So that was a nice win for the Gophers on Saturday. The Gophers have moved to 5-1, 2-0 in the Big Ten and are putting themselves in position to be playing some meaningful games in November. But it still seems as though every opponent cannot help but minimize our success to date.
Heading into the Michigan game it was this.
Minnesota is probably not real good. They've got quarterback issues up the wazoo, they lost 30-7 to a middling-at-best Big 12 team, they completed one pass last week. They are, in short, a Big Ten team. So I'm sayin' there's a chance.
What happened? The Gophers pounded Michigan, dominating the line of scrimmage while establishing an effective and efficient passing game. Following that win and a bye week, about to face Northwestern it was a LOT of this type of narrative.
I can almost copy & paste my prediction for last week, then sub out "Wisconsin" for "Minnesota"... Its another tough team to judge based off the quality of work through 5 games. Minnesota got thumped by TCU who is now a top 10 team and have also played a very weak schedule thus far. While their win against Michigan is big for them in the grand picture of their program, its very miniscule in the eyes of what is today. This team looks every bit like Wisconsin except weaker all around on offense. They got smoked when they couldn't run the football against TCU.
(this writer predicted 31-17 in favor of Northwestern)
What happened? The Gophers followed the game plan to a 'T' and beat a solid Northwestern team at home. Now I'm reading something a little more tepid but still diminishing, like this from Purdue.
Purdue has an excellent chance to show they are building something by going to Minnesota this week. The Gophers are good, but they are a one-dimensional team that cannot pass with any consistency whatsoever. It is time to go and win a game we probably should not win on paper.
At what point will people stop minimizing what the Gophers have accomplished to date? If you assume these are still Tim Brewster's Gophers, then yes this team is a mirage. If you assume these are the Glen Mason Gophers who were pretty one-dimensional and lacked a decent defense, then yes it will all fall apart.
But you know what? This team is not lead by Tim Brewster, no mistaking that one! And despite some simplistic similarities, it is not a Glen Mason team either. This team has a powerful run game, has shown for two weeks in a row an efficient/complimentary passing game, special teams is really contributing to wins and this is maybe the best Gopher defense seen in my lifetime. This team is good and when the offense can show a little balance it is very good.
Respect is earned and I'm not looking for anybody to crown the Gophers as anything. But I do think they have earned at least a little respect.
To be honest, I don't really want any notoriety from around the country or even the conference. Let the Northwesterns and Indianas get hailed as the next hot, up-and-coming Big Ten team. But stop minimizing what this team has done to date. I am tired of every opponent believing that they are finally getting a vulnerable team they can somehow exploit.
I'm not even wasting any breath talking about winning the Big Ten West, that road is very long and arduous. I'd just like to make it known that this team is actually pretty good. Are they the best team in the West? I personally do not think so but they have earned themselves a spot in the conversation and I'm much more of a believer than I was a month ago. I don't care if Michigan is struggling, I don't care if you look at the TCU box score and assume we were throttled, and I don't care if Northwestern was quickly overrated after two nice wins to open their Big Ten schedule. This Gopher team can play with anybody on our schedule.
We have not arrived. We still have half of the season to go. But don't sleep on these Gophers. They are a lot of fun to watch right now and this is not a team anybody should look forward to playing. Not this year.