Monday, November 30, 2009

Gophers Clinch Insight Bowl Bid...By Doing Absolutely Nothing

While it won't become official until Sunday night, the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team secured their third trip in four years to Tempe, Arizona for the Bowl. How did they do it, you ask? Why by doing exactly what you and I did all weekend- sit on the couch, eat way too much food, and watch every team outside of the top six who had any chance of going to a BCS bowl knock themselves out of the race.

There's a reason the old and tired cliche that you should "throw the records out" in a rivalry game is still around: it's because it's true. Six ranked teams lost to unranked rivals last week (and two of the top three teams in the country, Alabama and Texas, got major scares in theirs) as Georiga beat #7 Georgia Tech, West Virginia knocked off #8 Pittsburgh (see? This is why I was skeptical of Dave Wannsted. Because Dave Wannsted will always be Dave Wannsted. He will never win at Pittsburgh- or anywhere else), South Carolina beat #15 Clemson (and killed any Heisman hopes Tigers tailback CJ Spiller had left), Mississippi State took the Egg Bowl from once-again overrated #20 Ole Miss, NC State shocked #23 North Carolina, and in the game that clinched the Insight Bowl for the Gophers, Oklahoma shut out #11 Oklahoma State.

The Okies embarrassing defeat knocked them out of the top 14 in the BCS standings, meaning the Big Ten is now guaranteed (I believe they were already guaranteed a second team regardless of what happened with Oklahoma State, but this cements it) a second BCS bowl team- Iowa or Penn State- which will play in either the Orange or Fiesta Bowl. Rumors persist that if the Fiesta has a choice they would take Iowa, and if the Orange has a choice, they'll take Penn State. Either way, one of those two being assured of going to a BCS game bumps everybody else behind them in the Big Ten up a bowl spot, which means the Gophers will avoid going where they deserve to go, to the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit. Of course, the matchup in Tempe with another Big 12 team should also assure the Gophs of a third straight a**-whooping in that game, and possibly the second time in three trips there that it would cost Minnesota's head coach his job.

Honestly, I hated the idea of going to Detroit for a bowl game, and I assume Brewster did too, but now you have to wonder if Detwah wouldn't have been a better place for this team. No really. Not that the Gophers should expect to beat anybody with the way they've played this month, but would you rather face a MAC team (BamaHawkeye makes a good point in his weekly bowl projections that I linked to earlier that the Little Caesar's bowl actually doesn't get first choice of MAC teams this year), or a Big 12 squad (Texas A&M? Missouri? Iowa State?) with a high-scoring offense that is likely to light up our squad like Texas Tech and Kansas have done before? If Brew's Crew gets blown out and embarrassed for the fourth straight game (personally, I count the SDSU "win" as embarrassing as any loss we had this season. Seriously) by Texas A&M or whomever from the Big 12, it very well could mean the end for him, whereas it's much more plausible the Gophs could have beaten, or at least looked respectible against a MAC team.

I have maintained all season that Brewster deserved a fourth season here regardless of what happened in November, but seeing how this month played out, if/when the Gophers get thrashed down in Tempe, I would not oppose, and would in fact support, AD Joel Maturi if he decides to make a coaching change. Brewster has done little this year to make me believe things are going to get any better next season, especially when you consider the schedule will be just as tough (including a home game against USC) AND the team loses nine starters on defense and three more on offense, including by far his best player in Eric Decker. Short of winning their bowl game and/or landing Seantrel Henderson, I'm finding less and less reason to bring Brewster back for 2010.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

GFB Top 25: Week 13

Not many changes this week, as there were few surprises and few big games from last weekend. Not sure we'll see any major changes next week either. Sure almost everybody who plays has a rivalry game, but they all look pretty one-sided. Pitt-West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl is the one most ripe for an upset, and as my rankings indicate, I still just don't trust Dave Wannsted. If he beats the Mountaineers, who have absolutely owned him, then we can talk about a juicy Cincy/Pitt winner-take-all suedo Big East title game. But not until then.

1 Florida 11-0
2 Alabama 11-0
3 Texas 11-0
4 TCU 11-0
5 Cincinnati 10-0
6 Georgia Tech 10-1
7 Boise State 11-0
8 Oregon 9-2
9 Ohio State 10-2
10 Iowa 10-2
11 Pittsburgh 9-1
12 Virginia Tech 8-3
13 Clemson 8-3
14 LSU 8-3
15 Miami (FL) 8-3
16 USC 7-3
17 Oklahoma State 9-2
18 Penn State 10-2
19 Oregon State 8-3
20 Mississippi 8-3
21 Brigham Young 9-2
22 Utah 9-2
23 California 8-3
24 Houston 9-2
25 North Carolina 8-3

Dropped Out: Stanford 7-4

Nothing really to say about the top 13 as everyone stayed the same or moved up to replace LSU since last week. I dropped the Bayou Bengals to 14 because I love their defense but not so much their offense or Les Miles' playcalling. After that, no big changes other than Ole Miss jumping five spots after beating LSU. If they had gotten halfback Dexter McClendon more involved from the start of the season, the Rebels may have lived up their lofty expectations. As it stands, they should be a team no one is going to want to play in a bowl game.

That's about it. Safe travels for all, enjoy the food, and have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Decker Only Gopher Named All-Big Ten

The Big Ten has announced its All-Conference and Player of the Year selections for 2009 (they don't seem to care that Wisconsin and Illinois still have games left to play. They want to play after the weekend before Thanksgiving, that's their business!!), and Gophers WR Eric Decker, who only appeared in eight games this season, was named to the first team. Decker was looking like an All-American at the midway point of the season, but an injury to the arch in his left foot ended his season in the first quarter of the Ohio State Debacle.

Still, his 50 catches for 758 yards and 5 TD catches (all of which led the conference before he got hurt) were enough to grab the attention and respect of the Big Ten coaches, who named him to their first team. While I feel Decker absolutely deserves this honor, I'm a little surprised I suppose, considering there were other guys who played the whole season who put some pretty good totals.

Other Gophers named first and second team were...ok, actually no one else from the squad made it for either the coaches or the media- even Adam Weber. I know, I know, if only all you Weber Apologists could have explained to the voters how good he really is and how much everything that happened and his awful numbers were not his fault. Not at all. He's such a good guy! He tries so hard! Oh the shame of it all.

The only other offensive player who had a shot of getting on was TE Nick Tow-Arnett, but thanks to our offenses' disappearing act in the last two games, his numbers dropped off, so he was left off. Tough to argue with the choices of Sconnie's Garrett Graham and Iowa's Tony Moeaki anyway.

However, I did think one our linebackers would make 2nd team. Lee Campbell led the Big Ten in solo tackles (65) and was third in solo (112), while Nate Triplett was in the top 10 in solo tackles (52), seventh in total (95), and also intercepted two passes, but both were left off. Iowa's LB AJ Edds made the coaches' 2nd team while Penn State's Josh Hull was selected for the last spot for the media. Edds did have four picks, but only 72 tackles on the season, while Hull led the JoePa's in tackles with 110 and also had 8.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 2 picks. This is what happens when you finish in the three in the conference and have a good defense- the voters reward you even if there's more deserving guys out there.

You also have to wonder how much the media AND coaches really pays attention to every team when Traye Simmons was named honorable-mention. Really? The same Simmons who was burned regularily and was yanked for a true freshman in the Michigan State game? He was an "honorable mention" as a starter by the end of the year (meaning he didn't start!!!), but that's about it.

I actually think the coaches make a pretty strong case about having their votes taken away entirely and to just have the media vote count. For one thing, I hate that the coaches' vote allows ties. Typical. Let's just have everyone tie for the award so no one's feelings are hurt, ok? It'll be like a youth soccer league where every kid gets a trophy to feel like a winner.

But the big reason the coaches should have their voting priviledges taken away entirely was because they failed to name Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones as the Defensive Player of the Year. After all, he only led the conference in tackles (141), tackles per game (11.8), was third in sacks (9), and was eighth in tackles for loss (13.5). Yet not only did that not name the obvious guy- he was one of only two unanimous selections from the media (Wisky RB John Clay was the other)- they went WAY off the board by somehow selecting Penn State defensive linemen Jared Odrick.

If you're thinking "who?" don't worry, you're not alone. Odrick's a nice player, as he was named 2nd team by the media, but he not only wasn't even the best defender on his own team, I'm not even sure he was Penn State's best defensive lineman!! He did lead the team in sacks with six (which was good for only eighth in the Big Ten), but was only fifth in tackles with 40 (his 15 solo ranked 11th), and was only fourth in TFL with 10. Fellow D-lineman Jack Crawford was every bit as good as Odrick as he had more tackles for loss 13.5 and just a half less sacks at 5.5.

He certainly wasn't the conference's best defensive lineman, as at least six other D-linemen had more sacks AND tackles for loss than Odrick, and most had more forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.

So Odrick definitely wasn't the conference's best defender, he definitely wasn't his team's best defender, he definitely wasn't even one of the conference's six best defensive linemen, and might not have even been his own team's best defensive linemen...but the coaches' picked him as their DOP. They must have used the same rationale the Nobel Peace Prize judges used when they picked Barack Obama for their award.

Here then are the selections from the coaches and media for Player of the Year. For full 1st and 2nd teams, click the link at the top of the post.


FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Chris Borland, Wisconsin

As selected by the MEDIA

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Greg Jones, Michigan State
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Chris Borland, Wisconsin

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

It's not my favorite Tom Petty tune (and probably not even in my top 10. Best Tom Petty song of all time? Has to be Mary Jane's Last Dance. One of the best music videos too, with Kim Bassinger. Do they still make music videos?), but that song title seems to fit the mood after another brutal and embarrassing Gopher shutout loss to Iowa.

Last season's 55-0 drubbing was awful because the game was over almost as soon as it started, and having to sit through four quarters of that was maybe the worst thing I've ever had to endure as a sports fan. Well Saturday's 12-0 loss to Iowa was almost worse, because unlike last year, Iowa was vunerable all game long, our defense played their best game all season, and yet the offense could do absolutely nothing. I texted Jermo midway through the third quarter that "if our D doesn't score a TD, it's over." Sure enough it was, the defense did everything but score, and still, the offense did nothing.

