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.
Gophers tight end Maxx Williams on Monday was named one of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award, which given annually to the nation's top tight end.
Williams, a third-year sophomore from Waconia, has 25 receptions and leads all Big Ten tight ends in receiving yards (373) and receiving touchdowns (seven). He has accounted for 27.7 of all the Gophers' receiving yards.
The other seven semifinalists are E.J. Bibbs (Iowa State), Evan Engram (Ole Miss), Ben Koyack (Notre Dame), Jimmay Mundine (Kansas), Nick O'Leary (Florida State), Jean Sifrin (U Mass) and Clive Walford (Miami).
Former Gophers tight end Matt Spaeth won the Mackey Award in 2006. This year's finalists will be announced Nov. 24, with the trophy presented Dec. 11.
Game time set
The game time for the Gophers' game at Wisconsin on Nov. 29 has been set for 2:30 p.m. That will snap a string of six consecutive 11 a.m., games for Minnesota, including this Saturday's game at Nebraska.
The Gophers made their first appearance in the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night, at No. 25.
This is a little surprising, considering the Gophers (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) aren't in the Top 25 of the Coaches Poll or AP Poll this week. Still, it's a nice feather in their caps, and it's good for the other teams on their schedule.
TCU, for example, is sitting at No. 4 now with a resume that includes a 30-7 win over the Gophers on Sept. 6. The Gophers three remaining games are against No. 8 Ohio State, No. 16 Nebraska and No. 20 Wisconsin.
Minnesota has yet to crack the AP Top 25 this season but sat at No. 24 in the Coaches Poll before getting upset at Illinois two weeks ago.
Next Saturday's opponent, Ohio State, climbed to No. 8 in the latest AP Poll and No. 7 in the Coaches Poll after its 49-37 win over Michigan State on Saturday.
This will be the Gophers first game against a Top 10 team since they lost to then-No. 8 California 35-21 on Sept. 19, 2009.
Gophers safety Cedric Thompson was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, after making two key interceptions in Saturday’s 39-38 victory over Purdue. Thompson returned Austin Appleby’s first pass to the 2-yard line, setting up a quick touchdown. And the second interception sealed the win.
Gophers freshman Ryan Santoso was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the week after hitting two field goals, including the 52-yard game-winner.
The honors came one week after the Big Ten named Gophers linebacker Damien Wilson co-defensive player of the week, and kick returner Jalen Myrick co-special teams player of the week.
Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys was thrilled with Thompson’s performance Saturday.
“It couldn’t happen to a better kid -- the time and effort he’s put in, not only to be a better player, but to be a leader since Brock [Vereen] left,” Claeys said. “You know, the counseling and visiting with kids, what he’s done, and to see that happen to him just makes you feel good.
“The old thing is that if you work hard, you’ll be rewarded. I definitely think that was part of his reward, I really do, for everything he’s put in and done for the kids. That’s what football’s all about.”
For those who haven’t read Thompson’s remarkable story, here it is.
The Gophers haven't cracked the AP Top 25 since 2008, and they're still waiting, after receiving enough votes Sunday to rank No. 28.
But the Gophers did move into the Top 25 in the Coaches Poll, coming in at No. 24. They were ranked No. 23 in the Coaches Poll last Nov. 17, when they were 8-2, before losing to Wisconsin.
They are 6-1 now and coming off a comeback victory over Purdue. They'll be favored to win again next week at Illinois.
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