It's 92 degrees in Las Vegas, with cloudy skies and darkness falling, and it feels like a beautiful night for football in Sam Boyd Stadium, a venue I got to know very well during my stint covering Utah football more than a decade ago. Place hasn't changed much -- out in the sticks, entirely bleachers, and not many people in them.
(Though I can see the Gophers get-together from here, and it looks packed.)
It's a good trip for the Gophers, though, as they debut their new matte helmets, their white-on-white road look -- and a new punter, too.
Among the players left off the 70-man traveling roster, and perhaps the most surprising omission, is junior Dan Orseske, Minnesota's starting punter for the past two seasons. The Gophers still won't reveal which of the three punters they brought along will actually do the kicking, but it won't be the man who has made 109 of the Gophers' 112 punts the past two years.
Also not traveling: tailback David Cobb, receivers Malcolm Moulton and Victor Keise, defensive tackle Eric Jacques, linebacker Jephte Matilus, tight ends Moses Alipate and Gabe Mezzenga, and quarterback Mitch Leidner. That last one isn't a surprise, since Leidner is a true freshman, but fellow quarterback Philip Nelson did make the squad as the third-team quarterback.
A couple of other decisions were made about the two-deep roster: Zach Mottla kept his starting job at center, and freshman Scott Ekpe is listed as second-team nose tackle.
The game will be officiated by a Big Ten crew, headed by referee Dan Capron.