And now comes the tough part: waiting more than a month for another game, having to wonder whether we'll ever score again, and just what the heck is going on with this football team. A few things to ponder while we wait...

...Gopher Hockey outscored Gopher football 2-0 on Saturday.

...the Minnesota defense held Iowa to 171 total yards, just 54 yards rushing at 1.5 yards per rush, and 1-13 on third down. And the Gophers still lost by double digits.

...from that defensive group, we return just two starters next year- zero from the front seven.

...Gopher tailbacks Kevin Whaley and Duane Bennett had 15 carries combined. MarQueis Gray had only seven more.

...despite injuries to two starting receivers, Eric Decker and Brandon Green, juco transfer Hayo! Carpenter did not catch a pass and I do not think even got on the field for an offensive play. Either Carpenter said something very, very bad about Tim Brewster's mom, or perhaps it's time to admit that Hayo! is a bust, and there's a reason so many other schools passed on a kid many were calling the best JUCO wide receiver in the nation last year.

...Adam Weber was 14/40 (35%) for 138 yards (a pathetic 3.8 yards per attempt), and yet backup MarQueis Gray was never allowed to play for more than one play in a row. Despite Weber's struggles all season, Gray was never, ever allowed to play one meaingful series as the quarterback. Not once. Only Brewster and Jed Fisch know why, and neither seems to be saying if they actually have a reason.

...Speaking of Fisch, Brewster brought him in because now former offensive co-ordinator Mike Dunbar's offense wasn't getting it done. Through 12 games Fisch's offense is worse statistically in just about every major category than Dunbar's was in 2007 or 2008. I wish I were kidding (also keep in mind the Gophs only played 12 games in 2007).

Points per game
2007: 26.2
2008: 23.2
2009: 21.6

2007: 42
2008: 38
2009: 32

Offensive Yards Per Game
2007: 407.5
2008: 322.9
2009: 295.8

Rushing Yards Per Game
2007: 161.8
2008: 103.8
2009: 97.6

Yards Per Rush
2007: 4.5
2008: 3.1
2009: 2.9

Rushing TD's
2007: 15
2008: 20
2009: 13

Passing Yards Per Game
2007: 245.8
2008: 219.1
2009: 198.2

Completion Percentage
2007: 57.7%
2008: 62.1%
2009: 51.5%

Interceptions Thrown
2007: 19
2008: 8
2009: 15

3rd Down Conversions
2007: 43%
2008: 35%
2009: 35%

Sacks Allowed
2007: 13-88 yards
2008: 30-200 yards
2009: 39-245

...head coach Tim Brewster, with two years remaining on a five year contract, obviously will not be getting a contract extension just yet. While I think he deserves one more season, if we lose in another bowl game, I'm not going to blame people for who wonder if he deserves a fourth season? Consider he is now 0-9 in trophy games, has not beaten a ranked 1-A opponent, and is 6-18 in the Big Ten in three seasons.

...will Iowa or Penn State bail us out of the Little Caesar's Bowl in Detroit by getting into a BCS game?

...If they do, who from the Big 12 North will we play in the Bowl?

...and will it go any better than the 42-20 drubbing we took from Kansas in that game last year? Then again, could it possibly go any worse?

...oh that's right, we haven't scored an offensive touchdown in eight quarters. I suppose it could.

Finally, the waiting serves as a reminder that there are far worse things in life than a football team with no offense...

Former Ohio State All-American linebacker Chris Spielman is a college football anaylst for ESPN, and usually does the Saturday 11am game as part of a three-man booth, which includes long-time analyst Bob Griese. Spielman was not there for the Gopher/Iowa game, and I wondered if he had been assigned to another game. Turns out the reason is infinitely more tragic: his wife Stefanie passed away last weekend after a long battle with breast cancer (she had beaten the horrible disease four times already). Obviously, our thoughts and prayers go out to Chris and the family. You can also donate online or get more information on how breast cancer research at the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research.


On Saturday against Iowa, the Gopher offense ran...
*14 plays inside Iowa's 25 yard line
*10 plays inside Iowa's 20 yard line
*5 plays inside Iowa's 10 yard line*4 plays inside Iowa's 2 yard line
And yet we could not come away with even a point.

Now, there may be plenty of blame to go around here.  One of things that a lot of the offensive struggles have been blamed on all season is the offensive line.  But Adam Weber had more time in the pocket than he's had all year on Saturday.  I'm not saying that the offensive line was great, but they were certainly much better than we have been used to seeing this year.  The problem with our offense was not with the line.

With all of that time, Adam Weber was 14 of 40... a 35% completion rate. Oh, and two lost fumbles and an INT. 

On Saturday I kept feeling like our defense was doing a very good job of keeping us in the game, and if our offense could just get one drive going then we could really have a shot to win this game.  Unfortunately our offense can't do JACK SQUAT.

We also somehow managed to out-gain the Hawkeyes and beat them in time of possession, and yet, not a single point. 

I don't even know what else to say about this team.  We played an incredible defensive game, and we played a very good special teams game.  As a team we did so many things better than we have all season (QB protection, cut down on penalties) and yet we are still plagued by offensive play calling, an unwillingness to use all of the talent at our disposal on offense, and, yes, I'll say it... Adam Weber.

As we look forward to Thanksgiving this week, and all of the delicious goodness that comes along with it, I think we can all be thankful that we get a chance to take a break from Gopher football.  I love this team, I honestly do, but the last 3 weeks have been painfully frustrating.  And I just need a break.

It's not you, Gophers, it's me.

Actually, that's not true.  It's you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Line of the Year

From BuckBravo, one of the authors over at The Daily Gopher, in one of their comment threads about the Minnesota/Iowa game:

"Ever watch the powerball ping pong balls come out while you watch your ticket, all the while knowing you’ll never win, but watching just in case? That’s tomorrow’s game for Gopher fans."

That's funny because it's true. And sad. I hate Iowa. Go Gophers!!!

Big Ten Picks Week 12

Despite there being no matchups of ranked teams, "Rivalry Week" still holds plenty of intrigue. A few questions to ponder for each matchup this week...

#10 Ohio State @ Michigan (11am ABC)
Sure Terrelle Pryor is on a better team but is he in a worse offensive situation than he would have been at Michigan?
As he hands the ball off 52 times and is never allowed to run the option, will Pryor be looking longily at Michigan while they run the option over and over again with a less talented quarterback?
Will Michigan outgain Ohio State and still lose?
If Jim Tressell gets a two score lead at half, will he take a knee for the entire second half so as not to risk a turnover?
Will this be RichRod's last game coaching Michigan?

#16 Wisconsin @ Northwestern (2:30pm Big Ten Network)
Ok this isn't a rivalry, but could Wisconsin choke this one away?
Can Scott Tolzien finally play on the road like he has at home?
Can we really count Ryan Field as a "road environment"? Shouldn't this be considered a neutral field?
Is there a more useless statistic than saying Sconnie has lost in their last two trips to Ryan Field considering those losses came in 2003 and 2005 under a different coach? Proabbly not if they lost again.
If the Badgers win out, will coach Brett Bielma finally be off the hot seat? We know he'll never be likable, but maybe acceptable?
If Northwestern loses, shouldn't all 12 of their fans be happy with this season? Isn't it this about as good as it gets for them? Isn't it sad that people are probably saying the same thing about Minnesota?
Is it even scalable how much better a coach Pat Fitzgerald is than Brewster?

Purdue @ Indiana (2:30pm Big Ten Network)
Is there any reason to watch this game if you're not a fan of either school? I didn't think so.
Are there two programs struggling more but with brighter futures for 2010? No really, are there?
Is it crazy to think that Purdue could be a top five team in the conference next year?
It IS crazy to think Indiana's football program could be better than the basketball team this year.
Should Joey Elliot be second team All-Big Ten? Could he win their offensive player of the year award yet not be named all Big-Ten while teammates Ralph Bolden and Keith Smith will be 2nd teamers?

#14 Penn State @ Michigan State (2:30pm ABC)
Is it bad that I'm rooting against Penn State to win this game because they don't deserve a BCS bowl game but would get it with a win?
Especially considering if that happens, Iowa would get to go to the BCS instead?
How much do you think it haunts MSU that they have three losses (to Central Michigan, Notre Dame, and Iowa) by a combined seven points? How much worse does it make it when they consider they lost to a fourth game to Minnesota while allowing Adam Weber over 400 yards passing?
Did those two questions just make any Michigan State fan drive a pencil into their ear, or try to staple their hand to their desk?
Seriously, how undeserving would Penn State be of going to a BCS bowl with a win? Sorry, did I mention that already?
When picking the All-Big Ten first team, should it matter that Penn State played two good teams all year and lost badly while Daryll Clark crapped the bed in both? It should, right (just checking)?

Minnesota @ #13 Iowa (11am ESPN)
With the way Minnesota and Iowa played last week, wouldn't you think Minnesota lost while Iowa? I guess in a way they both did?
Did you think things couldn't get any more depressing for Gopher fans? If so, I'm betting you didn't see the news today that starting wideout Brandon Green is out with a knee injury.
Will this finally force Tim Brewster to play Hayo Carpenter?
The Strib's Kent Youngblood poses a question a lot of us Gopher fans have been asking: if Tim Brewster's recruiting classes are supposed to be so good, why are so few of those kids actually playing?
Feeling like we can't make fun of Iowa because of how bad our season has been? Well feel free to remind them about the sex-in-the-Metrodome-bathroom story from last year. The Pioneer Press certainly did.
What could Hawkeye fans possibly counter with? Possibly that while their fans were having their way each other in the bathroom, their team was having their way with the Gophers to the tune of 55-0.

(Ok so this isn't Gopher related, but it IS Minnesota football related and I have nowhere else to vent: how stupid is it for the Vikings to give Brad Childress an extension? Last season people wanted Childress fired when they made the playoffs and lost in the first round. Why? Because he never won a playoff game. So why not wait and see if, you know, he can actually win a playoff game before giving him an extension? Were the Wilfs worried about him going somewhere if he didn't get an extension now? Am I the only person who would have personally driven him to the airport to get his overrated bearded a** out of town if he threatened to leave without an extension? I mean, barring disaster, the Vikes will cruise to the NFC North title and probably a first round bye. But what happens if this team loses in their first game again at home? Isn't anything but the NFC Championship game a failure? How can you give Childress a new contract without him first proving he can win in the playoffs? Baffling. Good thing I care more about the Gophers than the Purple, especially with this news coming out today.)

