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.
The Gophers announced Wednesday that their kickoff time against Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 6 will be at 2:30 p.m. Middle Tennessee, from Conference USA, went 8-5 last season with a loss to Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl.
The game times for five of the first eight Gophers games are now set:
Aug. 28: Eastern Illinois (Home) 6 p.m., Big Ten Network
Sept. 6: Middle Tennessee (Home) 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Sept. 13: TCU (Away) 3 p.m., Fox Sports 1
Sept. 20: San Jose State (Home) TBA
Sept. 27: Michigan (Away) TBA
Oct. 11: Northwestern (Home) TBA
Oct. 18: Purdue (Home) 11 a.m., TV TBA
Oct. 25: Illinois (Away) 11 a.m., TV TBA
Nov. 8: Iowa (Home) TBA
Nov. 15: Ohio State (Home) TBA
Nov. 22: Nebraska (Away) TBA
Nov. 29: Wisconsin (Away) TBA
Outgoing Gophers senior Brock Vereen will get another chance to perform before NFL scouts on Saturday, when he plays in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The game will be televised on NFL Network, with the kickoff at 3 p.m. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch and Purdue defensive tackle Bruce Gaston are among the other standouts who'll be there.
Vereen, a first-team All-Big Ten defensive back, is a potential late-round pick. His brother, Shane, is a running back for the New England Patriots.
"Coming into college, I think it’s safe to say most players have aspirations to play at the NFL level," Brock Vereen said last month. "I’ve been fortunate enough to see Shane go through his whole process, and I think the biggest thing I’ve taken from that is whether you’re the first pick or a free agent, all you need is an opportunity.
"So I’m not worried about when I’m taken, if I’m taken. As long as I can get a chance I know I’ll make the most of it."
Note: Gophers defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman, a potential first-round pick, is gearing up to play in the Senior Bowl, on Jan. 25 in Mobile, Ala.
The game time for Saturday's football game between the Gophers and Wisconsin finally was announced this morning. The teams will play at 2:30 p.m.
It took this long to decide because of television. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Both teams are 8-2. They play for Paul Bunyan's Axe, and the Gophers are looking to claim it for the first time since 2003.
TOP 25 UPDATE
The Gophers received enough votes to sit at No. 26 in the AP poll, behind USC (No. 23), Ole Miss (No. 24) and Duke (No. 25).
The Badgers are at No. 16 in the AP poll and No. 17 in the Coaches Poll.
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.
Gophers punter Peter Mortell earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the second consecutive week Monday, after a big second half in Saturday's 24-10 victory over Penn State.
The Gophers didn't punt in the first half, and Mortell was a big reason they shut down Penn State in a scoreless second half. The redshirt sophomore from Green Bay, Wis., had punts that pinned the Nittany Lions at the 1-, 2- and 12-yard line. He averaged 46 yards on his four punts, including a career-best 62-yarder.
For the season, Mortell is averaging 42.8 yards per punt, which is tied for second best in the Big Ten.
Also, the Gophers announced that the game time for their Nov. 23 tussle with Wisconsin will be set after the Big Ten games next Saturday. The Gophers and Badgers will kick off at TCF Bank Stadium at either 11 a.m., or 2:30 p.m. It all depends on TV, of course.
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