Minnesota Football: Golden Nugz 11.25.13

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Let's start the week with some Nugz, shall we?

Nate Sandell of 1500ESPN says the Gophers aren't looking for any moral victories in their 10th straight loss to Wisconsin 20-7:

"Physically, I thought we did a pretty good job," Kill said. "I think we're catching up. There ain't no doubt about that. We've got to continue to recruit. We should be disappointed that we didn't win the game, because we played physical enough to do that. We just didn't make some plays."

The Gophers played well on defense, but clearly not well enough on offense:

With their defense turning out one its most physical performances of the season, the Gophers were granted a litany of openings in the second half to bounce back from the 13-point lead the Badgers had opened up. Those chances were spoiled by an inability to sustain drives, getting no closer to the endzone than Wisconsin's 18-yard line.

"There was definitely a lack of rhythm on our part," Nelson said. "Simply put, we didn't make enough plays. As an offense, that comes down to the players, that comes down to me, that comes down to everybody."

The offense, time and again, just couldn't put drives together, but the three turnovers- all of them fumbles- is what really did them in. Aaron Hill's pick-six gave Minnesota the early lead, but Wisconsin did a better chance of hanging onto the ball and did enough to win. The Gopher defense defended Wisconsin as well as anybody this season, so that's definitely something to hang their hat on, especially for the coming week against what's been an up-and-down Michigan State offense. But man the offense needs to be light years better against the nation's best defense.

And they'll have to continue to try without their best receiver, as Sandell mentions in that same story, senior WR Derrick Engel is done for the year with a torn ACL. It's the second consecutive year Minnesota won't get to finish the season with their best wideout in the lineup, as AJ Barker was booted off quit the team due to off-field shenanigans in 2012, and now Engel is done because of an unfortunate knee injury. Engel was the one who did the best job of stepping up in Barker's absence last year, and now it'll be someone else's turn for the Michigan State game and the bowl game. Maxx Williams? Donovahn Jones? Drew Wolitarsky?

Per Joe C of the Strib, despite the loss to Wisconsin Gopher recruits at the game are still excited about Minnesota's program:

“It’s hard to talk; you get beat, you’re down,” Kill said. “I had six recruits I visited with [Saturday] night, and they helped me be positive because every one of them was excited about the game.”

As Matt posted yesterday, Canadian DE recruit Julien Kafo committed after the game. We'll see if they can land any bigger fish between now and signing day.

Patrick Reusse profiles how well sophomore corner Eric Murray has played in his first season as a starter.

Tyler Mason of FSN has his weekly report card out for the loss to Wisconsin. As you might expect, the defense and special teams graded out pretty well while the offense...yeah not so much.

With the loss to the Badgers, Minnesota dropped only one spot in the ESPN B1G blog's Power Rankings from 4th to 5th. More interesting to me is that despite the loss, the ESPN B1G boys actually have Minnesota moving UP in their bowl projections from the Texas Bowl to the Gator Bowl. Wait WHA? The reason is quite simple: not only did Wisconsin and Michigan State help themselves by both winning, but Oregon and Baylor losing have also now greatly increased the chances of the B1G getting a second team into the BCS. Obviously if that happens, it means everybody moves up in the bowl pecking order, pushing Minnesota into a possibility for the Gator. They believe the Gophers would get taken over Michigan (?!?!?):

The Gator Bowl would choose between Minnesota and Michigan, two squads likely ending the season on losing streaks. Although Gator Bowl officials have been known for going with the big name (see: a 6-6 Ohio State team in 2011), there's way more enthusiasm around Minnesota than Michigan right now. Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague has some selling to do, but we think he'll get the job done and get the Gophers to Jacksonville. That puts Michigan in the Texas Bowl.

I have a hard time believing any bowl would take the Gophers over a big draw like Michigan, but perhaps because of the stench around that program right now (assuming they lose Ohio State this weekend, obviously), the B1G blog guys may be right that despite both schools going into the bowl season with a two game losing streak, that the feelings around Minnesota's program are much more positive right now. I have a feeling a lot of that has to do with Minnesota being competitive with Sparty this weekend. If they get blown out, it's the Texas Bowl for the Gophers. Not that it would be the end of the world or anything.

As for the B1G's chances of getting two teams in, as long as both Ohio State and Wisconsin win again this weekend (Bucky gets Penn State) then it's pretty much guaranteed to happen. Stewart Mandel of SI.com had originally said 1-loss Baylor would have a better chance of making the BCS than 2 loss Wisconsin, but he reversed course in his College Football Overtime column today:

I originally intended to have projected 11-1 Baylor as an at-large over a two-loss Big Ten team -- I even tweeted it late on Saturday -- but I'm reversing course. Yes, Wisconsin (which, at No. 15 in the standings, is one spot away from eligibility) and Michigan State have bigger fan bases, but more pertinently, the Big Ten has a contractual relationship with the Orange Bowl beginning next year. Politics always win in the BCS.

If an undefeated OSU loses to Michigan State in the B1G title game, they're still getting an at-large berth. If the Buckeyes win, then Wisconsin would get the second spot. This is personal opinion, but I believe that IF Wisconsin finishes the regular season 10-2 then MSU's only shot at a BCS bowl is beating Ohio State. For whatever reason the bowls do not seem to want to grab a conference championship game loser (unless an undefeated Ohio State were to lose, that is), and that would very likely play out again if the Spartans have another Sparty NO! games. However, I do think Michigan State has a great chance to knock off Ohio State. Either way, as long as the B1G can get two teams into the BCS, that really helps Minnesota.

Gopher hoops has their first test of the season today as they face #9 Syracuse at 430pm today. The two schools are a combined 9-0 to start the season, and will meet in the opening round of the Maui Invitational, with today's game on ESPN2. Is there a reason SB Nation isn't paying for TDG writers to cover that tourney in Maui? I mean, I don't follow basketball, but I would volunteer for that one.

Strib beat writer Amelia Rayno has the Ultimate guide to all things Maui Invitational. She also opens her- wait for it- aMAILiaBAG to answer your Gopher hoops questions on whether they're relying on the 3 ball too much, how the press will fare against better teams, and more.

Strange weekend for Gopher men's hockey, who blew out UMD Friday night 6-1 only to have the tables turned on them yesterday losing 6-2.

Gopher women's hockey bounced back after their epic win streak was snapped last weekend with a sweep of Yale. They still have another streak intact as they've won 37 straight road games.

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