Hey guys, did you know Northwestern is playing Minnesota this week? HEY, GUYS, DID YOU KNOW NORTHWESTERN IS PLAYING MINNESOTA THIS WEEK?!?!?!?!
It turns out Northwestern is playing Minnesota this week, and actually might win a football game rabble rabble rabble fire coach Fitz booooooooooooooo boo boooooooo. Anyway, to get a glimpse at the team Northwestern is playing that also happens to be 4-2 (0-2), we asked our friends over at The Daily Gopher about the Gophers.
Take it away, JDMill!
1. The story of the season for Minnesota, unfortunately, has been Jerry Kill's struggle with epilepsy. It seems like TDG has been incredibly supportive of Coach Kill -- what's the fanbase's reaction at large to his situation?Has the team seen any lag without Kill on the sidelines?
I think what's interesting about the whole situation with Coach Kill and his medical condition is that most Gopher fans really don't see it as "the story of the season." Don't get me wrong, it's certainly been a huge story, and it's definitely been something that we've talked a lot about on TDG. But I don't see a lot of Gopher fans sitting back and saying "this is happening to Coach Kill and that is why we aren't performing on the field."
That isn't the case at all. We don't have our collective head in the sand about the situation, but so far I'm not seeing anybody say that they think the team's play has suffered because of Kill's absence.I really think the story of the season is that this is a team that was supposed to be improved and so far Gopher fans feel like they have underachieved significantly, but why that has happened is up for debate.
We established a power run game throughout the non-conference schedule, and then our coaching staff completely abandoned it against Iowa. We thought we had an established QB1 in Phillip Nelson, but Mitch Leidner has emerged as the better leader. Kill's epilepsy situation is certainly a big story, but there's a lot more going on with this team that has lead to our recent tumble that has nothing to do with Jerry Kill.
2. Injuries have put Mitch Leidner rather than Philip Nelson in at starting QB. How's he played, and does he put the team in a better position to win than Nelson?
An injury is what put Leidner behind center in the non-conference schedule, but it's the fact that he's just plain played better than Nelson that has won him the starting job. Leidner has, for whatever reason, just shown a much better ability to get this offense moving. In a lot of ways, Nelson and Leidner are very similar, but Mitch has emerged as a tougher runner, and so far, a more accurate passer, than Nelson. Let's be clear, Leidner isn't setting the world on fire by any means. He's completing 63% of his passes, but he's only thrown 41 of them. He's only thrown 1 INT, but he's also only thrown 1 TD. The difference right now is that Leidner seems to have that intangible quality where he's just leading the offense more confidently, and the offense as a whole seems to be responding.
3. What's your personal lake of choice?
I grew up spending a lot of time on Lake Pepin, which is on the Mississippi River and is actually the widest part of the river itself. It's great because you have all the room and the beaches and whathaveyou's that come with a lake, but because it's on the river, you also get the added bonus of having the option to head up the river to Red Wing, MN, or down the river to Winona, MN or La Crosse, WI. For my money, Lake Pepin is where it's at.
4. What names should we know defensively besides "Ra'Shede Hageman?"
The top tacklers on the Gophers are all LB's & DB's. LB's Damien Wilson, Aaron Hill, and CB's Brock Vereen & Cedric Thompson are all averaging 5+ tackles/game, so those are names you'll probably continue to hear. Hageman leads the team in tackles for loss, but you also may hear some noise from Theiren Cockran, who has also emerged as a threat on the D-line. Cockran isn't far behind Hageman in the TFL category and he leads the team in sacks so far this season.
5. Is it REALLY already hockey season over at TDG?
Oh, youbetcha! We wouldn't really expect you to understand, but hockey is a big deal around here. We're a little irritated that Jim Delany sort of forced our hand in having to leave the WCHA and join the B1G Hockey Conference, but it should be interesting forming some new rivalries with the rest of the B1G hockey schools. I hate to say it, but we kind of look at the B1G schools without hockey as second class citizens.
6. After winning four easy non-conference games, picking up a fifth win hasn't gone so well. What's the Minnesota plan for the season at this point?
Well if that isn't the Million Dollar Question, I don't know what is. Honestly, at this point, I sort of feel like the old cliche of just taking it one game at a time is the only course of action. We're going to have to figure out a way to steal two games because it's likely we'll be underdogs in the rest of our games this season. I don't think it's outlandish that the Gophers find a way to win those two games and make it to a bowl, but it's probably unlikely.
If we can truly stick to a power run game and really control the clock, I don't hate our chances this weekend against Northwestern, and it seems as though Indiana and Penn State can be vulnerable at times, so there's some hope there. I'm a complete homer, so I expect the team to find a way to win 2 more games, but having said that, I can't sit here with a straight face and tell you I'm completely confident about that.
7. Prediction for Saturday?
Obviously Gopher fans are kind of, sort of, just a little bit, hoping that maybe Venric Mark and Kain Colter are too injured to play on Saturday, and if that is the case, we think we might have a better shot at this one.As I mentioned before, if the Gophers can control the clock and play the power run game that they established earlier in the season, I like our chances to keep this one close as I think Wisconsin showed that the Wildcats have trouble with that. Having said that, we don't have quite the horses up front that Wisconsin has, we don't have the defense that the Badgers have, and Northwestern can be so damn explosive.I think the Wildcats win this one 31-17 in a game that is close into the 4th quarter. Northwestern's talent is just too much for the Gophers to slow down the whole game and I think Fitz is going to have your boys ready to play.