shady TD, but it was too little too late. All in all, a very entertaining heart-wrenching, punch-in-the-gut kind of game, but another tough loss and another blown lead.

- I’m not sure what was more appalling- The penalties- all 10 of them!!!!- or the back-to-back sacks Weber took in the fourth quarter, the second of which was the second safety in as many minutes! Ok, I guess I do know. Those two sacks were absolutely unacceptable. You CANNOT give up sacks there. In both cases it looked like had had one read, which was taken away, and then he didn’t know what to do. THROW IT AWAY ADAM!! Holy Christmas throw it 8 yards over his head out of bounds but don’t take a sack there!?!? I’m not sure if that was inexperience or ignorance, but it just can’t happen. I’m not saying Weber should lose his job, but I don’t think Brewster should hand it to him next year either. I hope MarQueis Gray and whoever else they have back next year will be given an opportunity to compete for the job. If Weber is truly the best, then fine he deserves it, but he hasn’t played well enough to automatically get his job back next year.
- Having said that, the Gophers made it pretty tough on themselves with the 10 penalties, half of which were false starts. Again, inexcusable. Young line or not, you’re only making things worse.
- I just have to keep reminding myself that 7 wins is a big step up from last year.
- I just can’t hate Wisconsin. Lord knows I’ve tried, but I just can’t hate them like I do Iowa. I don’t like the Badgers, but I certainly respect them, and think they’re a good example for what I hope the Gophs can be someday soon. This was my first COLD outdoor football experience (the only other outdoor college football games I’ve seen was the Fiesta Bowl waaayyyyy back in the day with Syracuse vs Kansas State. The quarterbacks in that game? Donovan McNabb and Michael Bishop. No kidding. The other one was Ohio State/Washington in Seattle last year in the most beautiful college football setting in the country), and I gotta say Iloved the setting and the elements. I cannot wait for the Gophs to be playing outdoors in November. It’s how Big 10 football should be! Camp Randall is an AWESOME college football experience, with the band and the Fifth Quarter and Jump Around, and a student section that seemed a little more creative than Minnesota’s. Of course, this is because they’ve been successful the last 15 years or so, so when the Gophers have their success and their trips to Pasadena, they’ll be able to build and create some Gopher football traditions of their own.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Big 10 Picks

Indiana +35.5 @ Penn State
I know Indiana is beat up and Penn State will be looking to rebound strong from their upset loss to Iowa last week- but 35.5?!?! FIVE TOUCHDOWNS?!? I just don't see it. I just don't.
Northwestern @ Michigan -4
Michigan getting 4 points at home basically says Vegas isn't sure here. Well neither am I. Logic says if it's basically a coin flip you should take the points, right? But then I start thinking about Northwestern struggling to do anything last week with their backup quarterback (yes the same one who ran for 200+ yards on your Gophers), and now being down to their third string RB. Michigan's put up points two weeks in a row now, and this is their last home game of the season. Don't you think their seniors, who are frustrated with how their last year has gone, will want to go out with a bang? I know, I know, I'm overthinking this, but I'm sticking with the Maize and Blue.
Ohio State @ Illinois +9.5
Illinois played the Buckeyes extremely tough last year, and according to their seesaw season (they've won one-lost one for the past 8 games), this should be a game where they come to play. They laid a gigantic egg last week against Western Michigan (which has to be concerning to Illini fans, no?), but they rebound here to keep things close- or at least closer than 9.5 points.
Purdue @ Iowa -17.5
While a letdown here from the Hawkeyes is possible, it's not exactly probable. It's Senior Day at Kinnick Stadium, Shonn Greene has been running roughshod all year, and Stanzi should be fine at home. Not to mention that Iowa suddenly has a New Year's Day bowl game to play for. I'm also of the belief now that Purdue's 48 point outburst in their win over Michigan a couple of weeks ago was an aberration. In their other five Big 10 games (all losses), the Boilermakers have 42 points COMBINED. On the road with more uncertainty at quarterback means the Hawkeyes roll.
Minnesota @ Wisconsin -13.5
No Eric Decker for an offense that's been struggling of late, and at Camp Randall (where the Gophers always have a tough go) makes me think that Minnesota will have to be VERY fortunate just to stay within two touchdowns of the Badgers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The new podcast is up and ready for you to take a listen.

