So, have you heard U2 is coming to TCF next June? Put that scoreboard to good use Bono!
Syracuse, Air Force, California, and South Dakota State. The fact that the Jackrabbits are skipping their way to TCF Bank Stadium tomorrow opens up an opportunity to gnash heads about Division I-A scheduling. I'm going to take it, but only in a very cursory matter. Here goes. The 12th game on the schedule was only ever about money for the rich, which is very ironic since BCS schools oppose a playoff because there would be "too many games." There is a way to fix these scheduling issues. First off, expand the FBS to 128 teams. Then, the NCAA needs to take over scheduling. Third, let NCAA teams designate five "rivalries" (Minnesota could designate Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, uh, Northwestern and, say, North Dakota State University). Let the computer randomly select five other opponents for Minnesota based on the prior season's performance. Then, after a ten-game regular season, a 128-team playoff. Go.
I will say that if Division I-A schools are allowed to schedule these farcical games, I applaud Minnesota for keeping the options local. I think it's a good thing they pay several hundred thousand dollars to regional schools to support their athletic budgets. However, if the NCAA was properly doing its job of protecting college athletics, schools like NDSU, South Dakota State, and Delaware State (who FORFEITED A CONFERENCE GAME to play a Big Ten school this year) would not have to offer themselves up as cannon fodder in order to balance their budgets.
Now, done with the spiel, onto the preview. Despite the previous paragraph, South Dakota State is not exactly fodder for your cannon. They enter this game 7-2, 6-1 in conference. They are #16 in the FCS, and have lost to Cal Poly and Southern Illinois (currently #4, one spot ahead of some school called Appalachian State).
Out of 118 FCS schools, SDSU is a pedestrian 45th in total offense, but a solid 18th in total defense.
On offense, look for RB Kyle Minett's performance to be a big indicator as to how this game goes (errr, NDSU's Tyler Roehl in 2007, anyone?) Minett has carried 193 times for 947 yards, averaging 4.9 ypc. As a point of comparison, Duane Bennett leads the Gophers in rushing with ..... 357 yards, at 4.1 ypc (The Gophers have fallen from 102nd in 2008, to 104th in rushing this year, rushing for 3.1 ypc. Tim Davis? Really?)
SDSU's receiving threats are Mike Steffen (35 catches for 629 yards, 3 TDs), Glen Fox (52 catches for 585 yards, 3 TDs) and the deliciously-named Sanders Montague (29 catches for 239 yards, 2 TDs). Worryingly, both Steffen and Fox have TDs measuring longer than 60 yards. I think Gopher fans will have to expect one long TD pass and just get on with the game.
As for Gopher receiving stats, no Decker, no problem. Tow-Arnett, McKnight, Green and Hoese have increased their role. One point, however. This would be a good week to introduce Hayo Carpenter to the field. Carpenter seems to be taking the David Pittman route to graduation. Can you believe that Carpenter (2 rushes, 2 catches) and Pittman have TOTALED 5 tangible plays from scrimmage this year? Can you believe Pittman's only play this year is one rush for -9 yards?
Now, the elephant in the room. Weber will likely start tomorrow. Gray will likely play a lot as well (at least, let's hope he does). It should not change anything for the Iowa game - Gray is not at the point in his development where he can go to Kinnick Stadium and cope with a Norm Parker-coached defense. Clayborn, Binns (oh another MN kid), Angerer and those DBs were suffocating for 5th year senior Darryl Clark, let alone a freshman. Gray should be given a SERIES (yes, a complete series) or two to lead the team, but he should not be given the game. A Stanzi-less Iowa gives Gray the chance to take charge for a quarter or so, and even make mistakes, without it hurting the Gophers in a game-defining manner.
Do we even dare predict tomorrow's game?
Yes, we do. I remember hanging my head when Minnesota lost to NDSU in 2007 during the 1-11 experience. It can't possibly happen again, can it? Perhaps. I didn't bother mentioning height and weight disparities between these teams because it really didn't matter much when the Gophers played smaller Syracuse and Air Force teams. C'mon, SDSU is a FCS school. The Gophers more guru-approved talent, obviously, than the Jackrabbits. The RB could be a problem, but Campbell and Triplett should neutralize him.
I believe the score will end up closer than the 60-0 blowout that everyone is hoping for, but the Gophers will never seriously be in trouble tomorrow. If they are, well, Maturi will have another reason to be ticked off at his coach.
Minnesota 45 - South Dakota State 28.