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.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
A lot has been made of Jerry Kill's modesty and lack of pretension, especially in contrast to his predecessor, but I thought the Gophers' new coach was taking it a little over-the-top recently when he said something that made me do a double-take.
"There's nothing special about me," Kill said. "There are high school coaches who could do my job just as well, I really believe that."
Hmm, Gopher fans might not want to hear that their new million-dollar leader is on the same level as Smalltown Prep's football coach. But as Kill explained what he meant, I realized he wasn't demeaning his own ability -- quite the opposite. He was outlining his philosophy about moving up from the small-school Mid-American Conference to the NCAA equivalent of the big leagues.
He meant that he feels no reason to be intimidated by the Big Ten.
"People ask that about me all the time -- can I adjust to the Big Ten?" Kill said. "I'm more worried about continuity, and about sticking with what works. People need to understand, it doesn't matter what level you're at; the principles are the same. It's still football."
That's an attitude borne of experience, which after two decades as a head coach, is one of Kill's strengths.
"When I took the job at Southern Illinois, I got a lot of advice: 'You better get some Division I-AA people on your staff.' When I took the job at Northern (Illinois), it was 'You better get some MAC people,' " Kill said.
In both cases, he kept his coaching staff almost intact, just as he's done at Minnesota. "I've done it the way I feel best. People say 'It's totally different at this level,' and yeah, there are a lot of differences. I know there's a lot to learn," he said. "But there are many basic ideas that work at every level. Preparation. Hard work. If we have a system, that's it, and we're going to stick with that."
Jim Delany called Saturday the worst day for the Big Ten that he can remember, and it's hard to argue. The league's shaky credibility took some serious hits; what does it say when a co-champion loses 49-7, as Michigan State did to Alabama?
Wisconsin's loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl -- in the game's most riveting game, by far -- is certainly more defensible, because the Horned Frogs have a legitimate claim as the nation's best team. It was so impressive to watch TCU adjust to Wisconsin's offense as the game went on, holding the Badgers, who had scored 201 points in their previous three games, to just nine points after the first quarter.
(An aside: Sure seemed telling that ESPN, which has a serious stake in the BCS now that it owns the TV rights, never discussed after the game whether TCU might be the real No. 1 team, or how unfair the system is to an undefeated team like the Horned Frogs. Never asked any players or coaches what they thought, either. I'm guessing people in Fort Worth -- and plenty of people elsewhere, too -- believe TCU would have a fairly decent chance to beat Oregon or Auburn, if given the chance.)
Anyway, Delany's conversation with ESPN.com in the wake of an 0-5 disaster is interesting. I know Ohio State coach Jim Tressel doesn't believe the conference's awful showing puts any added pressure on the Buckeyes against Arkansas tomorrow night, but a sweep of the league's trio of champions, and an 0-4 record against the SEC, would be an embarrassment for the league that might take a few years to overcome. At some point, it could cost them a second BCS berth.
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