You will note that "the hurtin' is" on us this week, as Michigan has punted the Gophers winning ways off of the bridge (and we didn't even get to throw a burrito at them). We take some time to lament on the times when we were 7-1, and look ahead to what might happen at Camp Randall this week.

We also interview Nadine Babu from GopherHole. She's great! Nadine breaks some huge recruiting news right here on our very own Gopher Football Blog Podcast (not really, but we'd like you to take a listen anyway), and talks about recruiting and what Coach Brewster brings to the table.

Gray Gets Eligible

While things haven't gone so well for your Gopher football team on the field, the news continues to be positive off it- well except that whole Eric Decker won't play this weekend thing. That's definitely negative. But in recruiting? Better and better. After three big recruits committed over the weekend, we get news this afternoon via Kent Youngblood's blog on the Startrib that MarQueis Gray passed his ACT and will enroll at The U in January.

As Youngblood notes in his post, Gray was one of the most highly rated spread-offense-type QB recruits in the country last year. The Indianapolis native failed his ACT last summer and was ineligble for the Gophs this year, but with his latest passing grade, he can enroll in January, practice in the spring, and be ready to go for next year.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Decker to miss Wisconsin game

As if we didn't have enough stacked against us going into Camp Randall this weekend, our best player and really our only playmaker, Eric Decker is out for this Saturday's game against the Badgers.

"Head coach Tim Brewster announced at his weekly press conference Tuesday that junior wideout Eric Decker will miss this weekend's game at Wisconsin because of an ankle injury. Decker injured his ankle two weeks ago in a game against Northwestern, then re-aggravated the injury in last Saturday's loss to Michigan."

To quote the movie "Beautiful Girls":

"Superb... just superb."

Asking Some College Football Questions

After another crazy weekend in the Big 10, some folks might have found some answers. Me? I just have more questions- lots and lots of questions…

First a couple for your Gophers…

Is Eric Decker the most valuable player in the Big 10 this year?
The Goph’s offensive offense hadn’t exactly been lighting the conference afire since the end of September, but I mean, did you SEE them Saturday without Decker? If you did, and you weren’t traumatized by the awfulness, you’re a brave, brave man.

Would the Gophers have just been better off punting on first down and hoping the defense would score?

Does Gopher offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar realize there are actually pass plays in existence that go further than four yards downfield?

How amazing is Coach Brewster for being able to land THREE stud prospects after a performance like that?

Ok, ok, ok I’ll lay off for now…other questions then…

Was Penn State’s loss to Iowa really a good thing for the Big 10?
Of course not. What a stupid question. Nobody would think that…oh wait, except’s Stewart Mandel.

A third straight blowout on the big stage might have gotten the Big Ten blackballed. Even worse, even if Iowa had missed that field goal, Florida might have surpassed the Nittany Lions in the polls Sunday. To send a one-loss team to the title game over undefeated Penn State would be like saying the Big Ten is no different than the Mountain West. As strange as it sounds, the best way for the conference to begin restoring its reputation is to steer clear of the title game for now.

Um, Stew? What happens next year if/when a Big 10 team gets to the National Title game? Will everybody suddenly forget the “Ohio State Effect” and believe the Big 10 is as good as the SEC or Big 12 again? Or do you think that maybe, just maybe, the conference is going to carry this stigma of not being good enough until they actually win the National Title and/or some BCS games? Let’s hope Penn State starts knocking down these ideas with a strong showing in the Rose Bowl this year.

