So the Gophers are 4-1 and have only guaranteed themselves of finishing no worse than 4-8. That is a one-game improvement over last year's 3-9 team (duh), but would finishing on an eight-game losing streak really be an improvement over last year?
This is hard to determine whilst in the middle of the season. If at the end of last season someone would tell you that the Gophers would improve to 4-8 in 2012 and avoided getting monkey-stomped like they did in 2011 against Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska; you would probably think that this was a step in the right direction and I think many of us would be pleased with slight progress. But as we sit here today if we assume the Gophers end the 2012 season 4-8, well that would mean an eight-game losing streak and no Big Ten wins. Clearly a step in the wrong direction. Right?
So what will it take for the Gophers to have a "successful" season in the minds of the fan?
SIDE NOTE: How I (or we) determine a successful season and how the team/coaching staff views their season are two entirely different things so please don't confuse the two. Please refrain from comments about how there is no way the team should be happy with a 4-8 (or whatever record) season. OBVIOUSLY they are doing whatever they can to win each and every game and will always be disappointed when they lose.
With that out of the way, what is it going to take for the Gophers to have what we view as a successful season?
I think we can all agree that two more wins and a bowl game would easily be classified as a successful season, regardless of how bad we lose the other five games. That one is easy and the top end of expectations. On the bottom end is not winning another game but HEY we improved from last year's 3-9 season right? Wrong, going 4-8 would be a big disappointment in my opinion. So that really only leaves us with one other option and that is one more win.
Anything two or more is obvious. Maybe some of us will end up being OK with four wins combined with not getting blown out in any losses. But is five enough to be satisfied? Personally, I think it is. Whether that win is this week (followed by six consecutive losses) or at Illinois or against a rival or a big upset over someone like Nebraska; I don't think it matters. Improving by two wins is a pretty big improvement even if the anticipation of making a bowl ends in disappointment. This is a young team that is dramatically improved, with incremental additional wins.
We all want to be bowl eligible but after the 4-0 start is it all or nothing for us? Hopefully we beat Northwestern and we beat Illinois (and maybe some other unsuspecting prey) and we don't have to worry about this.