Finally...WHO HATES IOWA?!?!?


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oh By the Way- It's Iowa Week! And the new Podcast is Up

I can't remember a more anti-climatic Iowa game that I've dreaded more. Last year, despite the three game losing streak and the Hawkeyes boasting the country's best tailback in Shonn Greene, I was loving that week with plenty of banter, trash talk, and an awesome five hour tailgating experience...that of course led to 55-0 (don't look on the Gopher athletics website for that box score or game recap- you will not find it!).

Three weeks ago I was as fired up for an Iowa game as I've ever been- we had just put up 42 points and 500 yards of offense on Michigan State while Iowa continued to squeak by opponents. They looked vunerable and we had an offense that could maybe move the ball and scare them. Two weeks ago, I was less enthused about the game because of our poor showing against Illinois, but that was balanced with Iowa losing to Northwestern AND them losing Ricky Stanzi for the regular season. As I gleefully posted, the Hawks managed like three first downs and looked pathetic without Stanzi. As bad as we were against the Illini, it wasn't without reason we could bring back the offense and defense we saw against Michigan State and Iowa would be in trouble without their quarterback.

Well we all know what happened last week. We non-lossed to 1-AA South Dakota State with an offense that couldn't manage a touchdown or 300 yards of offense, and we scored three measily second half points. Meanwhile, Iowa lost just like we thought- except they looked incredibly good doing it, as their freshmen QB looked every bit as good or better than Stanzi had throughout the season, finally losing valiantly in overtime. If coach Kirk Ferentz hadn't gone more conservative than Fox News, Iowa might have pulled off the upset.

And so here we sit- it's Iowa week, we won last week like predicted, and Iowa lost like predicted. So why do I feel so hopeless? Iowa knows it has a BCS bowl berth available if it creams us, and considering how things went last year, I'm expecting the worst. Sure, both teams were VERY lucky to beat 1-AA opponents at home, but the difference is Iowa's happened the first game of the season and have never looked back while ours happened in week 11, and we've never looked worse. I can't even muster up any good trashtalk towards Hawkeye fans as I fear another 55-0 route is possible- and that would just be in one half.

Of course, I felt this way before Michigan State when it looked like our season was going down the tubes. Nobody expected the offensive outburst we saw that night just like nobody's expecting even a touchdown, let alone several, for the maroon and gold. We've got one game left and it's against the hated Hawkeyes, and anything can happen. We've probably been preconditioned to know what WILL happen (and it aint good), but hey still, anything can happen.

That's about all I have to go on right now. Preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.

GFB Top 25: Week 12

All season long I've been against Boise State getting into a BCS game because while they did soundly beat a pretty good Oregon team in the first game of the year, they haven't beaten anyone one else worth a darn since. Well, looks like it's not going to matter what I think, as suddenly Boise has a real shot at playing in a BCS bowl even when TCU gets picked ahead of them as the Non-BCS conference qualifier. Thanks to the upsets of USC and Miami, the PAC 10, ACC, and Big East are now guaranteed to only fill one BCS bowl slot, regardless of who their champion is.

So six slots are automatically filled with the champs of the SEC (Florida or Bama), Big Ten (Ohio State), Big 12 (I realize it's possible that Texas could lose before the national title game, but the odds are about a zillion-to-one. Maybe even a bazillion-to-one), ACC (if Georia Tech doesn't win the ACC, they're not getting in with two losses because they just don't travel well enough), Big East (it's either going to be undefeated Cincy or one-loss Pittsburgh. Not both), and the Pac 10 (Oregon would have to lose a third time to open the door for a wild tie-breaker scenario, and with the way things have gone in that conference, I wouldn't be surprised if it happens. If it does, it still means only one Pac 10 team is going to the BCS because all the best teams would have at least 3 losses). TCU takes the seventh spot, and the Florida/Bama loser takes the eighth, leaving two spots remaining for five teams: Boise, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin (assuming all win out, of course). The Big Ten is absolutely, positively guaranteed a slot as long as at least one of the three aforementioned teams win, as all three travel extremely well. If Oklahoma State wins out (they finish home to Colorado and at Oklahoma), they're likely, but not guaranteed, to get picked up by the Fiesta to replace Texas, as the Big 12 rep in that game, which would probably knock Boise out of contention, because as nice a story as Boise would be, the bowls care first about filling their stadium, and Iowa, Penn State, or Wisconsin all will travel much, much better than the Broncos.

While Boise State will cry foul, I just don't see how they have a case. Iowa's non-conny wasn't great, but at least they played two BCS conference schools in their annual game with Iowa State, and a win over Arizona, which looks pretty good now.

Oklahoma State went after scheduling Georgia and Houston- sure the Georgia win doesn't look like much now, but remember the Dawgs were ranked 13th when they played to open the year.

Boise gets dinged for playing in the weak WAC, and they're having much publicized problems getting any decent teams to play them at home. My response? You're Boise. Why would anyone be crazy enough to play up there after what happened to Oregon? You guys are your own worst enemy- you have one of the best home-field advantages in the country, and none of the Big Boys are forced to play you. Sure it's yellow and hollow, but nobody is going to make the trek to Boise, so you might as well suck it up and keep scheduling tough road games, or neutral site stuff like they're doing with Virginia Tech next year. Oh, and also hope the Mountain West accepts you so your conference strength-of-schedule improves.

The one team they DO have a gripe about is Penn State, who if they were Illinois Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan State, Purdue, or Indiana and had played the Nittany Lion's schedule with the same results would be lucky to be in the top 25, let alone in the top 14 and BCS eligible. Penn State had a disgraceful non-con schedule, and also did not have to play Wisconsin this year, so despite crapping the bed in their only two tough games against Iowa and Ohio State- BOTH AT HOME!!!!!!!!!!!- because Penn State is Penn State they're rewarded because people just assume they're good. And this also sets a horrible precident for the other Big Boys that if you schedule four cupcakes, you're going to get rewarded for you because the coaches poll, which counts for a ridiculous 1/3 of the vote, is going to reward you because you're a big name and they don't care who you've played, just how many games you win. Pathetic.

So as much as don't like Boise going despite playing one good team all year, unlike Penn State at least they beat that one good team. So now I'm hoping Okie State loses somewhere along the way so we can get the Broncos in. But it won't happen this week for sure, as there's only one matchup of top 25 teams as Cal plays Stanford, so don't expect much of change in the BCS rankings from this week to the next.

GFB Top 25
1 Florida 10-0
2 Alabama 10-0
3 Texas 10-0
4 TCU 10-0
5 Cincinnati 10-0
6 Georgia Tech 10-1
7 Boise State 10-0
8 LSU 8-2
9 Oregon 8-2
10 Ohio State 9-2
11 Iowa 9-2
12 Wisconsin 8-2
13 Pittsburgh 9-1
14 Virginia Tech 7-3
15 Clemson 7-3
16 Miami (FL) 7-3
17 Stanford 7-3
18 USC 7-3
19 Oklahoma State 8-2
20 Penn State 9-2
21 Oregon State 7-3
22 Nebraska 7-3
23 Arizona 7-3
24 North Carolina 7-3
25 BYU 8-2

Dropped out: #21 Houston #24 Utah

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Big Ten: Winning with Defense and Boring the Opposition to Death

I began writing and researching this post wondering why the heck the Gophers, as a Big Ten team, can't put a decent offense on the field. What I came away with was the realization the Gophers are far from alone in the Big Ten, as stagnant and conservative offense has been a rule instead of the exception as Big Ten teams continue to rely on their defenses instead of taking a chance and opening it up on offense.

We know you can't fake a great defense- you HAVE to have the athletes and good recruits to have a good defense. It's not a coincidence that top four teams in the current BCS Standings have the top four total defenses in the country. Furthermore, 12 of the top 15 teams in the BCS are ranked in the top 25 in total defense- the only three who don't make the list are #5 Cincinnati (ranked 34th in Total D), #7 Georgia Tech (47th in total D), and #12 Oklahoma State (32nd in Total D). It's why the age old adage that "defense wins championships" remains firmly intact.

It's no different in the Big Ten, as the clear top four teams have four of the best defenses in the country: #10 Ohio State is 5th in total D, #13 Iowa is 11th, #14 Penn State is 9th, and #16 Wisconsin is 19th. But the offenses continue to lag well behind the defense in this conference, which is why despite the fact we'll soon be entering the second decade of the 21st Century, the age old adages of "three yards and a cloud of dust" or blue-collar, smash-mouth, defensive, low-scoring football is as true today as it was 100 years ago. The Big Ten, whether up or down, continues to be an all-defense, no-offense, run-oriented, boring, conservative, and predictable style of football.

Last weekend there was no better example of this than the Ohio State/Iowa clash that decided the Big Ten champion: Ohio State's Jim Tressell and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, two of the best coaches in the conference, took turns trying not to lose the game. Instead of going for the win at the end of regulation, Ferentz took a knee and went to overtime- and lost. Tressell, despite desperate pleas from the fan base, continues to be the most conservative play-caller in the country despite bringing in some of the best offensive talent in the country year after year after year. At Michigan Lloyd Carr, and Bo Schembechler before him, were renowned for much the same thing, as was and is ol' Joe Paterno over in State College, PA, and Barry Alvarez built a Sconnie juggernaut on defense and power-running football.

College offenses have made some gigantic strides in the past few decades, including in major conferences like the Big 12, Pac 10, Big East, and even the SEC (In 2008 Florida was 9th in total offense, in 2007 LSU was ninth and Florida 16th, and in 2006 Florida was 10th and LSU 14th). The SEC lags further behind the other three in offensive progression, but still well ahead of the Big Ten.

My question continues to be WHY? I can understand the schools like Ohio State and Penn State, and even Iowa and Wisconsin, for being resistant to change. After all, as we're seeing at Michigan, doing a complete offensive overhaul to try and "get with the times" is not a smooth transition, and if you've been successful doing things a certain way, the coaches and administrators are going to say why bother?

The counter to that, of course, is the Big Ten's record in bowl games and against other BCS schools in non-conference competition, especially for the conference flag-bearers in Columbus. Sweater Vest Tressell and the Buckeyes have dominated this conference, wrapping up their fifth straight conference title last weekend, yet have been embarrassed in BCS bowl games, as well as in their yearly non-conference loss to USC.