I hate (to bring up) Iowa, but didn’t it seem like only yesterday that the Hawkeyes had lost three straight games and looked to be in serious danger of either playing in the Motor City Bowl, or not going bowling at all?
Now they’re 6-4 and are looking at another New Year’s Day bowl. Again. I hate Iowa.

Ok, so The Team We Hate has established itself as the Big 10’s fourth best team: but who exactly is fifth?
No really, who? We know it’s NOT Indiana, Purdue, or Michigan. Here’s your other candidates:
Minnesota (3-3 record in the Big 10): lost a home game they should have won for the second week in a row. This is probably the last time they’ll be in the top half of the conference this season.
Northwestern (3-3): got blown out by Ohio State, but then again so has everybody else. Had a bad loss to Indiana a few weeks ago, but also has a couple of quality wins against Iowa and Minnesota.
Illinois (3-3): just got beat AT HOME by Western Michigan a week after notching a huge win against Iowa. With Ohio State and Northwestern to finish the season, they’re inexplicitably in danger of not being bowl eligible.
Wisconsin( 2-5): how much emphasis should we put on blowing out Indiana? The Badgers, for one of the few times all year, looked like the Big 10 title contender they were pegged to be when the year started, doing whatever whenever they wanted against the Hoosiers. I fully expect to see this kind of performance again on Saturday, but I’ve been wrong before about Wisconsin (pretty much all year). Still, right now, today, they get my vote for fifth best team in the conference.

Could the BCS gods give me the “Plus-One” game I asked for last week?
Looks like it’s possible with just a few weeks to go. If an undefeated Alabama plays one-loss Florida in the SEC Championship (looks very, very probable) and undefeated Texas Tech and/or a one loss Oklahoma/Texas/Texas Tech plays Missouri in the Big 12 Title game, that could be the closest thing we’ve ever seen to a football National Championship semi-finals with the winners of those games playing in the BCS title game.

Monday, November 10, 2008

This helps...

I don't know how Tim Brewster does it. After two losses in a row, one being your homecoming game and after a loss at home that was completely embarrassing, he still lands a top 5 Minnesota recruit.

I realize that you can't see me right now, but I am shaking my head and smiling. Seriously. How does he do this?

Welcome to Gopher Nation Ra'Shede Hageman!!!

Hageman is 6'6", 260 lbs and has good hands. He also happens to be the 3rd best prospect in the state, the 9th best TE in the nation, and the 4th most athletic tight end in the nation according the Rivals!

Also, join me in welcoming Matt Garin to Gopher Nation!!!

Garin is a 6'4", 220 lb DE from Eastview HS in Apple Valley. Like Hageman, this is a big local get for Coach Brewster as Garin is considered by Rivals to be the 6th best prospect in the state and the 20th best DE in the nation!

Check out the Minnesota Top 10 folks!!! 5 of the top 6, and 6 of the top 10 will be in Dinkytown next fall! Brewster has done a great job in a short time of beginning to close up the Minnesota borders.

Also joining Gopher Nation this weekend, 6'1" 270 lb D-Tackle Joey Searcy from Texas. Searcy was a national Top 50 DT prospect, and a Top 50 prospect in the state of Texas.

Go recruiting!!! Ski-U-Mah!


embarrass: to place in doubt, perplexity, or difficulties: to cause to experience a state of self-conscious distress: to hamper the movement of; synonyms: confound, confuse, disconcert, fluster, mortify, rattle.

I guess that would pretty much sum it up wouldn't it? In doubt? Check. Perplexed? Check. Distressed? Check. Movement hampered? Check.

A great Gopher football fan said it best in the parking lot after the game: "This felt like the Mason days of old." A complete and utter collapse. Breakdowns in every facet of the game. Coming out with no fire. The team was not competitive at any point during Saturday's game.

And the worst part? Michigan is NOT a good football team.

