Believe it or not, we're already more than halfway through
Spring Winter Football practice for 2013. We're that much closer (but not really that close) to the fall and football beginning for real, so why not muse about the fortunes of your Golden Gopher football squad for 2013?
So how many will the Gophers win in Year 3 o' Jerry? For a refresher, Kill won 3 his first season and six last year. I'm not a math guy, but it seems like doubling his win total is a trend, so it only makes sense they'll win 12 this year. Or maybe he wins three more every year, so nine! NINE! Ok probably not nine, that's really ambitious. But seriously, how many, and when I say that, I mean regular season- of the 12 regular season games (13 counting the B1G Championship game...go ahead and predict it, I won't stop you), how many are they getting? How many SHOULD they get? What would be a successful number in year three?
Actually wait, we have almost five months (of winter) left before the season opener against Vegas, so let's make this a post about how many do you THINK they'll win and we'll save the breakdown of how many SHOULD they win post for another time. Because boy do we have time. Alrighty then, we'll break down the schedule into categories of a very scientific thing I like to call "winnability". As we're still building this program to be a powerhouse (and thankfully not building it on rock and roll...sorry...that I'm not sorry) there aren't a lot of what we like to call "gimme's" on the schedule. There can be arguments about this, and frankly we're not doing our jobs here if there's not some arguments from time to time, but I don't see a gimme in the conference slate. Not one. Thankfully the juggernaut non-conference schedule is the exact opposite...
vs UNLV, @ New Mew Mexico State, vs Western Illinois, vs San Jose State
All four of these should be W's. All of them. We're in year 3 and losing to any of these four would be a major disappointment. Argue that point all you want, but you'd be wrong. SJSU is the only one of the four that could even be considered not terrible, and they have a new coach this year and, well, it's San Jose State. And they're playing them at home. These four can and should be wins.
SLIM AND NONE
10/5 @ Michigan
The Gophers struggle to beat the Wolverines anywhere, but it's always tough to win in The Big House. Brady Hoke has been recruiting very well since he got there, the Gophers know first hand how good Devin Gardner is at QB, and the defense should be suffocating yet again.
10/26 vs Nebraska
Minnesota never beats Nebraska, or at least since like 1961. That streak will end someday, and while I think Jer's team should be better in year three, it's at home instead of in Lincoln, Arm Punt Martinez is still the QB, and Rex Burkhead's mom could be in town to hang out with GoAUpher...I don't think this is the year. At least not sitting here in April. Things can change, but right here, right now, I'd give Minnesota maybe a 10% chance of pulling the upset.
SO YOU'RE TELLING ME THERE'S A CHANCE...
This is the third and final category, and while the chances of victory definitely vary between the remaining opponents, I give Minnesota at least a puncher's chance of victory. Part of that is my expected/hoped for improvement for the Gophers, part of it is getting some tougher opponents at home, and part of it is the B1G will likely be down yet again this year. Oh and part of it is also that for the umpteenth year in a row, they don't have a guaranteed loss to Ohio State on the schedule.
9/28 vs Iowa
We know how this went last year: the Gophers came into the Floyd game at 4-0 and on a roll while Iowa was 2-2 and had just lost to a MAC school (they do that). So of course the Hawkeyes blew Minnesota right off the field with a power running game and a flee-flicker and just that overwhelming smell of awful that you can't escape whenever you tread in that awful state. Iowa then rolled...to a 5-7 record which would have gotten their coach fired had his buyout not been a bazillion dollars. The Gophers SHOULD be favored in this game, and should beat Iowa at TCF Bank. I'm not calling this a gimme because it's a rivalry game, but it's time we start looking at the Iowa game with hope instead of dread. This is most definitely a winnable game for the Gophers.