Still, five straight Big Ten titles looks pretty darned good on a resume, so you can see why Tressell continues to stick to his guns- by keeping them in his holster. But what about everybody else? Yes, Michigan's transition to a spread isn't going so well so far with RichRod, but I maintain that if he gets one more season there and another monster recruiting class, he'll turn it around. Penn State has sort of made strides with their "Spread HD" but while it's been productive, it's not exactly lighting the world on fire. Wisconsin and Iowa continue to be conservative as humanly possible, but again, the other teams below them would kill for the results those two schools achieve year in and year out.

So what's the excuse for Minnesota? We tried the conservative run-first philosophy under Glen Mason and the best we ever got was eight wins and the Music City Bowl (or seven wins and the Music City Bowl. Or six wins and the Music City Bowl). Of course, I guess you could argue that at least those teams could move the ball. Coach Tim Brewster seems to be trying the first ever team that doesn't move the ball at all and relies entirely on their defense to do all the scoring. So far, not so good with that one.

But what makes our offensive ineptitude so much more frustrating is it doesn't have to be this way because we're seeing plenty of offense not just from other BCS conferences like the Big 12 and PAC 10, but from non-BCS schools and teams from non-traditional recruiting states who aren't just scoring points, but are winning games.
While it's been proven over and over that you have to have the horses to have a good defense, the opposite is true for a good offense- they can come from anywhere in just about any shape and size.

Each and every year the list of the top 30 offensive teams in the country are littered with non-BCS conference schools or teams from non-traditional recruiting areas, and this year, is no different. Only four teams ranked in the top 15 in the current BCS standings have an offense ranked in the top 25 in the country in total offense: #4 TCU (ranked 7th in total offense), #5 Cincinnati (6th in TOff), #6 Boise State (#18 in TOff), #7 Georgia Tech (3rd in TOff including a ridiculous AVERAGE of 314.1 rushing yards per game. I'm not sure Minnesota had that much rushing in the last month!), and #14 Penn State (19th in TOff).

While this proves that defense is still what truly matters, what happens if you're not one of the national powers with a top 15 defense? What if you're a Minnesota who have a solid but not great defense that CAN'T carry your team to nine or ten wins and a New Year's Day Bowl? The teams in the top 25 in total offense might not be playing for the national championship or their conference title, but they're still having a helluva lot more success than Minnesota with their 112th ranked offense. The only BCS conference schools with winning records with offenses ranked 90th or worse are LSU (107) and North Carolina (113)- both of whom have top 10 defenses. So while we might like the Gophers defense this year, and we know they've had moments of brilliance, they're not anywhere near good enough to carry us like LSU or North Carolina, or Ohio State or Iowa for that matter.

We NEED offensive creativity here and a dynamic offense that puts points on the board, and there's really no excuse for not having one. You can be conservative like the top teams in the Big Ten if you've got a top defense, but when you're the Gophers, well not so much.

If you look at the top offenses in the country you'll see teams from all over running all sorts of different offenses: Georgia Tech, Nevada and Hawaii all have powerful ground games while places like Houston, Cincinnati, Boise State and Texas Tech throw the ball all over the place. What do all of these teams have in common, besides not being traditional BCS powers? They all built these high-scoring offenses without monster recruiting classes and without highly ranked high school QB's. Houston's Case Keenum was a small recruit from Texas, Boise's Kellen Moore was a two-star from Washington state, and Bearcats star Tony Pike was barely recruited as a hometown kid from Cincinnati.

All of these teams had recruiting classes with kids ranked worse than what Brewster and Gophers have brought in, yet are lighting up scoreboards around the country while Minnesota are 88th in scoring offense at 23.55 points per game, and just "non-lossed" a game where their offense couldn't manage a touchdown or even 300 yards of total offense against a 1-AA opponent.

As Jer said in his last post, we have talent here and it's not being used. It's inexcusable, and I agree with him that it has to be coaching. If other schools in tougher recruiting situations than ours can score points, there's no excuse for us not to be able to do the same. The Big Boys of the Big Ten are resistant to change because they can be, but at Minnesota, our coaches should be willing to try the spread, the wishbone, or anything and everything that can pile up yards and points. Defense wins championships sure, but if we're going to win anything here at Minnesota, and ever get to even a New Year's Day bowl, we're going to need a much more aggressive and forward-thinking approach.

You can be conservative and boring when you're Jim Tressell or Kirk Ferentz with a top 15 defense and Big Ten titles on your resume- you can't when you're Tim Brewster. We have talent, now figure out how to use it. Let's hope he and Jed Fisch visit some places and talk to the coaches of some of these high-powered offensive teams because if the kind of offensive performances we've seen here the first three years of the Brewster Era returns for year fourth, Brewster, Fisch and the rest of the staff won't see a fifth.

Beating dead horses

What happened was I was moving on Saturday, and Jeff was graciously helping me,  you see. So we did not get to watch the Gophers thrashing (tongue firmly in cheek)of another Midwestern team represented by a rodent.  And I know what you are saying... "you didn't miss much."

As Jeff and I barreled down Hwy 52 in my truck listening to the game, we got the same feeling.  The sarcasm as we drove was palpable...
"Sounds like Weber is having another great game."
"Derek Domino?  Really?  His parents must have been huge Clapton fans."
"Another field goal!!!  We are absolutely scoring AT WILL on these guys!"
"Good thing we aren't giving Gray any snaps."
"A pick-6 by Weber to Derek Domino?  Really?"
"This is a I-AA school..."
"What the heck is a Jackrabbit anyway?"
"I see no reason that we'll lose to Iowa next week."
"I probably should not have eaten that last taco."

I suspected it after the loss to Illinois, but the, as Jeff so graciously and perfectly said it, non-loss to SDSU confirms it: this is not a good football team.  We just plain are not a good.

There's been talk around the message boards and blogs about how the Gophers are going to need to reload on talent for next year, and based on the fact that we are losing a lot of players to graduation, that is certainly the case.  But what seems to be lost on everybody here is something that I've pointed out on the podcast many times: this version of the Gophers has more talent, top to bottom, than other Gopher teams that I remember... we just don't seem to have a hot clue what to do with it.

So do I think we have a coaching problem... I do.

Look, I think Tim Brewster and his staff are absolutely fantastic recruiters, evidenced by my opinion, as I have stated, that this Gopher team has more talent than other Gopher teams I've watched closely.  But as I've said, the coaching staff just doesn't seem to know how to use that talent... or they just don't trust it.  In either case, it's a sad state of affairs.

I honestly do not understand what has happened to this team.  I talked last week about my confusion over what has happened to this team, and about the results vs. what our expectations were coming into the season.  We've been beating another dead horse around here for months: this could be a better Gopher football team than last year that winds up with a poorer record...

Well, we were right about one thing.  This team is going to end up with a worse record than last year.  But we were wrong about this being a better Gopher football team. Until the PSU game, I still thought we were a better team than last year, but PSU & OSU proved that at best we were the same team as last year.  Illinois and SDSU proved that we are worse.  And what does Michigan State prove?  I will get to that.

And now, for the third dead horse of the day...

This is a team with absolutely no identity.  We do not have the ability to force our will on even a I-AA school.  (And by the way, if you came here looking for me to give some credit to SDSU, forget it.  I'm sure they played a very good game, but the Gophers should beat SDSU 10 out of 10 times and they should beat them soundly all 10 times.)  We can't run the ball with any consistency, and even though we all thought that our passing game should be our strength this season, we can't do that very well either.  Losing Eric Decker was a huge blow, and I get that, but there is enough talent on this team, particularly at WR, to make up for losing Decker... and THAT is what the Michigan State game proves.

And there again is that problem of not knowing how to utilize the talent that this team possesses. 

Consider the dead horses re-beaten.

Monday, November 16, 2009

From SDSU to Iowa and Beyond

I was all set to lay into the Gophers and Tim Brewster for another sub-par performance, but really, what is there left to say? We're now 11 games into the season, and we're still seeing the same problems we've seen all season. We not only haven't gotten better as the season progressed, we've gotten worse. The defense was excellent in the win over SDSU, but I'm not going to separate my shoulder slapping the defensive players and coaches on the back for holding a 1-AA team to 13 points and under 300 yards of offense. As a Big Ten school playing at home that's what you're supposed to do to a 1-AA team.

But the rest of it? It's the same garbage and the same problems we've been harping on all season, and none of it has changed. Special teams stunk again, allowing the long kickoff returns that kept SDSU in the game. Weber was awful but hey we'll keep making excuses for him because it can't be his fault he's quarterbacked the worst offense in the Big Ten, and one of the worst in the country, for 11 weeks. Nope, can't blame the quarterback. Not his fault at all.

Brewster obviously believes this because despite yet another abysmal performance from Weber, MarQueis Gray was allowed to throw one pass (coming in the first quarter), and ran less than 10 plays, none of them in succession. Of all the inexplicable things about this game and this season, how does Gray not get a few series when your defense is stopping the opposition cold and your offense is doing absolutely nothing with a lead against a freaking 1-AA team? What could you possibly have to lose? I could go on and on and on about this, but it's the same argument and the same thing I've been saying for almost the entire season, so you've probably heard more than enough of it- Weber is terrible, and Brewster has completely wasted Gray's freshman season. Completely. At this point, I have zero reason and no hope whatsoever that Gray will be given any chance to compete for a starting job next year that at any other school would be up for grabs. Not here. Weber will be your starter next year where you can expect another bad season with Brewster and some Gopher fans continually making excuses for him as we let another season go down the drain. The only silver lining for that happening would be Weber would be out of eligibility and we'd get a new head coach in here who might recognize a problem when he sees one, and work to correct it.

Of course, Weber was far from the only problem in Saturday's non-loss, as has been the case all season: the receivers were inconsistent, the line stunk, our running backs couldn't gain yards against an undersized 1-AA defense, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, and our 3rd down offense was atrocious converting just 3 of 16chances. Oh, and of course the maddening penalties were back in full force with 7 for 46 yards.