These types of losses used to come when the team looked promising early in the season, then matched up against a team that was clearly better. And that is was makes this game so... oh, let's go with perplexing. The Gophers had a promising start, and they have played better football and more consistent football than Michigan.

But clearly something is wrong with the Gophers. Something isn't right. This isn't the same football team that beat Illinois that looked like it had a chance to make a run at a Rose Bowl. This isn't the same football team that figured out a way to beat Indiana and Purdue despite coming out flat in both games.

We're 7-3 Gopher fans! Certainly better than where we thought we'd be 3 months ago... but definitely not where we thought we'd be 3 weeks ago.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I've Got Your Change Right Here!

All we've been hearing about during the election is change, change, change! You want real change? Put me in charge of college football and you'd see the meaning of the word change!

I hate the rotating schedule, and I hate that Minnesota won't get a chance to play Penn State or Michigan State. I don't care if both of those are potential losses, I'd love to see a TRUE conference champion who had to play everybody else. Since we're now playing 12 games (or even 13 for those with a conference championship game) why not drop two useless non-conference cupcake foes a year so that everybody plays everybody. I know we don't do it because schools make money off of the two extra home games, and they’re two cheap victories that can add to your bowl chances. But as a fan, wouldn’t you rather see a full conference slate than two cupcakes? Wouldn’t it be better to have a TRUE conference champ every year? Say what you want about how bad the Pac 10 has been lately (really, I'm not going to stop you. Come to think of it, I heard an interesting idea this week: what if USC became an independent in football like Notre Dame? The rest of their sports could stay in the Pac 10, but football would get to play whomever they wanted. Knowing Pete Carroll, who has been as aggressive a non-conference scheduler as there is in the country, he'd play anyone, anywhere. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'), but I think it's great that all 10 teams voluntarily gave up basically a guaranteed win against a cupcake at home so that they could have 9 conference games a year and play everybody. It’s not possible for the SEC, Big 12 and ACC, but since the Big 10 insists on being different with refusing to add a 12th team (which I’m fine with, by the way. Notre Dame’s the only team that makes sense, but I don’t see them ever coming over), why not raise the bar and show those “other conferences” who are so down on us what a real conference schedule looks like!

Seriously, when schools are playing not one but TWO FCS teams a year, how hard is it to pick up four more wins along the way to qualify for a bowl? God forbid teams earn a bowl birth anymore instead of rewarding mediocrity and a .500 record.

Head coaches do not fill these out, their grad assistants do. Either way, college coaches do not, and should not, have the time to research and watch enough of everybody else to make an accurate judgment of who the top 25 teams in the country are each week. It's how we end up with things like this week where Oklahoma is ranked ahead of Texas- despite the fact Texas beat Oklahoma. If we’re going to put weight on those polls and have them part of the convoluted formula that determines a national champion, I’d prefer to have it done by people who are paid to follow the game, nation wide, instead of the coaches. But that’s just me.

Look the top 25 polls are great fun and all, but they do much more harm than good by releasing them at the start of the season instead of in mid October. Teams who start the year ranked outside of the top 15 are at a serious disadvantage when trying to play in a major bowl. Just ask Auburn in 2004, or perhaps Penn State in about a month. The only reason I’ve heard for having preseason polls is because “fans love them.” Really? And if we didn’t have polls out until mid October you think fans wouldn’t love debating who the top teams would be? You don’t think that would create MORE fan interest and debate than we already get?

Alrighty, onto the picks. A LOT of big lines this week, which means Vegas thinks they’ve figured out the conference. If only I could say the same!

Wisconsin @ Indiana (+10)
Look I know IU got beaten last week-AT HOME- by Central Michigan. I know this. But the Chippewas did it through the air, whereas the Badgers are a ground team. 10 points is a big number, and the Badgers are winless on the road this year. I like the Hoosiers to cover.

