Minnesota Gophers Football: Where should the Gophers be ranked in the Big Ten?

There's a lot of positive vibes going on amongst the Gopher Football Faithful these days. We love our new coach, his staff, his philosophies, and the way he's nothing at all like former coach Tim Brewster. We're excited for our new quarterback, our ridiculously good wide receiver, an improved offensive line (we hope), a stable of good linebackers, and at least two solid defensivebacks.

As part of the "GFF" (or Gopher Nation or Gold Country or whatever name you want to come up with for Gopher football fans- Killaid Drinkers? Kill Squad? Jerry's Maroon & Gold Fans of Awesomeness? Whatever, I was never very good at marketing), we have every reason to be excited about what the future holds because we (finally) have the right coach in place and there's some talent on the roster.

But then here comes Mr. Big Ten blogger, E!SPN.com's Adam Rittenberg, to rain on our parade. He posted the post-spring Big Ten Power Rankings and had the audacity to ignore all of the positivity and all of the promise of good things ahead and rank Minnesota...11th!

11? 11! This one goes to 11, but we don't want 11! The Big Ten actually goes up to 12 now, so Mr. All-knowing, all-powerful B1G expert thinks only one measily team will be worse than Minnesota in 2011? He didn't even bother to make a trip to Minneapolis this year for any spring practices, so he obviously has no idea of the great things Jerry Kill is doing here. Add to that his obvious central Midwest west coast (of Lake Michigan) bias plus the fact he's a White Sox fan? AND a Bears fan? Really Adam? I mean, REALLY...?

Yes, really. Gopher fans have every right to be excited about this team and the direction we're going in, but here's the thing: everybody else in the conference is feeling the same way. And rightfully so. It's the Big Ten, and it's a damn good conference. Not only is the conference good, but Minnesota also happens to be in the toughest division in the country. The other five teams in the Legends West division- Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, and Northwestern- all went bowling last year, and all of them have reason and optimism to believe they'll be doing that again and more.

Look at Rittenberg's rankings where Minnesota is 11th and tell me which of the other ten teams they should be ranked ahead of? The only two teams you could consider are Illinois and Purdue, and while both struggled at times last year they're both getting plenty of starters back, including their starting QB's. You could actually make a pretty strong case Minnesota should be higher than Illinois because we beat them last year, the Illini lost their top offensive player (RB Michel LeShoure) and top two defensive players (DT Corey Liuget and LB Martez Wilson), and now we're going to have an offense and a defense that should be better schemes than what we had last year (especially defensively). Interestingly enough, Rittenberg actually has them 9th and claims he had wanted to rank them higher, which only further proves the point that everybody in the conference has some promise and reasons for optimism.

The Gophers absolutely could finish better than Illinois and Purdue, and if Jerry's Killaid does what we know it can do, could finish much, much higher than 11th by the end of the year. But coming out of the spring, every school but Indiana has more going for it right now than Minnesota does, and has less pertinent questions to answer than the Gophers do. And you know what? That's ok. The reality is that we're starting anew with Jerry Kill and his staff and this rebuild is going to take time. While there's not much depth (and Jerry would say not much speed. Or toughness. Or talent. Or like 19 other things) there is some ability here (especially the guy wearing #6 at wideout and the one playing QB wearing #5) and for the first time in a long time coaching won't be an issue. This is a good team that could win at least six games and go bowling in 2011, but the thing is, you can say that about 10 of the other 11 schools (Sorry, Indiana. Sorry I'm not sorry) in the conference too.

I'm ok flying under the radar to start the year, and I'm ok being picked almost dead last because until Minnesota shows otherwise, that's where we deserve to start in the B1G. But you and I and everyother Gopher fan know we've got the right man in charge and the talent we have on this team, Minnesota will start proving it soon enough. And I can't wait!

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