It's the same problems we've had all season, and there's no reason to expect it won't continue against Iowa this weekend. There was hope we'd be able to kick the Hawks while they're down with a backup quarterback and them reeling after back-to-back losses that ruined their dream of a perfect season and a Big Ten title. But after their valiant performance Saturday in Columbus in an overtime loss, Iowa has responded in desparation like a wounded animal fighting for its life, and instead of rolling over and dying, they're going to fight for everything they can get with a good chance of still going to a BCS game if/when they trounce us.

In the last two months, we've had one bright spot in the Michigan State game, and the rest, especially the last two weeks, have about shot any semblance of hope I have remaining for an upset this weekend. Instead of peaking at the end of the season like good, well-coached teams do, we're playing our worst football of the year, and only Tim Brewster can and will be able to put a positive spin on this thing.

And maybe that's for the best: the pressure is completely off for Minnesota, as according BamaHawkeye's weekly bowl projections over on The Rivalry, we're pretty much locked into seventh place in the Big Ten and a trip to Arizona for the Insight.Com Bowl for the third time in four years. That place is becoming a second home to us like the Music City Bowl was in the Mason years, but I'll take it over a trip to Detroit. With USC AND Miami both losing last weekend, the Big Ten is now guaranteed a second BCS bowl birth as long as one of Iowa or Penn State wins- both would be ranked in the top 14 of the BCS, and both have massive, traveling hoardes to fill any BCS bowl stadium.

If both the JoePa's and Hawkeyes win, the second spot will go to Penn State because head-to-head matchups don't matter for selection so Iowa's win over the Nittany Lions will be meaningless, and Penn State not only travels as well as Iowa, but they're a more well-known, nationally recognized program and they have the Joe Paterno Factor. Still, barring major upsets this weekend, one of them WILL fill a second BCS slot which moves everybody else up a notch, and moves the Gophs away from Detroit to Tempe.

So maybe this isn't the worst thing in the world: we can expect the absolute worst against Iowa (since we've seen it first hand in the same game last year) and hope for the best. Barring another 55-0 drubbing to the Hawks and a subsequent beating in the Insight Bowl by one of the dredges of the Big 12, Brewster's going to get a fourth season, and can point to this as some kind of improvement has he's guided the program to back-to-back bowls against a much tougher schedule than Glen Mason ever faced. He'll have an entire offseason with the same coaching staff to fix the many, many, many problems this team has in all three facets, and then we can look to 2010 as a make or break year: either Brewster and Weber lead us to 10 wins and a New Year's Day bowl and we'll happily extend the coach and praise Weber for finally figuring it out, or next season goes much like this season, which means we'd be rid of both coach and quarterback and get a fresh start for 2011. Either way, it'll mean the frustration and disappointment of this season won't be all for nothing. It just feels that way right now.

What A Game!

Well sounds like both Jer and I missed quite a game Saturday. Tim Brewster gets his first win over a ranked opponent as head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers 16-13 over #12 South Dakota State in a hard-fought defensive battle. Sure, I would have liked to see a better offensive performance, but hey, when you can beat the 12th ranked team in the country, you take a win anyway you can get it. Our defense was awesome, and our offense did just enough to get a win. This has to be a huge confidence booster for our team, and I like our chances down in Iowa next week. Sure the Hawkeyes gave Ohio State everything they could handle on the road with a backup quarterback, but with that loss, the Hawks dropped to 13th in the latest BCS Standings. So if we can handle #12 at home and can play that well defensively, I like our chances of beating #13 on the road.

So a big congratulations to Coach Brewster on his first signature win, and hopefully he can get his second- as well as his first trophy game- this weekend in Iowa City. Well done Gophers!!

...hang on, Jer just called...apparently South Dakota State is ranked 12th in 1-AA... Really? Like there's supposed to be 120 1-A teams, and then 11 more 1-AA teams before we get to the Jackrabbits? And we only beat them by a field goal? And our offense didn't score a touchdown? And we couldn't even manage 300 total yards?

Ok so I take back everything I said earlier- we're screwed. And we're going to get KILLED at Iowa this week.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Trying to Pick the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year (and the weekly picks)

I had wanted to get this into its own post sometime this week, but it never happened so we'll throw it in with the weekly picks: who is going to be named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year?

I wondered this after last week's stinker from front-runner QB Daryll Clark of Penn State, the injury to Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi, and Michigan crapping the bed again. Should we even bother naming a most outstanding offensive player? Should we put a great big asterick beside the 2009 winner saying "we named this guy only because we HAD to pick someone"? Or maybe we should rename it the "Common Man" Award (like the Common Man Dan Cole on KFAN, this year's recipient would be the best of the lousiest), as just like 2nd team all-Big Ten QB last year (and this year, for that matter), there hasn't been anybody truly deserving of the offensive POY for 2009. I think I know who'll win (it can only be one of two guys, really, and perhaps a third if he finishes strong), but I can't ever remember such an underwhelming collection of offensive skill position players as we've had to watch this season.

Still, by default SOMEBODY has to win it. Along with the picks, we'll look at the candidate for each team.

Indiana @ #18 Penn State (11am Big Ten Network)
We'll start with Clark, the guy most likely to win because he's a senior QB on a team that will finish in the top three in the conference- and it's all thanks to their crappy, putrid, disgustingly weak schedule. The JoePa's played two ranked teams all year- Iowa and Ohio State- and played them at home, and yet got routed in both. Because the Hawks and Buckeyes don't have great offenses, the scores don't look that lopsided, but anyone who watched Clark and Penn State choke in those two games know they were not that close. And Clark was not that good. So we're going to give the award to a guy who plays well against mediocre to awful opponents, but who pees his pants and chokes when in big games? Good thing Penn State only played two of those.

For Indiana, QB Ben Chappell is second in passing yards per game, but their unquestioned best offensive player has been sophomore wideout/returner Tandon Doss. Doss leads the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (133.1 per game), is second in receiving yards (843), and third in catches (65) and receiving yards per game (84.3) while adding four touchdowns. He won't win it, but with him, Chappell and top rusher Darius Willis all returning next season, things are looking up for a change for the Hoosiers. Not so much for this game, though.

Northwestern @ Illinois (11am ESPN Classic)
While Northwestern have disappointed this year, senior QB Mike Kafka has more than exceeded expectations. A run-first QB in 2008 (or "run only" might be a more accurate description), Kafka has transitioned nicely to pass-first QB who can run if he has to, ranking first in completion percentage (66.2%), fourth in passing yards per game (226.7), and second in total offense (250.3 yds per game). If he plays this well to finish the season, I think he should get 2nd team All-conference (unless Joey Elliot of Purdue continues to play like he did last week).

One thing we can be sure of is that Illinois will not have a single skill position player named All-Big Ten, but it doesn't mean they haven't been an effective group. Their rush offense dropped to fourth despite the win over Minnesota, but their passing game gained steam under redshirt frosh Jacob Charest. Because I have to pick somebody, it'd be sophomore tailback Mike LeShoure, who leads the team with 465 rush yards and an impressive average of 6.1 yards per carry.

Regardless of whether Juice Williams or Charest is at QB, I like the Illini in this game, as they proved last week they can move the ball with either guy.

Michigan @ #20 Wisconsin (11am Big Ten Network- how is this not the ESPN game, by the way?)
After the 4-0 start, freshman QB Tate Forcier was looking to make a run at this award, but as the team plummeted back to earth, so has Forcier. His passing has not improved, and while he's still plenty able with his feet, we haven't seen the fourth quarter magic he displayed in a win over Notre Dame, or the overtime he forced on Michigan State. Still, he would still get the nod for me at this point over senior tailback Brandon Minor, who despite solid numbers (476 yrds 5.3 ypc 8 TD) has had trouble staying healthy.

Wisconsin tailback/bulldozer/dumptruck John Clay is one of only two guys who can take the award from Clark, and frankly Clay deserves it. He's the Big Ten's leading rusher with 973 yards and 11 TD's, and is the only conference back averaging over 100 yards per game (108.1 to be exact). His negatives would be that he still hadn't won the starting job outright when Big Ten play began, and that like Clark, he didn't play well in Sconnie's two losses to Ohio State and Iowa (combined in those losses he had just 134 yards on 3.27 ypc with no TD's. Still, he was better than Clark against those two teams).

Clay will have no problems Saturday against Michigan's porous run D (they allow a conference worse 4.3 ypc to opponents), and neither should the Badgers.

Michigan State @ Purdue (11am ESPN- really?)
While Spartans QB Kirk Cousins leads the conference in pass efficiency, I can't name him Michigan State's best offensive player because it took coach Mark Dantonio SO long to name him the starter and give him all of the snaps. Senior wideout Blair White has been steady all season, and thanks to the injury to Decker and the sucktitude of Illinois' Arrelious Benn, he should be first-team all-conference. The former walk-on is third in catches (58) and yards (836), and is tied for the most receiving TD's with 7.

Tough call to decide who Purdue's best guy has been: is it senior QB Joey Elliott, who leads the conference with 2448 yards and 16 TD passes, but has also thrown 13 picks, is ninth in pass efficiency, and has not completed 60% of his passes (59.3, but still)? Is it junior receiver Keith Smith, who leads the conference in catches (71) and yards (863), and has a respectable 4 TD catches and a 12.2 yard average? Or is it sophomore back Ralph Bolden, who started like a house of fire with 357 yards and four TD's in their first two games, but in the eight games since has not rushed for 100 yards in a game and has only scored 3 TD's? It's a real three-way tossup, but I'd have to give the slight nod to Elliott, only because he's the guy making the whole thing go.

This game is also a tough call, as who knew when the season started this would be a bowl elimination game? Purdue needs to win out to get to six wins, and with MSU sitting at 5, if they don't beat the Boilers it would mean having to beat Penn State next week to get bowl eligible. I'm going to give the slight edge to Purdue here, as their weak run D won't matter as much against MSU's lackluster running game. The game will be won through the air, and I like the Boiler's chances against what continues to be a suspect-at-best Spartans pass defense.

#10 Iowa @ #11 Ohio State (2:30pm ABC)
Iowa's best player, as well as their national title hopes (and probably their BCS bowl hopes too), went down with Ricky Stanzi against Northwestern last week. Stanzi's numbers sure weren't pretty, but his second half comebacks, as well as the nine wins he led the Hawks too, make it easy to name him Iowa's best offensive player.

