I am a realist, and some would say a pessimist when it comes to Gopher football. But things have gotten so bad and so negative around here, I'm starting to look like an optimist by comparison. I mean, what else can you do with the Sam Maresh news but laugh about it? Heading into the offseason I was SO excited about the potential of our defense, yet since then we've now lost both of our middle linebacker candidates to suspension or academics (although I've heard Tinsley could make it back?), and both of our senior starting safeties- one to suspension and the other to injury. We should get both back, but really who knows? And would it surprise you in the least if it was announced today that Theret was booted off the team and Royston's injury was career-ending?
Yeah, me neither. At this point NOTHING would surprise me when it comes to the Gopher football team. I'm officially prepared for the worst because the worst keeps happening. Maybe having zero expectations is a good thing?
I've also found someone in media who is much more pessimistic about the Gophers than I could ever be- and no, it's not Pat Reusse. It's the college football writers at the Sporting News, who have released their preseason Top 100 rankings. Now, I've said since the offseason you could make an argument for the Gophs being as good as the 7th best team in the Big Ten and as bad as 9th or 10th. But not 11th. There's no way they're in worse shape heading into 2010 than Indiana. Well guess what? The boys at TSN disagree. The Hoosiers are ranked 78th in the country. Illinois is 94th. Our Gophs? 98th. Yep, they think we're going to be the worst team in the Big Ten, and easily one of the worst in the country.
But that's not all: check out the writeup from head writer Matt Hayes, who projects Minnesota to go 2-10 overall and just 1-7 in the Big Ten. I mean that, that is a pessimist right there. Even in my wildest and worst dreams I can't see the Gophs winning less than four games. But TWO?
And Hayes' confidence in this happening is high:
Even if Weber returns to his old form, he can't play defense. There will be too many young guys playing in big games for the first time — and against a brutal league schedule that includes favorites OhioThe schedule IS the toughest the Gophers have seen in years, but only two wins? Either I'm turning into an optimist or that's just crazy. Also, Hayes apparently thinks Minnesota would have a better chance of winning if they put Eden Prairie's high school team out there instead of Brew's Crew. Check out his positional rankings:
QB (C), RB (D+), WR/TE (C-), OL (B-)
I will not argue with his rankings of the skill positions. Until proven otherwise I'd say those are bang on. I'd even say he's pretty optimistic by giving our offensive line- which was our biggest offensive problem last year- a B-. Hayes, like me and every other Gopher fan, is apparently thinking a year of experience will make them better and serviceable. Let's hope so.
DL (D), LB (C), DB (C-), ST (C)
Now here's where I disagree strongly. As mentioned earlier we are currently without our two senior safeties and our two starting middle linebacker candidates. Yet I still maintain that while our D lacks in experience, this is still going to one of the fastest and most athletic groups we've seen here in a long, long time. Our D-line has so much more potential than a "D" gradeand could really be the strength of the team. Yes, our LB's are definitely hurt by losing Maresh and Tinsley (and by the way, this ranking was given BEFORE the Maresh news broke), but with guys like Keanon Cooper, Mike Rallis and Spencer Reeves, there's still plenty of talent there. The secondary? Michael Carter by himself is better than a C- rating. We will get Royston back from injury, and whatever happens with Theret, we'll be ok at the other safety spot. We ARE thin with depth at corner, but I still see a ton of potential in this group.
So maybe all of this negativity and bad news has made me crazy, or maybe I'm just turning into an optimist, but 6 or 7 wins is a possibility this year. Despite what Matt Hayes says (and I'm sure there's be plenty more pundits who will agree with him), we have the talent on defense this year, and IF our offensive line improves and one of the true freshmen running backs step up, our offense will be much better too. The schedule will indeed be tough, but I can find six or seven wins on this schedule.
And if it doesn't happen and we miss a bowl game, then Tim Brewster is gone and we'll get a better coach. And regardless of what happens this season Adam Weber will be gone too. See? All positive signs. This being an optimist thing isn't so bad after all.