Ohio State (-10.5) @ Northwestern
The Buckeyes are playing for a spot in the Rose Bowl, and their defense is just a wee bit better than the Minnesota squad that Wildcats QB Mike Kafka shredded last week. The Wildcats will have trouble moving the ball all day, and Ohio State’s offense will have plenty to blow out Northwestern.

Purdue (+9.5) @ Michigan State
It may have taken Purdue most of the year to find their quarterback, but it looks they’ve found him. Justin Siller is for real. The 6’4 sophomore shredded a talented Michigan defense for a combined 343 yards and four touchdowns, and should be a handful for the Spartans all day.

Illinois (-7.5) @ Western Michigan
Illinois is 4-3 in their last seven games, and haven’t won two in a row since September 13th. Their pattern says they should get shocked by Western Michigan, but I not only don’t see them getting upset, I see them as at least a touchdown better. Ron Zook better hope so, or all that momentum and good vibes he carried in from last year’s Rose Bowl season goes right out the window.

Penn State (-7.5) @ Iowa
Penn State has to be angry they got passed in the BCS standings by Texas Tech, and they know the only hope they have is to blow out the last three teams on their slate. Kinnick Stadium is a very tough place to play, especially with an Iowa team that can grind it out in what should be cold weather conditions. Still, the Nittany Lions have covered the spread in three of four road games this year. Expect them to make it four of five.

Michigan +8 @ Minnesota
I think/hope/pray the Gophers win this one outright, but for an offense that honestly has struggled since the Big 10 season started, 8 points is too much against a very talented Michigan defense. The teams that have put up points on the Wolverines (Michigan’s given up at least 35 points in five of seven losses) have done it with athletic quarterbacks (Illinois, Penn State and Purdue) and/or through the air (Michigan State threw for a season high 306 in their win. Notre Dame does have a good passing attack, but their win was more because of Michigan’s six turnovers than anything else). Minnesota’s D has to continue to force turnovers, and the Gophers are going to have continue to move the ball well through the air and have Weber’s athletic ability be a factor. Gophers win what should be a dandy at the Metrodome tomorrow.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No Mas Podcast Delay

That's Spanish for "The Nino". Or that we've got the newest podcast up and ready to go. Also available on I-Tunes for those that enjoy listening on your I-pod. We know there's one of you. Thanks Josho. Thanks also to this week's guest, Buck Bravo. Check out his blog, and give us a listen. Peace out.

Podcast delayed

A loyal reader (who also happens to be a relative of mine so he is required to read the blog and listen to the podcast) sent me this email this morning:
"How am I supposed to start my Thursday without a Podcast! I want Podcast!
Raise the brown jug high...."
Due to my travel schedule for work this week we were not able to record, and therefore post, the podcast on Wednesday night which has been the norm.

We will be recording this evening, and the Michigan week podcast will be available tonight.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Playoff or Plus-One?

Greetings. Happy hump day. Also happy "we don't have to see another stupid negative campaign ad for four more years" day too. Whether your candidate won or lost yesterday, hopefully you got out and voted. Ok, no more politics. Promise.

Well let's take a break from complaining about how Penn State is going to get screwed by the BCS, and talk about everybody's favorite topic this time of year: how college football needs a playoff system. I'm a stats dork and love numbers and polls and data, so I'm often interested when websites run polls. Now I know these are there solely to chart how much traffic is being driven to their site, but they can also serve an interesting purpose, especially those on E!SPN (on Jer and mine's old site, I always typed ESPN with the E! since I believe it's turned into the trashy gossip station for men) because they show poll data from all 50 states.