It's hard to believe QB Terrelle Pryor could be a possible conference player of the year candidate considering the Buckeyes were winning in spite of him and losing because of him for the first seven games. But since the beating of our beloved Gophers three weeks ago, followed by impressive performances against New Mexico State and Penn State, Pryor is right back in the conversation. He's leading his team in rushing and is fifth in the entire conference with 604 yards and third with 7 rushing TD's. His passing has also been much improved, as since the first half of the Minnesota game he's thrown 5 TD's with no interceptions, and is starting to actually resemble a quaterback instead of a running back lining up behind center. For me, he's third behind Clark and Clay, but if he plays well in high-profile games against Iowa and Michigan, he could make the Big Ten media look smart for picking him as preseason MOP.

Of course, as long as Pryor keeps his turnovers to a minimum, it doesn't matter what else he does against Iowa this week, as the Buckeyes should beat the Hawkeyes with ease. Once Stanzi went out last week with 11:46 left in the second quarter, Iowa managed just 132 yards of offense on their last eight drives, which ended like this: INT, fumble, punt, missed FG, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs. This was AT HOME against a middle-of-the-pack Northwestern defense. Saturday Iowa has to play at Ohio State against the top defense in the conference. The question isn't whether Iowa can win, it's not even whether they can score, it's whether Ohio State will score more points than Iowa gains first downs.

South Dakota State @ Minnesota (11am Big Ten Network)
Despite the fact he hasn't played in almost three full games, and that he won't play again the rest of the season, senior wide receiver Eric Decker is still the Gophers' offensive player of the year by a mile. It's really not even close, actually. But what's amazing is that even though Decker only really played in seven full games this season (he's officially listed with eight, but he went out in the first quarter of the Ohio State debacle) he could still easily be second team all-conference, and you could even make a case for him for first team. Seriously. Despite everybody else's best receiver playing two or three more games than Decker already, he STILL ranks fourth in the Big Ten in catches (50), yards (758), and TD's (5). While this probably just reinforces what an underwhelming group of receivers we have in the Big Ten this year, it also shows just how ridiculously good Decker was when healthy. After the Michigan State game I didn't think we'd miss him that much, but the Illinois game reinforced just how much he meant to this team in 2009.

It's too bad he'll never wear the Maroon & Gold again, but let's just hope we won't be missing him too much against SDSU. I know SDSU is a good 1-AA team, but they're still just a 1-AA team. Minnesota cannot and should not lose this game under any circumstances. You can crank up the "Fire Brewster" chants if they do.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Solving the Student Section Problem

What should we do with the student section? That's been a major topic of discussion amongst Gopher fans this week after more than half of the student section no-showed for the Illinois game. Yup, just seven home games into the TFC Bank Stadium Era, and we're already having trouble getting students to show up for games. Actually, it's been a problem all year, as really other than the opener for Air Force, and the next one against Cal, there's been empty seats in the upper deck end zone where students should be sitting all season (including for the Wisconsin game How is that possible??!).

What's the problem? Why can't we get U kids to get drunk and show up for three-four hours on a Saturday? Especially last Saturday, where it was a PERFECT November day, and showcased the Gophs coming off a monster win against Michigan State playing for bowl eligibility and more?!?! Apparently they had better things to do at 11am on a Saturday morning, like sleep, drink some more and avoid homework because according to those who were there, there was probably 60% empty seats in the upper deck.

For someone like me who wanted season tickets and would have gladly paid $50 a seat, but couldn't get them because all seats were "sold out" this year, it's frustrating that 10,000 students can't be bothered to show up for games they paid $10 for.

The Strib's Kent Youngblood ran a story Tuesday asking Where Have All the Student Fans Gone? which included comments from disappointed and troubled AD Joel Maturi (disappointed and troubled about the lack of students- not about his job over anything). The story drew 234 comments on the Strib site, including a follow-up blog post from Youngblood yesterday with some possible reasons he had gotten. They include:

-A ton of people said it was because of the early game starts. Well, I have news for you: Thanks to TV, those early starts are here to stay for the near future. It was noted by several folks that students arriving late for early games is not exactly unusual, even in places like Wisconsin. Somebody sent me a link to a story lamenting the same situation at Penn State!

-A couple people noted that they thought a number of fans used their kids' student status to purchase tickets, then found they couldn't enter games without a student ID. One person said they know of at least two dozen parents who were in that situation.

-One person mentioned that, it being the first truly nice weekend of the fall, some students from rural backgrounds might have gone home to help their families with field work.

I've also heard that because everybody in the lower bowl student section stands for the whole game, they cram more kids in there than there are seats, leaving empties up above.

All of these are plausible reasons, but to me still don't excuse the absence of so many students for a Big Ten conference game. Don't get me wrong, the students that do show up and always fill the lower bowl are awesome. They stand the whole game, are loud the whole game, and definintely add to the atmosphere- but having so many empty seats in the upper deck is inexcusable, and it's something that needs to be fixed for next season.

Thankfully, I have the answers, and I'm happy to share with with you, and anyone else will listen. And Joel Maturi, if anyone has a direct line to him. To the points made, and others that weren't but should have been:

Early start times
As Youngblood says, this is not going away, especially with the Big Ten's assanine rule that you can't have night games in November. Freaking ridiculous. That means here at Minnesota, and at half the other schools in the Big Ten, we're guaranteed 11am home games in the month of November because we're not going to be good enough to play in the one prime 2:30pm ABC timeslot, so every Saturday in November, nine of the eleven Big Teams will have to play at 11am central. Dumb.

While I think students who pay for tickets should actually follow through and use them, regardless of start time, this does make it more difficult for them- and for everyone else. I know Jer's uncle and aunt, season ticket holders since 1982, are considering giving up their tailgating spot next year and just parking in the Oak Street ramp, because with so many 11am games, it's difficult for them to get up here from Rochester and tailgate at all before such an early kickoff. The 11am game I tailgated for was Purdue, and even to meet someone in the St Paul lot to tailgate we had to be up at 7am, and when it's freezing a** cold so freaking early, I can see why more people just skip it altogether.

Part of the college football atmosphere is tailgating before the game, and 11am kickoffs, especially in November, discourage that- not just for the students, but for everybody. I would love to know the reasoning behind the Big Ten's archaic rule, and I have to think that if the big boys like Penn State are also having issues with the early start time (although keep in mind for them, and anybody east of Illinois, that their early start time is noon), that hopefully they can get it changed. If they're worried about the weather being too cold, that just seems ridiculous considering all of the advancements in technology for player gear and sideline stuff, and the fact fans can just layer up and booze up to stay warm like they've been doing at college games for over 100 years. It's also just as cold if you want to tailgate at 8am as it is to sit in a stadium at 8pm. This rule needs to be abolished ASAP.

You Can Only Use a Student Ticket With a Student ID
To me, this is the most easily solvable problem of all the ones raised, and could do the most good towards helping to fill the empty seats and unused tickets. They were not this militant at the Metrodome, and everyone seemed to be just fine, so they should nix this rule starting next year. I used student tickets a number of times (actually for about the first three or four years I went to games) without ever being a student at The U, and it was great fun, and the sections were full. Somebody explain to me why this rule shouldn't be repealed, and we go back to the way it used to be.

Drunk College Kids
This was not addressed by Youngblood in his blog post (at least not in so many words), but it's obviously an issue. Apparently, not only are the people at the gates militant with students about having ID's, but I guess they're turning away any student who even appears to be drunk. Well there goes your student section. Look, I'm not about to condone underage drinking (or maybe I am), but you have to be in heavy denial, or just an idiot, to believe it doesn't happen on every single college campus in America (well maybe not the Mormon schools, or Bob Jones University, but let's say 99.5% of them). Partying and making bad decisions is part of being a normal college kid (although hopefully your bad decisions don't allegedly involve shoplifting and pushing down security guards at the MOA, picking fights with undergrads, or swinging a 2X4 at a frat party), and getting a little lubed up before a game and then going in and yelling and screaming your head off for 3+ hours is also part of a normal college experience. I know drinking underage is illegal, but if you're going to turn away every student who appears drunk you're not only going to have a very small student section, but you're also going to have a very BORING student section.

If the kids are falling down drunk and puking on themselves, then yeah, they're not getting in. But if they're walking, talking, and yelling "WHO HATES IOWA?!?" and acting like, oh I don't know, 99% of college kids do, then let them in.

Nice Weather
This one is bubkis. What's the U's undergrad population? Almost 50,000 right? You're telling me even if kids who paid for student tickets that couldn't use them, or decided not to, couldn't find a buddy to take them to fill 10,000 seats? Seems a little ridiculous. Actually, it seems a lot ridiculous. Kids in California, Florida and generally everybody south of the Mason Dixon line have nice weather throughout football season, and yet they still go to games. Heck, 60 degrees and sunny in November should be MORE of a reason to go to the game, not less!

People Who Bought Tickets to Scalp Them
This is a problem in all sections obviously, as if you peruse Craiglist or Stubhub there are plenty of tickets available, and not just in the student section. As Jer and I have had to go this route for tickets, I've noticed more than a few postings that do not have Minnesota area codes, leading me to believe some folks decided to buy some up in a brand new stadium, hoping to make a buck. And it obviously hasn't happened. There had to be students who also had no plans to ever go to a game but were hoping to cash in on scalping cheap tickets in the first year of the new stadium, but because of the "Student ID with Student Ticket" rule, as well as with the demand, that hasn't happened either. Which leads us to...

The Performance of the Team on the Field
This is definitely a contributing factor. Call people fair weather if you want for not following a 5-5 team in a brand new stadium, but I honestly cannot and will not blame the good people of Minnesota for not rallying behind this team yet. Why would they? For those of us hardcore fans who are going to go to every game or watch every game and devote far too much time and effort to thinking, writing and talking about this team, we're going to be invested whether they're 10-0 right now or 0-10. Doesn't matter. You've got us no matter what.

But for the casual sports fan, or Minnesota student, it's not that simple. Fall is the best time of year in Minnesota and there's a TON of things to do here. Tons. It's a major city that is close to some of the most beautiful wilderness and outdoors areas in the country, and it's no surprise you have so many outdoors lovers here. Sportswise, the fall is the busiest time of the sporting season: between September and November you have all three professional sports teams in play (four if you count the Timberwolves), plus add in an insanely popular college hockey team AND a college basketball program ran by one of the best coaches' in the country, and it shouldn't be a surprise that we're having trouble selling out games, and even getting the students who paid for tickets to show up.

