The long-running, highly anticipated
and award winning Monday Perspective is back. The weekly column where I get to share my perspective on Gopher football, expecting you to do nothing but change your best and agree with my opinions. Gopher football was very nearly not going to be a thing in 2020, but things turned around (with several whacky sources trying to take credit) and we get to experience the joy of Gopher football on Saturdays (and a few Fridays).
So without further adieu, let us get into my perspective on the bizarro 2020 season. I think I have three prevailing thoughts on this upcoming 9-game season.
We have not yet arrived
The 2019 season was fantastic, it was a season that most of us had never experienced. It was dangerously close to resulting in a trip to Pasadena. But it didn’t. And while it was a fantastic season, particularly by Gopher standards, it was still a tie for the West and a very good bowl game. Nothing more, nothing less.
Most of us are very excited about the direction of the program. The talent level appears to be rising, the coaching staff appears to be more than just competent and seasons like 2019 might not be quite the aberration that it felt like in the moment. In fact, those might become more regular. But we aren’t there yet. Not only are we not there yet, we still have steps to go before we are one of the elite programs in the Big Ten. Before other teams are going to truly take the Gopher program seriously, we need to earn it.
And that goes for fans as well. We can be very excited about where we are going. But one good season does not make this an elite program. I’m not yet ready to be an obnoxious fan of my team until I’ve truly earned the right to be that obnoxious fan.
ENJOY THE SEASON
The fact that the season is happening at all is a gift from the football gods (and Nebraska). It was going to happen, it wasn’t going to happen and now it is again. But there is zero guarantee that it is going to go smoothly.
First of all, the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the start of the season and then kick it off on the weekend of October 24th has left the conference with zero room for error. There may be postponed or even cancelled games. There may be key players who are unable to play key games because of the safety protocols in place. There are unlikely to be many fans at any of the games, home or away.
The point is that this is going to be an odd season. One where things turn for the weird or even ends up not being finished. At this point, we should just be happy that we get any football at all. This season is like an exhibition season, but the games still count. If things go poorly? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
But we get up to 9 games. We get to see a number of young, talented defensive players get their first crack at regular playing time. We get to watch Rashod Bateman play one more season in maroon and gold (seriously, this is the absolute most exciting aspect of the 2020 season for me).
If the season schedule falls apart? We can enjoy the games we had. If we struggle a little? It’s OK.
Really, I’m eying next season
There are three very good reasons why I think this team is going to be good in 2020, but could be special in 2021. I am very glad the 2020 season is happening, to get some valuable experience for a number of players. Because in 2021, we very well might have a truly special season on our hands. Here’s why.
Defensively this 2020 team is replacing a number of quality starters. Four Gopher defenders were drafted last spring, including Antoine Winfield Jr. who has been the best rookie defensive player in the league so far. While I may be excited about the kids stepping into the starting roles vacated by Carter Coughlin, Kamal Martin, Chris Williamson and others; getting back to that level of production doesn’t happen overnight. Defensively, the 2020 season is about getting experience at game-speed for a number of talented kids. Meaning in 2021, they’ll be seasoned and ready to be elite.
Also, everyone will be back. Even before the NCAA decided to not count this season towards the 4-year eligibility rules the one and only guy that you will likely lose heading into 2021 is Bateman. He is an all-world receiver who will be missed, but it is highly likely that this team returns 21 starters. The offense is already very good. Talented and deep at most positions. The defense is getting the 2020 season to work out their kinks, the offense is already one of the best in the conference and 2021 is when it all potentially comes together.
Lastly, the schedule breaks in our favor again. This time we get Ohio State on the schedule, but it is home in week 1. They’ll be replacing 5 or 6 (or more) players who will be drafted early, including Justin Fields. So week one, at home, with fans for the first time in over a year, might be the best time to face the Buckeyes. Wisconsin and Nebraska will be at home as well. The schedule is favorable.
When I put the second and third points together, I will certainly enjoy this season (I’m very excited), but I’m watching it with an eye towards 2021. (also worth noting that the Rose Bowl is not CFP semi-final or championship game on Jan 1 of 2022)
Enjoy this season, Gopher fans. Every game we get is precious and valuable. We can enjoy our season, focusing on our team and letting the results speak for themselves. I couldn’t be more pleased with the direction of the program, but this season is going to be a blast.