(This is especially interesting when they ask college football questions, like whether a one-loss Big 12 or SEC team should go to the National championship over an undefeated Penn State? I think they ran this one Monday and I can't find it now, but the poll was close, with a slight edge to to Penn State. However, the people that voted FOR the SEC or Big 12 were, or course, people in those states. And they voted heavily in favor. Again, shows how much people in those states hate the Big 10)

Anyway, the poll this morning was simply whether College Football needs a playoff system, and the results were an overwhelming YES, which was getting 92% of the vote. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone since college football fans have been clamoring for this since oh, I don't know, about ever. The BCS sucks, this we can all agree upon. Will it ever change? I say no, unless Barack Obama makes good on the threat he made on Monday Night Football to put some heat on the NCAA to make it happen. Something tells me he has a few other more pressing issues to attend to before he addresses that one. There's just way too much money tied up in the bowls right now and for the foreseeable ever to make a playoff happen. E! writer Pat Forde makes an interesting case for an 8 team playoff, but personally, I believe all we need is a Plus-One.

College football has the best regular season of any sport because every game means so much. A Plus-one game keeps that completely intact, and would still give us the truest national championship game. Take the top 4 teams, have the BCS #1 vs #4 in one New Year's Day Bowl and the #2 vs #3 in the other (take your pick from the Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta), and then have the winners play the natty title a week later, just like they do now. No extra games that stretch well into January, it gives four teams (and let's be honest, it usually comes down to about four teams with a legit argument) a chance for the title, and the regular season still means everything. This season, we'd have Penn State, the SEC and Big 12 Champs, and either USC or another one-loss squad from the SEC or Big 12.

Once you go beyond four teams, it just opens the door to water down the process more and more and more. We'll be at a 64 team college hoops style tourney before you know it (and there are proposals on the table from people like Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim for 128 teams in the tournament. Seriously. Hell, let's just hand out an award to every team at the start of the season so everybody can win. God forbid we actually let competition decide things and have consequences for losing), as we've already seen the Little Guys whining about wanting to be included in the BCS, and therefore getting a fifth BCS game added. There's ALWAYS going to be complaints about people being left out, but limiting it to the top four schools says "You want to play for the national title? Win all your games and play in a real conference. Thanks for asking." While it's a nice story to see a Boise State make the Cinderella Run (and their game against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl a couple years back was one of the best endings I've ever seen), the ratings say that people want to see the Big Boys from the Big Conferences. And as the BCS has proven, the Little Guys usually can't hang with the Big Boys, and even with all of the parity right now, I don't see that changing. The best teams in the country continue to come from the BCS conferences, and those are not only the ones that should be given the best chance to play for the title, but also the ones the nation wants to see.

Second Guessing the Fake FG

Greetings from sunny Pittsburgh, PA!

It hasn't been very often during Tim Brewster's time as Gopher head coach that I've disagreed with an in-game coaching decision that he has made. (Afterall, the blogosphere IS the true litmus test for coaching competency... isn't it?)

The NDSU game comes to mind last year when the Gophers were on defense, the play clock was winding down, NDSU had not yet broken their offensive huddle, and WE called a timeout.

Generally I've appreciated Brewster's ability to make in-game adjustments and his aggressive style. But I thought his aggression was a bit misguided on Saturday against N'Western on the fake field goal.

Let's look at the situation leading up to this decision: The score is 17-17, neither team had scored since the first half, and the 3rd quarter is winding down. The Gophers drive to N'Western's 3 yard line, and Joel Monroe attempts and misses a 20 yard field goal. We could discuss the merits of going for it or kicking the FG on 4th & goal from the 3 yard line, but points were hard to come by in this game for the Gophers, so we'll go ahead and assume going for the FG was the right choice.

On N'Western's next drive Traye Simmons makes his second interception of Mike Kafka of the day and the returns it to the Gopher's 44 yard line. Weber runs (our most productive play call throughout the day) for 19 yards on 1st down to the NW 37 yard line. Then a short pass complete to Decker gets us to the 31 and two incomplete passes bring up 4th down.

Out trots Joel Monroe, who had just missed a 20 yard field goal on the Gophers previous possession, for about a 48 yard field goal.

At this point I turned to Jeffrick and said "fake."

And I can't imagine that I was alone. I think that probably everyone in the Metrodome, and everyone watching the game on ESPN2 probably knew the fake was coming. And CLEARLY Pat Fitzgerald knew it was coming.