As one of only two Big Ten schools in a major city (Northwestern the other- and no I don't count Ann Arbor being so close to Detroit), there is an incredible amount of competition on Saturdays for your attention and money, and with so much going on, the casual fan, or non-hard core Gopher football fan, need a reason to tune in and buy in.

And as much as I'm on board with Tim Brewster for another season and believe he has us going in the right direction, there so far has not been much for casual fans to be excited about. Since the 70's, this program has been mediocre at best, and everytime there's been a reason to get excited (like under Lou Holtz, Glen Mason, and now Brewster), they never follow through. We're still waiting for that Big Ten title and trip to Pasadena, or even a freaking New Year's Day bowl!!!! Until this team wins a Rose Bowl, or at least puts together a couple of 10 win seasons and starts going to New Year's Day bowls, we're not going to get the casual fan. We're just not. And as much as it hurts to say it, we're not going to get the casual student either. Because this is not a college town, and therefore is the only sports show in town, they're not going to be obligated to show up. This is not a tradition and a rite of passage like it is at many other Big Ten schools, or at every school in the South. Brewster, like Mason and every coach before him, is trying to build a winner and SUSTAIN a winner so that we can have that tradition and following here.

So what to do until we get to Pasadena? Three easy solutions (besides getting the Big Ten to repeal their rule about November night games, since that's out of The U's control:

1) Take two upper deck sections away from the students and give them to the general public. This assures more people who want tickets can buy them, and it still leaves between 7,000-8,000 student tickets, which judging from the number of no-shows this season should be about right.

2) Oversell the student section. Students who are packing the lower deck and standing the whole game should continue to do so, but that means if you're selling the same number of tickets as seats in the SS, you're going to have empty seats in the upper deck. Somebody figure out roughly how many extra students are cramming into the lower bowl (5 extra per row? 10? more) and then sell roughly that many extra student tickets. Heck, I'd even just remove row and seat numbers from student tickets (if they're currently printed on there), and just make it general seating on a first come, first served basis.

3) Repeal the "Student ID with all Student Tickets." Again, if there's a logical explanation for this, I'm all ears, but it was fine the way it was before in the Metrodome, and would go a long way towards solving the problem of students who got tickets and don't want to use them can get rid of them.

See? Problem solved in three easy steps. Step four, of course, would be to get a better more consistent product on the field, which hopefully starts this week against the Jackrabbits. Too bad Maturi doesn't read this blog, but I'm guessing he's smart enough to have figured this out already.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oh Yeah, and the Podcast is Back!

Got it done earlier than usual this week due to schedules, but hey better earlier than never, like last week. Topics include Weber vs. Gray, the one-hit wonder Michigan State game, falling right back into old ways against Illinois, laughing at Michigan and Notre Dame, and finally how nervous should we be about the Jackrabbits? All that and more for your listening pleasure. You're welcome.

GFB Top 25: Week 11

I'm finally getting to this later in the week than usual, but with the Weber argument plus us getting a podcast up earlier than normal, well the Top 25 goes up today. I know, you were getting impatient.

After the weekend, it's become very obvious that it's the top 3 and everybody else. If you gamble on NCAA football (just for fun of course), good luck to you, as I'm not sure how you can figure anybody out past the top 3 and then TCU, Boise and Cincinnati (all of whom should win out).

Before we get to our Top 25, here's the BCS rankings and the Sagarin Rankings.

GFB Top 25 Week 11

1. Alabama (9-0)
2. Florida (9-0)
3. Texas (9-0)
4. Cincinnati (9-0)
5. TCU (9-0)
6. Georgia Tech (9-1)
7. Boise State (9-0)
8. Iowa (9-1)
9. LSU (7-2)
10. Oregon (7-2)
11. USC (7-2)
12. Ohio State (8-2)
13. Miami (7-2)
14. Wisconsin (7-2)
15. Arizona (6-2)
16. Virginia Tech (6-3)
17. Pittsburgh (8-1)
18. Clemson (6-3)
19. Oregon State (6-3)
20. Stanford (6-3)
21. Houston (8-1)
22. Penn State (8-2)
23. Oklahoma State (7-2)
24. Utah (8-1)
25. BYU (7-2)

Dropped Out: 16. California (6-3) 18. Oklahoma (4-4) 22. Notre Dame (6-3)

TIER I: 1-3
I still like them in this order, as all have great defenses, but I feel Bama is the most complete team of the three (offensively they can run on anybody and Julio Jones is a difference maker that gives them a passing threat- even if I'm not sold on QB Greg McElroy). Florida's struggles throwing the ball, as well as their suddenly susceptible pass defense, make me wonder if they shouldn't be third here, but I'm not ready to doubt Urban Meyer in big games until he gives me a reason to. Texas has been third best or worst of this group for most of the season, but have really come on the past few weeks. Their D might be the best of the three, and Colt McCoy is regaining form. Having 34 year old Jordan Shipley at wideout (ok, he's not that old but he IS a 6th year senior. Seriously. He's six or seven years older than some of the kids he's playing against, so I would hope he's having the monster season he is) helps too, but we'll see if Texas can run the ball on a real defense (we probably won't find out until the Big 12 title game IF Nebraska is in it). At gun point I'd pick an Alabama/Texas BCS title game with the Tide winning, but any of these three could win it. And barring absolute disaster, we'll see Texas against one of the other two for the title.

TIER II: National Title Hopefuls with No Hope of a National Title (4-8)
Assuming TCU takes care of business against Utah and Cincy finishes up strong against Pitt and WVU, I see these two teams plus Boise winning out. On a neutral field it'd be tough to not take TCU, but I'm not sure I'd want to doubt Brian Kelly and that Cincy offense with a month to prepare for a game, especially considering they had to replace their starting quarterback and haven't missed a beat. Georgia Tech belongs above Boise because I think they're better than the Broncos and have played a much, much tougher schedule. Still, the Broncos moved up for me yet again as I gain more respect for coach Chris Petersen and the program he has there. But with that schedule...sorry, coach, barring anybody in this tier losing, this is as high as you'll go.

Without Ricky Stanzi I'm not sure Iowa even belongs in the top 20, let alone the top 10. Once they get blown out by Ohio State this weekend, they'll drop accordingly.

TIER III: The first group of Two's (9-12)
LSU sits atop this group because while they haven't played a great schedule, their only two losses were close L's to two of the top three teams in the country. Anybody else in the country not named not named Texas would have suffered the same fate had they had to play Florida and Alabama. And I think they're as good or better than the other three in this group.

Oregon is ahead of USC because of their thrashing of the Trojans who are ahead of Ohio State because of their road victory over the Buckeyes. I think all three teams are pretty even, and would love to see an Ohio State/Oregon Rose Bowl so we can get a definitive answer who is the best of the three. And I think we'll get it.

TIER IV: (13-20)
Honestly, just flip a coin or play rock-paper-scissors with to determine the best of this next group. I can't figure them out, but I only know they don't belong in TIER III, but would beat anybody in TIER V and below. Miami isn't peaking at the right time but are still tough, and Wisconsin just keeps truckin' along on the road to 10 wins. The Badgers are not in the same league with the teams above them (as evidenced by losses to Ohio State- when they still had no offense, and Iowa who- well yeah ok they had no offense either). Still, they could beat anybody outside of the top 12.

Va Tech might be the best of this group, but that weird loss to North Carolina, plus just squeaking by ECU last Thursday, makes me wonder. If only Frank Beamer could get an offense to rival his special teams and defense. Pittsburgh could be good, but they just haven't played anybody yet (and they lost to NC State? Yikes!) That changes in a HUGE way, as they close the season with Notre Dame (in primetime no less), West Virginia and Cincinnati. Win two of those three and they'll move up accordingly, but I have my doubts considering Dave Wannstedt is still coaching there.

Clemson, Oregon State and Stanford are all fiesty three loss teams with some good wins and quality losses on their resumes (well except for Clemson and Stanford each have a bad one to an ACC foe-the Tigers lost to Maryland and The Tree to Wake Forest) but they all seem to peaking at just the right time. Good enough for me.

TIER V: The Best of the Lousy, The Lousiest of the Best (21-25)
These next five go here because they haven't beaten anyone of substance- even BYU (Oklahoma has been decimated by injuries- really to a ridiculous level at this point- but that win no longer looks so great). Honestly, tell me one good team who any of these five have beaten?Anyone? Anyone at all?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Why Adam Weber Should Not Be the Starting Quarterback by Default

I love The Daily Gopher blog. Love it. Read it everyday, and link to it often. The guys on there are very intelligent, write well, are as passionate about the Gophers as any fans you will ever meet, and they have probably forgotten more about Gopher sports than I'll ever know. This is especially true about one of their founders, and head writer, Gopher Nation. GN is a quality human being, loves the Gophers, and only wants to see the football program succeed. But a post he wrote today over on TDG about Adam Weber makes me so incredibly frustrated, I can hardly stand it. In fact, I'm going to write a point/counterpoint style post about it because I just cannot believe someone as smart and passionate as him believes what he wrote about Adam Weber. I just can't.

Considering that I've been banging the "Let's give MarQueis Gray a REAL chance" drum since the Purdue game (and have been pointing out Weber's inaccuracies since the Syracuse game), I'm not an impartial judge in all of this. I have a man crush on MarQueis Gray. I believe MarQueis should be given a real opportunity to win the starting job. Like now. Yet apparently I'm somehow in the minority in this thinking, as after yet another stinker from Weber and the offense, after nine freaking games this season, it is absolutely maddening that we still have Gopher fans, and someone as intelligent as GN, who believes we should stick with Weber and that he's the best option.

