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3 Questions about Minnesota Gopher Football

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Is there such thing as too much MarQueis Gray?

Q had a record-setting day last week for a Gopher QB, with 25 carries for 171 yards and a TD. The yardage and yards per carry (6.8) are great, but 25 carries in a game for your quarterback worries me. And not just 25 carries, but the type of carries he's being given. Still a lot up the middle, and while I love seeing him put a shoulder down to run through tacklers, that might not work as well against bigger B1G defenders to come.

I love watching Q run and make plays, but I want him to make it through the entire season in one piece. Through three games he has 58 carries, an average of 19.3 per game for 328 yards, which not only easily leads the Gophers, it's better than every Big Ten rusher but two. And those two guys aren't running backs either: Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez leads all B1G rushers with 384 yards (on a ridiculous 7.5 YPC) and has added 6 rushing TD's while Michigan QB Denard "Shoelace" Robinson is second with 352 yards (he's ONLY averaging 7.0 YPC. Get it together, Denard!) and just two rushing TD's. Both guys have just a few less carries than Q does thus far (51 and 50 respectively) but a higher yards per carry (Q's is at 5.7).

While T-Magic and Shoelace may be a little faster than Q, I don't believe they're necessarily better runners- or at least not almost two yards per carry better. Nebraska and Michigan have better weapons surrounding their QB than Minnesota does, so they don't have to rely on them quite as much as Minnesota. Gray is the best runner and playmaker the Gopher's have so they have to use him, but 25 carries a game is too much.

Of course, to rely on him less the running backs need to step up, which started happening more last week as redshirt freshman Donnell Kirkwood finally got healthy and bulldozed his way to 55 yards on 14 carries (a 4.2 YPC. Yes, a Gopher RB finally averaged over 4 YPC in a game.). It was the best performance by a Gopher back this season, and Kirkwood needs to build on it. Gray's passing also needs to keep developing, which reminds me...

Did you think you'd see the Gophers win a game this season when Da'Jon McKnight was almost a non-factor?

I sure didn't, especially with how well he played the week before against New Mexico State when he torched the Aggies for 9 catches for 146 yards and a score. The one-handed catch in double-coverage near the west end zone was a thing of beauty, one of the best I've seen a Gopher make in person. I figured that would be Da'Jon's coming out party and he'd light up the Redhawks, yet he had just 3 catches for 27 yards with his longest catch being for just 10 yards.

Makes a little more sense then when you see how much MarQueis had to do to beat Miami when he wasn't able to get the ball to his #1 receiver. Q had so much success running the ball, and so little throwing (especially in the second half), McKnight was taken out of the game almost entirely. It worked against the Redhawks, but Minnesota would be very fortunate to be able to use a similar formula again and win this season. You know this, I know this- the more catches Da'Jon gets the more opportunities it presents for other receivers in the passing game, and the more focus it takes OFF the running game. I believe they call that a win-win.

Speaking of wins...

Are the Gophers favored Saturday night against NDSU? Should they be?

Tough times for Minnesota football fans. The Vikings are hosting the Lions Sunday, and for the first time in 30 years, the Vikes are home dogs against Detroit. Saturday night the Gophers host the 1-AA NDSU Bison, and after reading this I was thankful there was no official Vegas line for the game. You may have heard of Jeff Sagarin- he does lots of crazy math stuff and formulas that surely involve protractors and the dewey decimal system, but it results in some very scientific rankings of every 1-A and 1-AA college football team. Every week Jeff crunches the numbers and tells us who HE thinks the best teams are.

There are 120 D1-A teams, and this week, he has NDSU ranked 89th. Yes, a 1-AA school is ranked 89th, well ahead of a host of 1-A schools. The Gophers? 110. Yep, your Minnesota Golden Gophers are ranked...hang on I was never good at math...let me count this on one hand...two...let me take off my shoe here...ok so 21 spots lower than their 1-AA opponent. FBT has an excellent breakdown of NDSU, and they're going to be formidable, but straight up better than Minnesota? Maybe, maybe not, but you better believe the Bison are capable of pulling off the upset- or would it even be an upset? If there was a line, I say Gophers by 2.5 if for no other reason that they're at home. And Minnesota has been so great at home against 1-AA schools from the Dakotas. Oh wait...