10/19 @ Northwestern
TDG meetup in Chicago for this one, anybody? Anyone? It's the annual right of fall where I underrate NU because they're NU and because they're NU and the Gophers should win. I will probably be wrong yet again, the Wildcats on paper will be a better team, and they still have Cain Colter and Venric Mark. Oh and Pat Fitzgerald. But I still remember last year's game where the defense made halftime adjustments and stopped NU cold for the second half...but Minnesota just didn't have a quarterback that could complete a pass. Or a healthy offensive line. Or the MARYLAND-I! I can just feel those purple smart kids shaking in their loafers and sweatervests at the thought of stopping the Maryland-I.
11/2 @ Indiana
So not only are we dealing with six months of winter, but we also need to get our heads around the idea that we can no longer count a football game against the Hoosiers as a gimme. I know, it really takes some getting used to. I don't know if this is a temporary thing or what, but considering where both programs are- and neither are terrible- we're looking at a road game in Bloomington as a tough game. Sure, I'd favor Minnesota winning, but Kevin Wilson has something going down there at IU, they've got some real offensive talent returning, and if they get the defense figured out at all, this could be a bowl team. Again, I know, it takes some getting used to.
11/9 vs Penn State
Were this in Happy Valley, I'd probably have put this in the "Slim and None" category, but even then I'm not so sure. Head coach Bill O'Brien did a masterful job of getting PSU turned around after a tough start and they played some great football last season. But, and I never thought I'd say this, replacing Matt McGloin at QB is not going to be easy, unless BOB really is a QB miracle-worker, in which case the next lost cause will just step under center and look like an all-conference QB. Two other factors working against the Nitts this will year will be the "us against the world" motivator will be much harder to replicate, and the scholarhship limits will start taking a toll on PSU's depth and talent. I don't have a read on Penn State just yet but I feel like they could be tough again just as easily as they could struggle to be bowl eligbile.
11/23 vs Wisconsin
Like Penn State, I have no real idea what the Badgers under Gary Andersen will be like. They always have a stable of good running backs, but even for them replacing Montee Ball won't be easy, they still have gigantic questions at QB and for anybody catching passes not named Jared Abbrederis, and they're not going to be running exactly the same offense they've been running since 1990. I know Andersen's said he wants to keep this a run based team, but he's been successful as a spread guy, and I'd be surprised if things are both exactly the same and the offensive transition seamless. Maybe that's wishful thinking from someone who wants The Axe back in Minnesota in a bad way, but Wisconsin is potentially ripe to be knocked off for the first time in a long time. Not saying it's going to be easy by any stretch, but sitting here in the dead of winter I don't buy the Badgers as that power-run juggernaut they've so often been. Hell I won't buy them as any kind of juggernaut until we get into October.
11/30 @ Michigan State
Sparty put the hammer down on Minnesota pretty good last year in a 26-10 thumping that was not as close as the score would indicate- MSU outgained Minnesota 421-96 and the Gophers only score came on an Aaron Hill pick six. So yeah, that was awful. The 2013 matchup could be interesting as Sparty won't have LeVeon Bell (ONLY 266 against the Gophs' last year. Yeesh) or William Gholston, but on the bright side they'll have Jim Bollman running the offense...into the ground most likely. OK so State should still be better on paper than Minnesota, at least heading into the season, but I don't see MSU as a leader in the...
Leaders West division this season, but fighting for bowl eligibilty. Which would put them about on par with Minnesota. Sure, I'm a Gopher fan so that looks like a homer opinion, but the chances of the Gophers finishing the season with a W in East Lansing are definitely higher than "Slim and None".
So looking at that schedule breakdown...what do you think? I'm not going to lie, that should be six wins, minimum. They SHOULD win the four non-cons, then they should be able to find at least two somewhere in the B1G. Since it's eternal-winter and I'm looking for something to get excited about, I'm going to be optimisitic for once and say seven regular season wins looks like the right number. And I don't even think I'm being that optimisitic. Hell, I think that might even be realistic. But what say you? Take a look at that schedule and tell me how many games, in the regular season, do you see the Gophers winning in 2013?