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Minnesota Football: The GN Perspective - Mid Season Check In

The GN Perspective - Mid Season Check In

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

We did a breakdown of the season in quarters, did a check-in after the first quarter and time for another check-in with the season half over half of the season remaining.

The conclusion? It’s all going according to plan!

Why do I say this? Because 4-2 with losses to PSU and Iowa is exactly what I predicted.

Am I just that brilliant? I’m only half done! Check out this prescient prediction on Leidner before the season began...

My very real prediction that I would actually bet money on is that Leidner will struggle early, even just a little bit. And he will take significant heat. I think that the way he ended last season plus the ridiculous McShay draft prediction will embolden some who are already not fans of Leidner to jump on him the second he struggles or throws a bad pick. It is going to happen. But Leidner will not be benched, he will settle down and be just fine throughout the entire season. I expect over 60% completion* and he leads a Gopher offense that shows a modest gain in points per game to somewhere in the 25-28 ppg range**.

* Leidner was over 60% before his Iowa debacle, should recover to get back to that level
**Team is scoring 30+ ppg, which includes the 7-point output vs. Iowa.

Now why do I point these tidbits out to you? I promise you that my ego is doing just fine without this, so it really is not an opportunity to pat myself on the back. The point is that you can trust me. And the season is going to be just fine...I promise. If you came into the season “expecting” a 10-win season, you are going to be disappointed and you can stop reading. If an 8-win season is enough to get you excited, then keep reading.

If you need more than 8 wins to make you happy, you’ve got the wrong program. You may recall that more than 8 wins has happened just once (ONCE) since 1967. And 8-win season has happened exactly 5 times in that same time period. Yes...the schedule is easier but that doesn’t mean we are handed wins and getting to more than 8 wins required winning more of the “toss-up games.” Of which we are currently 0-2, but that’s no reason to be so down on this team.

Penn State was a road game against a team of similar ilk. Should the Gophers have won this game? Yes, I believe they should have were it not for some self-inflicted mistakes that allowed Penn State to make the necessary plays that day. Incidentally, considering how the defense struggled in this game, I believe that we win if Kiante Hardin is playing.

Iowa? That game was in hand as well. Your quarterback plays the worst game of his career yet you had the ball three times, with the lead in the 4th quarter. Another missed opportunity. Unwillingness to run the ball and one breakdown on defense leads to a loss. But, like the Penn State game, it’s not like you lost to a dramatically inferior team.

Those games were considered toss-ups from the beginning and we came up just short. I stated in my quarter by quarter look at the season that the prior three games were the critical stretch if we wanted this to be a 9 or more win season.

For my money, this is the key stretch of the season. Win 2 or even 3 of these games and you are looking at a very special season. I could make an argument for winning all three of these as much as I could make an argument for losing them.

We failed to win 2 of the three, but all is not lost.

Coming up in quarter three are games that are very winable and appear to be more sure of a win than previously.

  • Rutgers
  • Illinois
  • Purdue

These are certainly games that should be wins. Probably the three worst teams in the Big Ten and a chance to gain some confidence and momentum, pushing our record to 7-2 before the final stretch.

Getting 2 of those final three seems daunting, but we’ll leave those for another day.

Looking back to last year, about this exact same time the Gophers had hit rock bottom (losing badly to Northwestern), bounced back with a win over a bad Big Ten team (Purdue) and from that point on began to play much better football competing with the best (albeit losing to the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa in very competitive games).

I believe that Iowa was rock bottom. Maryland and the upcoming stretch of three games are the ones where we begin to right the ship and see where things stand in three weeks.

We’ll need to see improvement from the quarterback, the receivers and the secondary needs to continue to earn back trust. But there’s time and Claeys (and staff) did show us a team that really improved in the second half of the season in 2015. Perhaps we see this again. I can easily see a path to 8-wins, nine if we see improvement in key areas.