What are the chances that you are really going to kick that FG after your kicker had just missed a chip-shot on the previous drive?

And I think that that stop for N'Western was the play of the game because it fired them up and brought the momentum back to them. They were nothing close to dynamic after that point, but the game took on a very different feel after that point.

I don't agree with the call. On 4th & 4 from your opponent's 31 yard line I think you keep your kicker (who isn't consistent anyway) and you find a way to pick up that 4 yards. You've got the best reciever and the best tight end in the Big Ten on your squad, and the QB draw has been working all day. There HAS to be a way to find 4 yards on that play.

And if you don't get it, you have a defense that has played well all day (outside of the opening drive).

Look, I get it, if the fake FG works, Brewster looks like a gunslinging genius. Or, if you go for it on 4th and don't get it, everyone is going to say that you should have gone for the FG. There were three options in that situation, you go for it, you kick the FG, or you fake the FG. My opinion is that faking the FG is the worst option of the three and the fact that it was obviously coming makes it even worse.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Big recruiting weekend

With Bryce McNeal coming to town on Saturday, the Little Brown Jug weekend is going to be a big one for recruiting.

But even in losing the homecoming tilt, the Gophers managed to impress a couple of recruits and have added two big names to the verbal commitment list.

Heyo Carpenter will be a JUCO transfer from College of the Canyons. He's one of the top JUCO receivers in the country and ranked 11th on Rivals top 100 JUCO players for 2009. Heyo runs a 4.4 40 yard dash and Rivals considers him a 4-star recruit, while Rivals lists him as a 5-star at his position. Also, on a personal note, I will be excited next year to begin yelling "HEYOOOOO!!!!" Especially considering I already like to yell that.

Next, we get to welcome more help to the defensive secondary.

Kerry Lewis is another commit from (Don't Mess With) Texas, was ranked in Rivals pre-season top 100 in the state of Texas and is considered a top 40 cornerback in the nation. He's 5'9", 179 lbs, and as a prototypical CB, also runs 4.5 in the 40.

Two nice commits Gopher Nation!!! Let's land a few more this Saturday!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

I'm In A Glass Case of Emotion!!!

Yeah that was me and Jer after watching Northwestern punt our Rose Bowl dreams off the bridge. We hit the man with a burrito. But you know what? We weren't alone Saturday. Not by a long shot. Every game involving Big 10 schools were decided by a touchdown or less, with three of them being won with less than 30 seconds left. All of them were gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, stomach punch losses. Misery loves company. "The Man punted Baxter! He punted him! Aghhhhhhhhhgggggaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!"

Michigan State 25 Wisconsin 24
The Badgers racked up 281 yards rushing, outgained the Spartans 430 to 312, and held the nation's leading rusher Javon Ringer to just 54 yards on 21 carries...and still lost. Wisconsin back John Clay galloped 32 yards to put his squad up 24-13 with nine minutes left, yet Michigan State would score the next 12 points, including a 44 yard Brett Swenson field goal with 7 seconds left.

Purdue 48 Michigan 42
Remember when I said on Friday I was glad I wouldn't have to watch this game? Well it was one of the many games on at Senser's, and between plays and commercials of the Gophs, this was the one I kept going back to. It seemed like every time I looked up, somebody was either making a big play, or scoring on a big play. So much for the boring defensive slugfest. Michigan's offense was still average at best (just 300 total yards with QB Steve Three throwing completing 9 of 21 passes for 123 yards. I've probably asked this before, but I'm asking again just in case: why on God's green earth would Rich Rodriguez insist on running a spread offense when he doesn't have the personel to do it? He couldn't have transitioned to the spread over a couple of years until he had the recruits to run it? Hey he's the big time football coach. What do I know?), but they kept pace with the Boilermakers suddenly resurgent offense (after watching Brandon Siller I'm glad he didn't have a game under his belt before he played the Gophs. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Curtis Painter won't be getting his job back whenever he's healthy again), tying the score at 42 with just 1:20 left. Purdue then did what the Gophers tried to do, driving for the winning score on a perfectly executed hook and ladder (wait we need a ruling on this: I've heard both "hook & ladder" and "hook and lateral" to describe this play. Anyone? Hang on I'll ask wikipedia...ok it gives both. Thanks wikipedia. Thanks for nothing. Glad we cleared this up) with just 26 seconds left.

