Half the battle with a weekly piece like TMP is deciding what I want to talk about for the week. Should I talk about moral victories and how I think there is actually middle ground? Should I tackle the Mitch Leidner debate? Nah, I think I'll let that one percolate a little bit. Or maybe just look ahead to Colorado State and the sweet high-top of wide-receiver, Rashard Higgins. Or maybe talk about how much I hate the new "clubhouse" page of teams on ESPN. But I digress and I think there still is a discussion to be had about expectations.
Under Jerry Kill this football program has improved each year and has managed to even exceed expectations, regardless of how optimistic the consensus of the fan base has been. But what about this year? Can they continue to improve and exceed expectations?
Personally my expectations are that this Gopher defense is going to be the best we have seen in decades. Is it going to be the best defense in all of college football? No, but it is going to be one of the best. Secondly, like last year, I expect that we will compete for the Big Ten West title. Until we have seen even greater and sustained success, I just don't see how we can have expectations any higher than that.
So what did we learn after Thursday evening?
Well I think we learned that the two expectations I have for this year still appear to be fully intact.
First the defense. Were they perfect? No. But this is one of the most explosive and dangerous offenses in all of college football. The quarterback? He's a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. The running back? He was 2nd Team All Big 12 last year. The wide receivers? Well, likely two of them will be drafted. And even a couple linemen where were 2nd team All Big 12 last year. So there is some serious talent on this offense that just barely missed the Playoffs last year.
A year ago they averaged 46.5 points and 533 yards per game. They
haven't hadn't been held to under 30 since 2013 when they went 4-8. Did they move the ball at times on our defense? Yes and they even missed a couple opportunities. But in the end the Gophers held them to 23 points and 449 yards. Both numbers may be exceeded in each regular season game this year.
Overall there were some very encouraging signs that this defense is going to be incredibly difficult to score upon and there are going to be a lot of turnovers forced as the front-seven is going to be good at putting pressure on quarterbacks while the secondary will take advantage of that.
So what does this loss to TCU mean for the Gopher's expectation on the season? Not much. This game does nothing to hurt them unless TCU goes the rest of the season and really stumbles. Assuming TCU is a top 5 or 10 team, this loss really doesn't hurt Minnesota. It was an opportunity to really make a huge leap forward, but it doesn't really hurt. Can they still win the Big Ten West? Clearly. The real question is, after watching this game do you still think they have a shot at winning the Big Ten West? Certainly.
Wisconsin was beat handily by Alabama. Nebraska lost at home to a good BYU team. Northwestern, especially the defense, looked really good against a ranked Stanford team. The West is going to be a challenge, without a doubt. But the Gophers played well against what is supposed to be an elite team. Miss opportunity but if you look at the product on the field, this team is going to be pretty good.
I didn't see anything on Thursday night to change my mind about this 2015 squad. There were things that need to be cleaned up, nothing was perfect, but I really like the look of this team. Your thoughts? Any change in expectations following the season opening loss to TCU?