Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.

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Posts about College football

Saturday's college football viewing guide with the Gophers on a bye week

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: November 15, 2013 - 11:40 AM

The Gophers have a bye Saturday, but they’ll have their eyes on two Big Ten games.

INDIANA AT WISCONSIN (11 a.m., ESPN2)

Line: Badgers by 23

Why it matters to the Gophers: Wisconsin is their next opponent, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Hoosiers can give the Badgers a scare at Camp Randall. A Wisconsin win would make the Badgers and Gophers both 8-2 heading into their Nov. 23 showdown at TCF Bank Stadium.

There’s an outside chance “ESPN College GameDay” would come to Minnesota for that game, though the more likely draw that day would be Oklahoma State at Baylor. As GameDay host Chris Fowler tweeted (@cbfowler), “Minnesota fans campaigning for 11/23 @CollegeGameDay: Root for Texas S'day. And TX Tech. And WIS. The November grid is interconnected!”

Texas is a 3-point underdog at home against Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech is a 27-point underdog against Baylor in a game played in Arlington, Texas.

MICHIGAN STATE AT NEBRASKA (2:30 p.m., ABC)

Line: Spartans by 6

Why it matters to the Gophers: This game will have a direct impact on Minnesota’s Legends Division Title chances. If Michigan State (5-0 in the Big Ten) wins, the Gophers (4-2) would need the Spartans to lose the following week at Northwestern (0-5) before Minnesota visits Michigan State on Nov. 30. If Nebraska (4-1) wins, the Gophers will be right in the hunt. At that point, Minnesota could claim the division title with wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State – and one Nebraska loss to either Penn State or Iowa.

It’s already been a storybook season for the Gophers. On Saturday, things could get even more interesting.

Big Ten announces 2018-2019 football schedules

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: October 16, 2013 - 11:27 AM

The Big Ten announced its 2018-2019 football schedules today. Here's how it looks for the Gophers, with crossover games against the Big Ten East Division in bold.

2018

Sept. 29 -- at Maryland

Oct. 6 -- Iowa

Oct. 13 -- at Ohio State

Oct. 20 -- at Nebraska

Oct. 27 -- Indiana

Nov. 3 -- at Illinois

Nov. 10 -- Purdue

Nov. 17 -- Northwestern

Nov. 24 -- at Wisconsin

 

2019

Sept. 28 -- at Purdue

Oct. 5 -- Illinois

Oct. 12 -- Nebraska

Oct. 19 -- at Rutgers

Oct. 26 -- Maryland

Nov. 9 -- Penn State

Nov. 16 -- at Iowa

Nov. 23 -- at Northwestern

Nov. 30 -- Wisconsin

Minneapolis bids for 2017 College Football Playoff title game

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: September 30, 2013 - 2:11 PM

The city of Minneapolis has submitted a bid to host the 2017 College Football Playoff championship game, with the hope of hosting that event in the new Vikings stadium, a spokeswoman for Meet Minneapolis confirmed Monday.

Minneapolis reportedly is one of six cities to submit a bid for the 2017 event, along with Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami, San Antonio and Santa Clara, Calif. The winning bid is expected to be announced in November.

The final BCS (Bowl Championship Series) title game will be played this coming January, and it’ll be replaced next season by a four-team College Football Playoff.

The 2015 title game will be played in Arlington, Texas, at the Dallas Cowboys home stadium. Phoenix, New Orleans, Jacksonville and Tampa each submitted bids for the 2016 game.

Gophers can show all the replays they want tonight, even of close calls, thanks to new Big Ten rule

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: August 29, 2013 - 10:21 AM

Is there anything more frustrating as a sports fan than not being able to see a crucial replay when you're at a game?

You're sitting there with these magnificent, high-definition video replay boards. You're working through sensory overload, with seemingly every spare second filled with blinking advertisements and bellowing sound.

And then, the officials make a game-changing call, and you have no idea what just happened. Your cell phone blows up, as friends watching at home express their outrage about the call. They just watched 16 replays from three different angles, but you were the poor sucker who chose to actually go to the game.

Well, starting tonight, the Big Ten is ready to change that. The conference announced Wednesday that its schools can now show an unlimited number of replays. Previously, teams could show one replay -- even of a great touchdown pass -- at no less than 75 percent of full speed. But now teams can slow it down as much as they want and show it over and over -- just like TV.

“Our goal on game day is to blend the best parts of an in-stadium experience with the best parts of an at-home experience,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in the press release. “Enhanced replay is just one way to do that and we look forward to making it available to our fans this year."

I doublechecked with a conference spokesman this morning, just to make sure this included close officiating calls, and he said yes.

This should be interesting this year, especially now that the NCAA has established a new "targeting" rule, which calls for an automatic ejection if officials believe a tackler has targeted an opponent's head.

Another key point: The Gophers have the Big Ten's permission to show anything and everything tonight, but the conference still gives teams the discretion to show what they want. So it'll be interesting to see if they give equal exposure to replays that go for and against the home team.

Two quick programming notes: I'll be hosting a Live Chat at noon, so stop by and bring your Gophers football questions. Also, join the conversation tonight during the UNLV game with our live blog.

Jerry Kill opens up about epilepsy at a time when many are still silent

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: August 10, 2013 - 9:55 PM

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to Jerry Kill’s office on June 27 to interview him for a story about his epilepsy. I knew Kill had opened up about it at times, but I also knew it wasn’t his favorite subject. There I was, a new Gophers beat writer, coming off my first spring practice. We’d had some good conversations about football, but I wouldn’t have blamed him for holding back more on questions about his health.

Instead, he poured out his heart. The interview lasted one hour, and he did most of the talking, taking me through his journey with epilepsy. He talked about the low points, especially last fall’s Michigan State game, when he couldn’t make it back for the second half after suffering a seizure in the locker room. He mentioned how encouraged he’s been working with a new doctor, and how the bowl game against Texas Tech was the most important game he’d ever coached.

His wife, Rebecca, was another tremendous help in putting together this story, which is running on the front page of our Sunday editions. I also owe a great deal of thanks to Vicki Kopplin, the executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, Dr. Ilo Leppik, Kill’s new epielptologist, and Paul Rovnak, the Gophers associate director of athletic communications.

***

I’ve learned a lot about epilepsy over the past six weeks, and one thing that stands out is how difficult it is for most people to talk about. I spoke with Dr. Thomas Sutula, who chairs the Department of Neurology at the University of Wisconsin and is a past president of the American Epilepsy Society. He said he knows practicing doctors with epilepsy who won’t talk about it, because of the stigma that’s attached.

“It’s really a significant aspect of epilepsy, relative to other chronic disorders.” Sutula said. “It’s an age-old kind of problem. In other parts of the world, people who have this are put in the house and never see the light of day. And it’s cross-cultural.

“It’s remarkable how many people still have a hard time acknowledging that they have it, and how scary it remains for people that run into it with their co-workers.”

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects nearly 3 million Americans, yet it’s amazing how little the general public really knows about it. Sutula said he’s been working for 35 years, trying to do something about this. I told Sutula that Kill has begun to talk more openly about his condition in hopes of raising awareness.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “I think it does tremendous good for people that have it to spread the word in the public spotlight. They can say, ‘Hey, I’m living with this and I’m getting by and things are working.’”

At this point, even a Badgers fan, such as Sutula, is pulling for him.

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