Illinois 27 Iowa 24
Like Scony, Illinois led big (24-9) in the fourth quarter, only to see the lead slip away. Unlike the Badgers Illinois rallied late as kicker Matt Eller booted a 46 yarder to win it. Still Juice and the Illini struggled as Juice got picked twice and ran for just 30 yards, the same as the rest of his teammates combined. Iowa wasn't much better as QB Ricky Stanzi struggled (just 11-29 191 yards and 2 picks), but tailback Shonn Greene- aka the Big 10 offensive player of the year thus far- rushed for 103 yards and a TD, giving him at least 100 yards in every Hawkeye game this season.

Central Michigan 37 Indiana 34
The Hoosiers broke the first two rules of Big 10 football. The first rule is you do not lose to the Chippewas at home. The second rule is YOU DO NOT LOSE TO THE CHIPPEWAS AT HOME!!!! I'd have to look it up, but if the third rule was "Don't give up 485 yards passing to the Chippewas" then Indiana broke that one too.

Finally, the craziest ending of the weekend, and probably the season, was Texas Tech's upset of #1 Texas. If you didn't see it, you've gotta see the ending here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Reaction to losing to Northwestern

Ever since the game ended this afternoon I've been thinking about what I was going to write about this. Usually there is an angle, or something you can take away from the game, or a "at least..." statement to be made, even after a loss.

But I can't come up with anything.

The Gophers lost their Homecoming game to a Northwestern team that they should have beaten. It's that simple.

I did not come away from this game feeling like Northwestern was a better team than the Gophers. I thought the Gophers played admirably on defense, but they just could NOT come up with an answer for something called Mike Kafka. That guy, more than the Wildcats, just absolutely killed us today.

220 yards on the ground?!?!?! Are you kidding me?

I said last week both in print and on the podcast that I was concerned about when our offensive line was going to become a liability. Then, yesterday I was at lunch with a co-worker and we were talking about the Gophers (big surprise!). And here is what I said to him:

"The two things that scare the (expletive) out of me about the Gophers is our offensive line and our susceptibility to the deep pass."

Imagine how sick to my stomach I was seeing Kafka throw an opening drive touchdown over our secondary just 7 plays into the game. And then on the Gophers ensuing drive to see Weber with no time to throw and Eskridge with no daylight to run to.

In the wins over Indiana and Purdue, despite the fact that the offense couldn't settle in, at least you felt like the defense had things under control. But this game was different. The offense moved the ball well at times, but by the time the defense settled into their game, the Gophers were already down 10-0.

The thing that makes me the most sick is that I can already hear the naysayers talking about how the Gophers can't beat a good team.

Coach Brewster said after the game that the Gophers didn't do enough in all three facets of the game to win. But I don't buy it. Our defense, despite having one of their most trying days of the season so far, gave up only 17 points.

Mike Dunbar's high-powered, spread coast offense is not getting the job done. But I don't blame Dunbar. The problem, as we've been talking about for weeks, is the offensive line. And the biggest concern is this: the o-line production is not going to improve through scheming or game planning because the greater issue is that they are young, they are inexperienced and they are banged up.

This loss hurts. Not because of how we lost on the interception, but because of the bigger picture. The bigger picture being that we have an exciting season going, that we have an overall good football team, that for the first time in memory we actually have a defense, and that I still believe we are a better football team than Northwestern.

The last three games of the season suddenly have a very different feel.