If this was any other season, I think that the Gophers could make a decent run. With a coach who has proven that he can be successful in a short period of time, Minnesota is poised to pick themselves up off the B1G floor. However, with this year's schedule, the breakout season may have to wait another year. Until then, check out their schedule below; and don't forget to check out the fantastic work over at The Daily Gopher, too.
8/29 UNLV: Minnesota needed overtime to beat the Rebels in Vegas last year, even though the Gophers outgained UNLV in the air and on the ground. This was a game that made me angry...a Bruce Banner you-wouldn't-like-me-when-I'm-angry kind of angry, so let's avoid a recap. The Rebels are returning their QB in Nick Sherry and running back Tim Cornett, but the Gophers have Ra'Shede Hageman. I think there is a distinct possibility that Hageman will kill someone on the field this year.
9/7 @ New Mexico State: I think this is somewhere in New Mexico, but I'm not quite sure. A win for the Gophers? Okay, a win. How hard would it be to beat a team that doesn't even really exist? Sure, you've heard of them, but have you ever seen them? I'm guessing you haven't, and even if you say you have I won't believe you. New Mexico State is like a unicorn. A unicorn without magic.
9/14 Western Illinois: Now I know someone's making stuff up; there's no Western Illinois in the contiguous United States. Minnesota will be 3-0 after this week, 2-0 against make-believe schools.
9/21 San Jose State: Now we're getting somewhere. I used to live out in the Bay Area, so I know that this team really does exist. The combined records of the above teams was 6-30; the Spartans were 11-2. So, by extension, this is the only true challenge the Gophers will face in the first four games. SJSU returns QB David Fales who passed for almost 4,200 yards and 33 TDs last year. His main weapon, in receiver Noel Grigsby, will also be returning...along with his 1,300 yards receiving. Although the competition SJSU faces may be "Meh", it's better than what the Gophers' previous opponents face.
9/28 Iowa: Hate Week. Floyd of Rosedale is not at home; this makes him sad. He will go back to the Land of 10,000 Lakes where he belongs and all will be right with the world. Since I'm a native Minnesotan, I feel I must recuse myself from this one. I really don't believe I can be objective. I hate Iowa...a lot, but my hate manifests itself more in a disregard, like "Oh, yeah, Iowa's in the B1G."
10/5 @ Michigan: Minnesota could be either 5-0 or 4-1 before making the trip to Ann Arbor. The Gophers have beaten Michigan only three times in my lifetime. I'm 38. I love Jerry Kill and what he brings to the table for Minnesota, but I may have a better chance of seeing Halley's Comet for a second time than seeing the Gophers hold onto the Little Brown Jug twice. I'll have another piece later in the week regarding what the Little Brown Jug does to me each year.
10/19 @ Northwestern: After a bye, the Gophers will be on the road again, and facing the Northwestern Wildcats. This is one of those games that always pisses me off, because Northwestern was that team that you shouldn't lose to...was is the operative word. Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern are the new Wisconsin; meaning, they have been able to do more with less (although Fitzgerald is doing a great job recruiting), and there's a positive vibe for the future. Good luck, Goldy, you're gonna need it.
10/26 Nebraska: This battle in the Corn-Fed Division will be dominated by the most corn-fed of all the corn-feds. Corn is in their name, for corn's sake!
11/2 @ Indiana: In last week's post on Indiana's schedule, I actually predicted that the Hoosiers will beat the Gophers. I stand by that, if for no other reason than because Minnesota needs to lose to someone they shouldn't, and Indiana fits that bill. Watch out, though; the consensus is that Indiana could actually be much improved, depending on their defense. I heard they have a defense, but it's kinda like the existence of New Mexico State.
11/9 Penn State: This will be the first time seeing Penn State since a twelve point loss in 2010 in Minneapolis. Minnesota may actually stand a chance in this game. Although this will be Bill O'Brien's second season, his team is very young at QB. Minnesota's team is young, too, but the Gophers could come out on top when you consider Kill's experience, and Philip Nelson getting to be the man.
11/23 Wisconsin: The Border War. Lots of Minnesota kids go to Wisconsin to play football, which is very disappointing for Minnesotans. Even though the Badgers have a new coach, they'll still be able to take care of business in their usual manner; Paul Bunyan's axe will remain in Madison for another year.
11/30 @ Michigan State: State was very good in points allowed last season, ranking 9th in the country. With seven returning starters on defense, look for Minnesota to have a tough time scoring. Mark Dantonio's scowl will come out on top once again.
All in all, I think it's going to be a tough season for the Gophers, and they will probably have a similar record to last year; a 7-6 or 6-6 season is probably the best that can be expected. However, Philip Nelson and Ra'Shede Hageman could be the difference makers and pull out some unexpected victories for Minnesota. Although Jerry Kill has three more wins heading into his third year as Jim Wacker did entering his third year, Kill needs to be careful that he doesn't acquire the "...but he's a really great guy" tag that Wacker had. Let's see if he can continue his streak and turn the Gophers into a truly winning program.