Heading into the 2010 season Tim Brewter's seat as Gophers head coach is almost as hot as the brake pads on that runaway Prius in California. While we all know he has to "win" this season and be "successful" to keep his job, but what exactly does that mean? Are there benchmarks he needs to hit?A win total or bowl game he needs to get to? A certain number of player arrests(more wins than police incidents would sure be swell)?
Only Joel Maturi seems to know for sure what's expected of Brewster, but still, if we can't take educated (or wild, uneducated) guesses, what good is the interweb Al Gore worked so hard to invent? Exactly. So let's take a guess at just what it's going to take for Tim Brewster to be leading Gopher Nation into 2011...
HOW MANY WINS?
As we found out last year, all wins are not created equal. While a win over Northwestern or Ohio State counts the same in the standings, the magnitude of what they would mean are substantially different. So the quality of wins Brewster gets might mean as much as the total. Personally, I do not believe another 6-6 season and a trip to a crappy bowl gets it done, even if the six wins include beating USC, Ohio State, Iowa, and/or Wisconsin. 6-6 last year didn't impress most Gopher fans, althought I do wonder if the perception would have been a little different if we'd lost some of those games 45-42 instead of 12-0? If the offense had been clicking on all cylinders but the defense struggled, would people look at 2009's 6-6 as more successful than the offensive gong show we had to endure? Maybe, maybe not. But for 2010, no matter how exciting or close the losses, and even if Jeff Horton morphs into Bill Walsh and the offense actually, you know, scores points and piles up yards and first downs, if Brewster doesn't win at least seven games in the regular season then he's out.
As we've said time and again, Brewster lacks a signature win, and really has very few quality wins. Thus far, he has never beaten a rival (0-9 in trophy games), has never beaten a ranked opponent, has never beaten a team he wasn't supposed to, and has never won a game in November. Oh, and he's also 0-2 in bowl games. So yeah, I'd say there's some work to be done there. Thanks to a tough schedule- or an anti-Mason schedule- in order to get to the magic seven wins in 2010 Brewster is going to HAVE to notch a signature win or two to keep his job.
In years past, like Mason did, he could have lined up four cupcakes in the non-con (as long as those cupcakes weren't NDSU), and then hoped for three more wins somewhere in the conference schedule. But in 2010 that won't be happening. Sure, three of his non-con games should be gimmes- Middle Tenn St, USD, and Northern Illinois- but the fourth one is about as tough as it gets, and there is not one cupcake on the conference schedule this year. Four Big Ten games could go either way, and really, Brewster needs to win all of them: Northwestern, then at Purdue, Michigan State and Illinois.
IF he were able to win all of those, that gets him to seven, and it would also get him not one, but two victories in November. That would not only put the Gophers at no worse than 4-4 in the conference, but should also get them to the Alamo Bowl, a place Minnesota has never been. I do believe those accomplishments, win or lose at the Alamo, would be enough for Maturi to bring Brewster back.
Still, as we saw last year with the crazy Michigan State win and the maddening Illinois loss, those toss up games are exactly that- a toss up. While we Gopher fans can point at those games and say "we should win those" well guess what? Fans of the Spartans, Boilers, Illini and the 17 Wildcat fans who actually make it to home games would say the same thing about us, especially considering I'd bet at least three of those teams will be predicted to finish ahead of us in the conference standings (as I said in my quickee preview a few months ago, you could make an argument for the Gophers to be ranked as high as 7th in the Big Ten or as low as 10th. After OSU, Sconnie and the dirty, dirty Hawkeyes, this conference is WIDE OPEN).
So if/when the Gophs drop at least one of those four conference games, it means to get to seven wins Brewster would have to win a trophy game, and/or quite possibly not just get his first win against a top 25 opponent (thought Purdue, Michigan State, and even the Purple Smart Kids could all be ranked depending upon how the season plays out), but beat an opponent ranked in the top 15.
The five other games on Minnesota's 2010 sched are REALLY difficult games. The only silver living is that four of them are at home (get those season tickets now!!): USC, Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa. The Bucks will be a national preseason top 3 team (and might be the best team the mighty Sweater Vest has ever had in Columbus), Iowa should be in the top 10, and both the Nittany Lions and Trojans should start the year somewhere in the top 15. Yikes! The fifth tough team is on the road at Wisconsin, another preseason top 10 squad, in a place the Gophers haven't won since 1994.
If Brewster wants job security, if he wants to make good on all the promises about building up Gopher Nation, then he needs to win one of those five. I think his best chance is against Penn State because they look to be the "worst" of the five (and I use that term loosely. They're still at worst the fourth best Big Ten team to start the season), but if I could chose one of those five for them to win it would absolutely, positively be the last game of the year against Iowa. We'd beat our most hated rivals, a top 25 team in November, in a trophy game? Brewster could check off every category he needs to except for a bowl win, and then Maturi would hand him a big fat check and another extension.
So that's the task ahead for Tim Brewster: Beat the three teams we're supposed to, win at least three of four of the toss up games, and then find a way to slay goliath. Do that and he goes from the hot seat to the catbird seat.