It's easy to feel like the Gophers were slighted in the bowl selection process. As Gopher fans, it's a natural reaction for us to feel like we got screwed. We're used to it. It feels normal. Unfortunately, it feels right.
Let's set aside our bowl opponent, Syracuse, and just talk about the Texas Bowl itself.
At 6-6 in 2012, the Gophers were likely slated for the Little Caesar's PizzaPizza Bowlapalooza in sunny and temperate Detroit, Michigan. But thanks be to the transgressors, Ohio State and Penn State, we were able to move up a couple of spots and wind up in the city that oil built, Houston, Texas in what was then called the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (heretofore referred to as MCCBoT).
Based on that fact, the logic is supposed to go something like this: the Gophers were lucky to make it to Houston last year because of outside circumstances, so we should view ending up in the same bowl this season as a move up.
Here's the problem: the Gophers were more than competitive in that game that they "moved up" to. They had a legitimate chance to win. It didn't then, and it doesn't now, feel to Gophers fans like we were out-punching our weight class in playing Texas Tech, a team that Vegas thought would blow us out. We belonged, and Coach Kill, his staff and these players have proven in 2013 that the team's performance against the Red Raiders wasn't a fluke. Because of that, along with an additional 2 W's in 2013, we feel like we deserve better.
So what about that? What about deserving better? The B1G ended up with (again, due to sanctions on PSU) seven bowl eligible teams, meaning we couldn't fill our full allotment of 9 bowl game tie-ins. (Thanks Obama!)
This is where being a college football fan can kind of stink. College football bowl games aren't about being fair. They aren't about rewarding your season. Hell, they aren't even about football. They're about money. If bowl games were about rewarding a team's season, the Gophers would be going to the Gator Bowl as the 6th best team in the B1G. It's that simple. MSU, OSU and Wisconsin all finished with better records than we did. Iowa and Nebraska had the same overall record as the Gophers, but both finished with better conference records than the Gophers, thus, the Gophers fall in line behind them.
Michigan is the butthurt. Michigan, although they beat us head to head, finished with a worse overall record and a worse conference record than Minnesota, Iowa & Nebraska, yet they end up with a better bowl placement than both the Gophers & Huskers. If bowl games were about rewarding on field performance, Nebraska would be going to Tempe (BWW Bowl), the Gophers would be going to the Gator Bowl, and Michigan would wind up in Houston.
Should the Gophers be going to Jacksonville? Probably. Does the system suck? Possibly. But that part is over.
Now comes the perspective. The 2013 Gophers have a chance to make program history. Winning 9 games would make this the first 9-win Gopher team since 2003. It would be just the 2nd Gopher team to win 9 games since 1905, and it would make this Gopher team just the sixth in the entire history of Gopher Football to win 9 games. (Normal asterisks and caveats, such as teams in the past typically played fewer games than the Gophers will play this year, apply.) Nine wins is an important milestone.
The other, possibly more important, piece of perspective comes not from looking at history, but from looking forward.
You may recall that in the off-season the entire TDG Community was in quite a lather over something called the Maryland-I, which was later renamed to reflect the Gophers use of it, and is now affectionately called the Golden-I. The Penn State bros tried to tell us we couldn't call it the Golden-I, but Beth Mowins validated us like she has so many other... oh, um, where was I? OH YEAH...
The Golden-I didn't exist during the 2012 football season. But with a month to prepare for a bowl game last December, the coaching staff installed the Golden-I, along with other power run formations and gimmicks (read: shits & motions), and carried the new offense into the MCCBoT. That change gave the Gophers a chance to win that game, and that change has carried over into 2013.
You may also remember that the leading receiver in the MCCBoT: Derrick Engel. Engel had averaged 1.2 receptions and 22 yards/game in 2012 before breaking out with 4 receptions for 108 yards in the bowl game. Now I'm not suggesting Engel went on to set the world ablaze, but he did become the Gophers leading receiver, and PN9's go-to target, in 2013.
The point is this: Just like how the 2012 MCCBoT became the springboard for 2013, now that this season's bowl game and opponent are set, it's time to focus on 2014.
What wrinkles will Limegrover add to the offensive sets? What will the identity of the defense become? Which of the underclassmen are going to emerge as next season's solid performers and go-to guys?
Jerry Kill is building the Gopher program and working toward the future. As fans, it's time we act accordingly. For programs on the rise, for programs that expect to compete in the B1G year in and year out, bowl games aren't about the season that got you there. Bowl games are about the season you want to have next year.
As a fan base, let's take our cue from the program and treat the Texas Bowl accordingly.