I want to make fun of Michigan for falling into the desperation of packaging seats to this Saturday's game with two 20-ounce bottles of Coke. Actually, I did on Twitter. A lot. After watching last Saturday's unannounced "Throwback to the 1900s" offensive showing from the Gophers, it was needed. Thanks for that, Dave Brandon.
But it left a slightly sour taste in my mouth - although it wasn't due to the sweet, delicious and not-at-all cancer causing aspartame that is part of the fine products produced by the Coca-Cola Company. The salty part to the ticket deal for Golden Gopher fans is that the team playing Michigan wasn't much of a draw either. At the same point, if Michigan was playing a team that had challenged them in, let's say nearly 50 years, it might be a more sought after ticket.
Seriously, look at this list of Little Brown Jug game results if you aren't familiar with it. The Minnesota Gophers haven't won two games against Michigan in a single decade since the 1960s, which is actually also the last time Minnesota had the upper hand, six wins to four. The Gophers haven't beaten Michigan in the last six tries. Over the last 40 games, the Gophers have won three. As I wrote back in 2011, this is a rivalry in the same sense that the human foot versus the ant is a rivalry. This has to change.
Jerry Kill has a 2-8 record in trophy games at Minnesota, which could be worse still had the Gophers continued to play all four rival games each year. Tim Brewster infamously went winless in 10 tries for any rivalry trophies, failing to beat Wisconsin and Iowa, or even Michigan during the Rich Rodriguez days. Now, Kill didn't exactly come into a winning environment, or even a half-decent one. He was essentially hired to extinguish a dumpster fire of old tires set by the previous fire brigade, a group that not only set the fire but also tried to douse the flames with kerosene. (They also fired a pellet gun at the fire; we're still as confused as you are.)
We all know this, much has been written by Tim Brewster's ineptitude and it's worth noting that the bad losses to Michigan started long before Brewster was helicoptering in to high school games and Glen Mason was getting phone calls from Bo Schembechler. The losing goes back to the time period when Kill was still a teenager in rural Kansas.
But the 2014 Michigan Wolverines are nowhere near the Wolverine teams of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
The Gophers turned in a surprising 8-5 mark last year, and the hope - there's that dangerous word again - is that they are continuing on the upswing. But 2013 ended without the Pig, the Axe or the Jug sitting in the Gopher trophy case and in his first three years, Kill has gone 1-8 against those three rivals. His teams have been out-scored 135-26 in three contests against Michigan, which might seem slightly skewed because of a 58-0 game in 2011, but the Gophers still found a way to give up 42 points to the Wolverines last year. Against the only Power 5 team they have played thus far, the Gophers derailed into a Year One Jerry Kill team.
Kill has brought the Gophers back into the Fringe Bowl status and to continue on that trajectory, the Gophers need to overachieve in games like this one, games in Iowa City and eventually, games in Madison. The Gophers have a legit defense and a woeful offense, as does Michigan. Last year, Michigan blew out the Gophers, but went on to lose to Penn State and Nebraska, two teams the Gophers beat. They also needed three overtimes to beat Northwestern. Are the Gophers really that far from Michigan right now? (It should be noted that the last time I asked this, the Maroon and Gold got spanked by 58 points.)
Sure, we should laugh at Michigan for not being able to fill the Big House only three years removed from an BCS win, but we should also begin to expect the Gophers to bring home the Little Brown Jug once in awhile.
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Elliot Mann is a Minnesota-based freelance writer who contributes to The Daily Gopher. Follow his jokes about Coca-Cola needing to unload 20,000 bottles of Diet Coke with the names "Brady" and "Dave" at twitter.com/elliotmann.