This post is what it says: getting y'all learned about the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team. You'll find out my pick for the games tomorrow.
The Golden Gopher is not a gopher, because it's actually a chipmunk, it's not golden, because it's a chipmunk, and chipmunks are generally not made of gold, and for some reason he only has sleeve stripes on his right arm (likely reasons: he is a nazi or soccer captain) but, on the other hand, he's adorable.
Oh, and if you don't believe me about that being a chipmunk: this is what a gopher looks like (it's basically a fat squirrel, minus the bushy tail) and this is what a chipmunk looks like. They thought they could fool me, but I takes my rodents SERIOUS.
On the season: Like the Wildcats, the Gophers are 2-1 in their out-of-conference exploits. Unlike the Wildcats, that loss was to a nationally ranked opponent (No. 8 California) and unlike NU, they had a game that ended on a last-second field goal in the Carrier Dome against the Syracuse Orange. (Some people say suppressing memories is bad, I say it's A-OK!) Minnesota beat Cuse on the road in overtime week one, then beat Air Force at home 20-13 in their new stadium's debut, and then stayed reasonably close against Cal, who unfortunately have Jahvid Best, who rushed 26 times and managed to have touchdowns on about 1/5 of those runs, which is a damn good percentage.
Us and them: We're 30-49-5 against the Gophers all-time, meaning if we win every game we play against them until 2028, we will reach .500 against them. Last year, our game looked like this:
The 24-17 victory over Minnesota was probably my favorite game of the year. We were down on our luck - we'd just gifted Indiana their only conference win of the season, and lost our starting quarterback and running back, and we were playing the #17 team in the country, but I still decided to watch for some reason. Mike Kafka went NUTSO on Minnesota, busting out 217 yards rushing and becoming a living legend automatically, and of course, Brendan Smith had his game-winning pick six. Just an amazing game.
My personal favorite part of the video is at the 1:57 mark, when the announcer does a promo for a NASCAR race the next day, and MIke Kafka runs for 52 yards while the racecar noises from the promo continue to do the whole "VROOM VROOM" thing for about 45 yards into his run, which is exactly the soundtrack that a quarterback running for 52 yards.
(By the way, someday, I'm going to be applying for a job as a writer, and someone will see that I once wrote the sentence "the racecar noises continue to do the whole "vroom vroom" thing", and they'll immediately decide not to hire me.)
Hit the jump for actual analysis, people!
Offense: Offense is a loose term - basically, this unit should be called "Eric Decker and some other people". Minnesota's offense has managed six touchdowns and 957 yards, Decker accounts for three of the touchdowns and 422 of the yards. Of the Gophers' 700 passing yards, 415 have been on Decker's 27 receptions and 7 come from a completion Decker threw to MarQueis Gray for a touchdown. (Decker has similar stats to Dan Persa throwing - he's 1-2 with a touchdown. Persa is 1-2 with a touchdown and an interception.) No other receiver has more than ten catches. Decker is a next-level talent, and pretty much his only bad play in career history is displayed quite proudly in the video I posted above, where Decker drops a pass from QB Adam Weber, and Brendan Smith ends up with it, and well, the rest is history.
Weber is a pretty decent quarterback, or at least he looks it throwing to Decker, and was second-team all Big Ten last year. He's started since freshman year, and had over 2700 yards with positive TD-INT ratios. This year, he's been a little shaky - the Syracuse game featured a 19-42 effort and he threw three picks vs. Cal on saturday - but Minnesota banks pretty heavily on his ability to throw the ball Decker's way. Minnesota isn't running the spread this year, but it hasn't lessened their dependence on Decker. Last year, Weber used his legs a little and was Minnesota's second leading rusher with 233 yards, this year, he's stayed in the pocket more and his negative rushing yardage on the season shows that.
By the way, Minnesota is the fourth of four teams we've played this year to feature a new coordinator - Mike Dunbar, who ran the spread, is out, and Jedd Fisch is in.
Running the ball are Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge, owner of a great name himself, but not name of the week worthy. They've split the 50-odd carries so far pretty evenly and have 121 and 103 yards, respectively. However, what their 30 yards-per-game belies is their exceptional yards-per-carry - 4.0 for Bennett and 4.7 for Eskridge. So that's bad for us. Then again, last year, this team averaged 3.1 yards per carry, and that ain't that great.
Defense: Tough to get a read on Minnesota's defense, but if I had to give you one, I'd say "average or below". They've given up some hefty running numbers - 171.1 yards per game - but I'd chalk that up less to their run defense being bad and more to their run defense facing Air Force and the triple option (261 yards on 66 carries) and Jahvid Best (131 on 26). That being said, their run defense probably isn't too great.
The pass defense, on exactly the same hand, don't look great neither. Their 82nd nationally in pass efficiency defense (this stat is courtesy of jhodges' preview - I don't normally jack analysis from other people, but, hey, that's a good stat) even after facing Best and Air Force. They have exactly one pick in three games, that being on a hopelessly silly Greg Paulus heave across his body in the direction of three defenders in overtime.
LInebacker Nate Triplett is clearly the team's best defender so far this year, as he has 36 tackles already as well as the one pick I just mentioned and a 52-yard fumble recovery for touchdown. Can't really beat that, can you.
Also, Traye Simmons was a second-team Big Ten cornerback last year, a fact surely helped by the fact that he pick-sixed the living daylights out of Mike Kafka.
Transitive Property Logic that leads me to believe we'll win by a lot:
November 22, 2008: Iowa, 55, Minnesota, 0.
September 27, 2008: Northwestern, 22, Iowa, 17.
Transitive property likely final margin of victory: 60.
So that's that. Like I said, either one or two more posts on the way, so stick around, folks.