Gettin Familiar With Minnesota

Minnesota is awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwful. Like, just crazy bad. It's unbelievable. At this point in time, they're a lower-tier MAC team masquerading as a Big Ten one. For the full carnage, hit the jump. 

 

Thus far: Let's put it this way: Minnesota's best game has been a loss. Last year, Minnesota wasn't awful as all hell: they were 6-6 in the regular season, although they lost the Insight Bowl to... Iowa State? Maybe they were awful. They started off this year with a 24-17 win against a Middle Tennessee team missing their star quarterback and only talented player, Dwight Dasher. That's when the wheels fell off. That's when the concept of yelling "Fire Brewster" at a Golden Gophers game became feasible. That's when they lost 41-38 to South Dakota. You can't put a positive spin on a 41-38 loss to an FCS team. Not with a senior quarterback at the helm of your offense, not with a team that clearly managed to score 38 points - what's more embarrassing is that they let Dante Warren of South Dakota throw for 352 yards. They followed that up with a more heartening performance against No. 18 USC where they struck first and even held a 14-13 lead in the second half, but they fell apart and eventually lost 32-21. So, that brought up last week. The yardstick. The way we could measure whether this team that played crappy against a crappy team and alright against a good team could actually be mediocre. Well, instead, they got ravaged by the Northern Illinois rushing attack, allowing 297 yards rushing. Yeah, 297. With Chad Spann getting 223 on 15 carries. (For a comparison of how freakin bad that is, the previous week Spann had 13 carries for 15 yards against Illinois. Unless his extra two carries against Illinois would've been for 104 yard gains, there's no way to justify such a disparity in performances besides "yeah, Minnesota kind of sucks.")

Us and them: Minnesota, Northwestern's future division-mate,  still has a commanding lead in the overall standings against NU - they're 50-30-5 against the Cats - but as with most teams, it's been even as of late. The obvious memory is the Mike Kafka game from two years ago, when the backup beat the No. 20 Golden Gophers on the strength of 217 yards rushing, a then-Big Ten QB record. (Also, that whole Victory Right thing and a 49-48 double OT victory in 2007.) The obvious thing to forget is last year's depressing loss which was one of the least exciting games I've ever seen. Sadly, the game is at TCF Bank Stadium, not the Golden Gopher's former home, the Metrodome, where Northwestern absolutely owned the Gophers of late.

When they got the ball: There is something to be afeared of when Minneosta's on offense. You may remember Adam Weber, the QB whose tandem with Eric Decker seemed like Minnesota would have a passing attack to worry about for years to come. Well, Decker's gone, but Weber is still going strong, and has already eclipsed 1000 yards passing on the year on the strength of a 375-yard game against Northern Illinois last week. He holds a crapload of Minnesota passing records by this point. If you're wondering about depth at the QB position, look no further than Weber's main target, MarQueis Gray, who is also Weber's backup at quarterback. Considering he doesn't have much of a shot of playing quarterback, has shifted out to wide receiver and leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. (File this under "things that sound cool but are actually signs there is something fundamentally wrong with your program.") Meanwhile, reports of Minnesota's run game were wildly exaggerated after Duane Bennett opened the season with two back-to-back 100 yard games, going for 187 against Middle Tennessee and 104 against South Dakota. He's followed that up with an Arby-esque seven carries for six yards and 24 carries for 74 yards, which isn't bad, but not great in the ratio department. Bennett is certainly an alright running back, especially with sorta-talented backup DeLeon Eskridge waiting in the wings, but, if Minnesota's going to rack up points offensively, it'll be through their two-quarterback pass attack that features one quarterback playing wide receiver.

When we got the ball: Did you read that and think, "hey, Minnesota's not that awful, why are they 1-3 with losses to teams that are worse than I am at playing football"? Well, shorty, you should've thought about their defense. The Gophers returned two - TWO DAMMIT - starters from last year's defense. And those two starters - safeties Kim Royston and Kyle Theret - haven't played, as Royston has a broken leg and Theret was suspended for the team's first two games. (things that are bad: when you have one starter available to play and you suspend him.) Those last few sentences are not a sign of good things to come in this paragraph. Despite a weak non-conference schedule, they're 94th in the nation in points allowed. They have two sacks. That's as many starters as they returned! Things can and will get ugly with the Minnesota defense. After all, they allow 187.8 yards per game on the ground, which is more than they should allow. A bright spot if I had to point one out would be their pass coverage, which has forced five picks thus far, including two against USC. 

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