First, if you haven't already, go read his post. You should read it. No really, you should. I'll wait here. Check it out, it's a good read. When you're done come back, and I'll tell you why he's wrong.
Please keep in mind this is NOT a personal attack on GN. Not at all. This IS an attack against the argument from him and anyone else who makes it that after nine weeks of craptitude, Adam Weber should continue to be our starting quarterback this year. And next. Again, to be clear- NOT a personal attack on GN. But I do strongly disagree with his blog post. Both of us love the Gophers and want nothing more than to see this team play in a Rose Bowl someday- and hopefully someday soon. But we disagree who should be the quarterback of this team this year and next. Here are his arguments according to his post, and why I disagree with all of them (well almost all of them):

Adam Weber is Not the Only Problem

This is the one point we can absolutely, positively agree upon. I've said it before and will continue to say Adam Weber is NOT the only problem with the offense. Obviously. Far from it. Our offensive line has been an issue all season, and by "an issue" I mean they've been a freaking train wreck. They've played a major part in the Gophers having the worst rushing offense in the conference, being the most penalized team in the Big Ten, and giving up a league high 30 sacks for 189 yards. Our running backs are an ok group that are only as good as the line in front of them, and thus far have shown a complete inability to make something out of nothing. Our receivers sans Eric Decker have at times had trouble catching the ball (ok, ok that's probably a wee bit of an understatement). There were drops in the Ohio State game, the Michigan State game, and yes, definitely in the Illinois loss. Finally play-calling has been, well... baffling is about the best I can describe it. There's no consistency in what the offense tries to do and what it tries to be, not only game to game, but quarter to quarter and series to series! Last game, for instance, we were actually moving the ball on the ground, as our three running backs combined were averaging 4.5 yards per carry, yet they only got the ball 21 times, compared to 31 passes and another seven sacks of Weber (so 38 drop-backs). There's been puzzling calls all season long, which also has to fall on Brewster because it was his decision to bring in Wonderboy Jed Fisch, who had never called plays and never even been a co-ordinator. He could be a great offensive mind someday, but he's got a ways to go to just be adequate.

Adam Weber Has Played Very Well At Times

Correct. He's had some very solid stretches. He play well in parts against Illinois, Cal, Air Force, and Northwestern, and put together his only complete game in the win over Michigan State. But that's the problem- he cannot seem to put a full game together. Did the drops hurt him in the games against Ohio State and Illinois? Yes, but he still struggled by missing open receivers in both of those halves (and in the entire Ohio State game), as well as in every game I've watched. When he's on, he's on, and he has had stretches where he plays well, but it's troubling that other than the Michigan State game, it takes him at least a quarter (or sometimes two, or three, or not at all) to get going. That he cannot seem to put together a complete, consistently played game as a third year starter is troubling to say the least.

"Consistency is the issue here, not lack of any ability"

Wrong. We've established his inconsistency is an issue, but while he's not devoid of ability, he's certainly not full of talent and ability either. This is not a Peyton Manning or Drew Brees who is struggling here. Heck, he's not even a Daryll Clark, Ricky Stanzi or Terrelle Pryor who's struggling here. His track record of success is checkered at best. He's never been very accurate (last season was the only one of his three where he had a completion percentage above 60, and as I laid out back in week 2, he piled up numbers in the first half of the season against crappy teams- with the exception being Ohio State. His last six games of 2008 when the Gophers finished 1-5, including the bowl loss to Kansas, Weber was awful. Just awful), and he still struggles to throw timing routes. Always has, and if he can't throw them in his third year starting, it's pretty safe to say he never will. All season we've watched him throw behind, below or over receivers on slants, outs, comebacks and the rest that involve timing. He seems to read the field pretty well when he has time, and has been good (when he has time) at finding guys in the seam (this has been Nick Tow-Arnett's bread and butter this year). He also throws a pretty good deep ball, as evidenced by all the big plays in the Illinois game. Which leads to this point...

Throwing A Good Deep Ball Consistently is Not Easy

Correct again. It is NOT easy to throw a ball 25 yards or further down field on the money every time. In fact, as GN points out, it's impossible, as everybody, from the best in the NFL to any QB in college, miss open throws down field from time to time. It definitely happens. But why that doesn't hurt other QB's as much as Weber is because competent QB's can complete the short stuff. They can complete timing routes for easier completions more consistently, which means they're not as dependent on the deep ball.

For Weber, who struggles throwing the short stuff on time and in stride it IS a problem simply because no matter how well you throw a deep ball (and Weber throws it pretty well), it's a much lower probability play. The Gopher's problem with Weber at quarterback is that they are forced to live and die by the big play, so when it's working, like it was against Michigan State, it's an awesome and really fun thing to watch. When it's not, like against Illinois, well not so much. GN uses the example of Tom Brady (the third best QB on planet earth right now) missing a wide open Randy Moss (where would you rank Moss right now? 1st? 3rd? 5th? Personally, at this stage of their careers, the only three guys I'd rather have than Moss are Larry Fitzgerald and the Johnsons- Calvin and Andre) on a deep flag route, and how even the best miss. Too true. But the best are the best because they can not only throw to guys like Moss, but also because they can make all the other throws and aren't so reliant on the big play like Weber is. Decker masked a lot of Weber's problems simply because he could catch just about anything within 15 yards of him. But when he throws to anyone not named Decker, his issues surface.

But it's this point that drives me absolutely crazy...and I quote...

"Adam Weber is just plain not going to get benched and it doesn't matter who the coach is, he just wouldn't."

Wow. I'm going to try and do my best to argue this without going ALL CAPS because really, this is the main point of my argument and why I'm so frustrated with Brewster and the whole quarterback situation. Why? Why is Adam Weber immune to being benched? Is it because he's led us to so many Big Ten titles? Eight win seasons? Bowl wins? No? So why then?

I'm not asking for Weber to be booted from the team, I simply want MarQueis Gray to get a chance. A real, honest to goodness opportunity to see what the kid can do. And do not for one second respond that "he's had plenty of plays all season and what has he done with it?" Gray gets thrown in sporadicly with no opportunity to run a real offense and get a feel and rhythm for the game. Wonderboy Jed is asking him to go in for one play, hand the ball off or keep it, and come right back out. He might then sit out for a play, maybe for a series, or maybe for the game. Gray never knows and Fisch never seems to know either. The quarterback position, as GN points out numerous times, is very difficult to play. It's the hardest on the field. Because of this, you cannot drop a kid in there ever once in a blue moon so he can run one play and then he's yanked. Quarterbacks need to get consistent playing time for at least a series to get comfortable with the game, and get a feel and rhythm. You can drop in running backs or receivers in for a special play and get a decent gauge of whether they're ready to play or not. But you cannot do that for quarterbacks, and to judge Gray on such a disjointed and convaluted resume of sporadic plays is wholly unfair.

After the Ohio State debacle Brewster promised us Weber and Gray would rotate series. It never happened. I was fine with leaving Weber in the Michigan State game as he gained confidence, but last week? With Weber struggling so incredibly much we couldn't have put Gray in and let him run the offense for a full series? Why is Brewster so hesitant to play the kid? The Penn State game was over in the third quarter, yet Gray never saw the field. The Ohio State game was over to start the fourth, yet it wasn't until Weber threw not one, but two picks, that Brewster finally yanked him for Gray.

I'm not ready to say MarQueis is the answer because nobody, not me, not you, not Brewter, not Fisch, NOBODY knows for certain because HE HASN'T BEEN GIVEN THE CHANCE TO PROVE IT. Give the kid a few series against SDSU and see what happens. If he stinks I promise you won't hear another peep out of me about Weber the rest of the season. I promise.
Which lead us, finally, to this...

"Regardless of what the most knowledgeable fan in Gopher Nation believes or wants to believe he will start the two or three remaining games. And brace yourself for this...barring injury, he'll likely start every game next year."

Again, why? Even if Gray ever gets an actual opportunity to prove himself against SDSU or Iowa and he sucks, why should Weber automatically be named the starter next year too? Because he's started three years and he DESERVES a fourth? As Clint Eastwood said in Unforgiven (or as Snoop said to Michael in the best TV show ever The Wire) "Deserve ain't got nothing to do with it."

If GN truly believes what he wrote, that "Brewster is going to play the QB that best gives him a chance to win" then Gray deserves every opportunity to win the starting job in the spring and summer. If Gray proves he's not up to the task, then fine, but he should get a freaking chance!! Weber's been a stop-gap at the position for the last two seasons because he proved the most competent of an incompetent group of quarterbacks to help Tim Brewster turn this program around. But he does not DESERVE to start for that because we haven't really won anything with him, and he's been as much to blame, or more, than anyone else who's been a part of this program for the past three seasons.

Who cares if he's about to break all of the all-time passing records at Minnesota? He's started for THREE FREAKING SEASONS!!! How can he NOT break records if he gets that many years to start, especially when you consider that since 2003 there's an extra regular season game per year AND bowl stats now count as regular season stats (they did not before then) so he has an extra two games a season compared to anyone else who've played before him. And the guys who have played in this decade, Brian Cupito and Asad Abdul-Khaliq, both quarterbacked run-first offenses under Glen Mason.

And not to offend anyone who is a Gopher fan, but being the all-time leading passer at Minnesota isn't really saying much. The program stunk for much of the 70's, 80's and 90's, and when Mason got it turned around, he did it with the running game (that and really, really REALLY weak scheduling). Darrell Thompson has something to brag about as the all-time leading rusher, as the guys on that rushing list were great college players, most of whom went on to get drafted in the pros. But the all-time leading passer? The last Gopher QB to get drafted was Corey Sauter in 1995, and before that I have no idea (I do know Rickey Foggie played in the CFL). What I do know is that the one thing Weber will have in common with all three of the guys he will pass on the Gopher history list this season- Cupito, Sauter, and Abdul-Khaliq- is they all had more career INT's than TD's.

This is not meant as a cheap shot at Gopher football history, it's just that I don't think saying he's statistically the best passer in Gopher history should be used as an argument for why he should continue playing.

Gopher Nation's biggest frustration seems to be this :

"I can see that Weber has struggled this year and he is an obvious part of the offensive struggles. But I get irritated that people are not seeing or recognizing that he isn't the ONLY problem and when he does well or when he is the catalyst for the offense turning things around he gets very little credit."

I agree with him and I'm one of the culprits who probably don't give him enough credit when does well (although I DID eat some tasty Adam Weber Crow last week), and I appreciate all that Weber has done, but being a starting quaterback is not a lifetime achievement award. It should be based on who gives you the best chance to win, and thus far MarQueis Gray hasn't been given the chance. Weber is definitely not the only problem with the offense, but when Brewster blindly throws him out there again and again without giving a capable and talented backup a chance, it only magnifies the problems Weber does have.