Do you all remember the “ice bucket challenge?” The viral challenge that spread through Facebook in 2014 (coincidentally the last time we played Ohio State at home) where if you were challenged you were required to dump a bucket of ice water on your head or donate money to ALS research. And then you challenged someone else.
For those of us who participated, do you remember what that was like? The incredible sensation going from completely comfortable to your body being in total shock. This is a little bit what it must feel like to face Ohio State in week 1 of the season.
No more comfortably taking on a MAC level school to work out some of the kinks after fall camp. No, you get to face one of the elite, tier 1 teams of college football.
Am I excited? Yes.
Do I think there is a path to stealing this game, even as 14-point underdogs? I can make a decent case (as I’ve already done).
But this isn’t a hype post. This isn’t a predictions post. This is all about maintaining perspective.
First and foremost please keep in mind that the college football season is a long season. What happens in week 1 does not set in stone what the rest of your season is going to look like. Even Nebraska, after losing to Illinois...with their backup quarterback, can right the ship. They can correct the things put on film and they have a couple games ahead of them to work out their kinks.
You may recall the early part of the 2019 schedule. It was really a couple self-inflicted mistakes by South Dakota State that allowed the Gophers to win that game. It took a Chris Autman-Bell (as a freshman) TD catch with under a minute left to tie the game at Fresno State. And the offensive line really struggled against Georgia Southern and the Gophers scored the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left to win that game at home. The absolutely elite 2019 season where the Gophers went 11-2, VERY easily could have seen 3 losses to those three “inferior” teams.
So I’ll remind you again, it is a long season and things will change throughout.
In fact, if there is a pattern under PJ Fleck, it is that they typically start seasons slowly and get better. I already gave you the 2019 example of how slowly the team started before eventually being a top-10 caliber team. 2020 was horrific to start the year, especially on defense, but despite the waning interest due to a poor start and a weird pandemic year, they were much better by the end of the year. Don’t forget 2018 when the team was 4-5 after giving up 55 points to Illinois and 53 points to Nebraska before making the defensive coordinator switch and ending the season with a win AT Wisconsin.
With a history of slow starts, should we be concerned about starting the season with a team the caliber of Ohio State? Yes and no.
Yes, this is likely a loss. No, because there will still be 12 more games to be played and the results of game one, which is expected to be a loss, do not define the rest of the season.
In fact, I like how this schedule plays out. Game 1 you face one of the elite teams in the country. They are absolutely going to expose your weaknesses and areas that need to be fixed. Then you get a home game against Miami (OH) who is projected to be 3rd or 4th in the MAC East. Get your weaknesses exposed, get a week to fix them and get back on track in week 2.
The overall point here is this...
Enjoy the season. Accept week 1 as a return of college football, with fans. Regardless of the outcome, let this breath. If Ohio State puts 50 on the Gopher defense and they lose by 21, it is OK and that does not mean the season is lost. Conversely, if they happen to win or even just lose by 3; we should still give it some time before booking your hotel in Indianapolis for December 4th.
IT IS GAMEWEEK PEOPLE!