Breaking down the Gophers football schedule

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 13, 2014 - 8:35 AM

The Gophers hope to be upwardly mobile, but they’ll face a stiff test from an ambitious schedule.

Jerry Kill believes this will be his best team in four years with the Gophers, but he also knows this will be his team’s toughest schedule in that span, too.

In his annual preview magazine, Phil Steele ranks each team’s schedule difficulty based on each opponent’s projected strength. So even though Texas Christian finished 4-8 last year, Steele expects a bounce-back season for the Horned Frogs and thus a difficult road challenge for the Gophers.

Steele ranked the Gophers’ schedule as the 22nd-toughest in the nation, up from 53rd last year. The Gophers went 4-0 in nonconference play the past two years, but that won’t be easy this time.

October brings Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois — teams that combined to go 2-22 in Big Ten play last year. But then comes November — Iowa, Ohio State, at Nebraska and at Wisconsin. Those four combined to go 24-9 in the Big Ten last year.

The Gophers likely will be favored in six games, as they were last season when they pulled three upsets (Northwestern, Nebraska and Indiana) and lost as a favorite to Syracuse, finishing 8-5. A closer look at this year’s slate, with my projected point spreads and each game’s upset potential:

Eastern Illinois, Aug. 28

Projected line: Gophers by 17

Chance for upset: Low

About the Panthers: They went 12-2 last year, clobbering San Diego State but losing to Towson in the FCS quarterfinals. But they lost quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who got drafted by the Patriots after breaking Tony Romo’s school passing records. And coach Dino Babers left for Bowling Green, replaced by Kim Dameron. Still, Eastern Illinois should be tougher than the Gophers’ two previous FCS foes. The Gophers whipped New Hampshire 44-7 in 2012 and beat Western Illinois 29-12 last year.

Middle Tennessee State, Sept. 6

Projected line: Gophers by 13

Chance for upset: Low

About the Blue Raiders: They went 8-5 last year and lost to Navy in the Armed Forces Bowl. MTSU is picked to finish second behind Marshall in Conference USA. Quarterback Logan Kilgore graduated after setting the school record for touchdown passes, leaving a three-man battle for this year’s starting job. Ninth-year coach Rick Stockstill has put together back-to-back eight-win seasons. The Blue Raiders defeated Marshall last year and Georgia Tech in 2012.

at Texas Christian, Sept. 13

Projected line: TCU by 6

Chance for upset: High

About the Horned Frogs: TCU went 2-7 in Big 12 play last year, but four of those losses — including to Baylor and Oklahoma — came by a combined 11 points. Gary Patterson’s teams play great defense, but preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields transferred after an alleged assault. The offense sputtered last year. Trevone Boykin and Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel are battling for the QB job.

San Jose State, Sept. 20

Projected line: Gophers by 9

Chance for upset: Low

About the Spartans: The Gophers beat San Jose State 43-24 last year at home. San Jose State finished 6-6 after knocking off then-No. 16 Fresno State. The Spartans must replace prolific quarterback David Fales (a sixth-round draft pick of the Bears) and standout receivers Chandler Jones and Noel Grigsby. The Spartans face Auburn on Sept. 6 and have a bye week before facing the Gophers. Spartans players should be more comfortable with coach Ron Caragher in his second year.

at Michigan, Sept. 27

Projected line: Michigan by 13

Chance for upset: High

About the Wolverines: Michigan has won 22 of 23 meetings against the Gophers, with the lone loss coming at the Big House in 2005. Even last year, when the Gophers had comparable skill, Michigan won 42-13. But Michigan is trending backward under Brady Hoke, whose teams have finished 11-2, 8-5 and 7-6. He hired offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier from Alabama, but the Wolverines had a woeful running game last year, and quarterback Devin Gardner can be a turnover machine.

Northwestern, Oct. 11

Projected line: Gophers by 3

Chance for upset: High

About Northwestern: The Wildcats were 10-3 two years ago and 4-0 last year before losing a heartbreaker to Ohio State. Then, things spiraled into a 5-7 finish. Quarterback Kain Colter graduated, and the Wildcats are less dynamic with Trevor Siemian. The Gophers began last year’s turnaround with a 20-17 victory at Northwestern, but the Wildcats have won three in a row at Minnesota. Former All-America RB Venric Mark is back after a medical redshirt year, although he was suspended for the first two games.

Purdue, Oct. 18

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San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 2
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Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
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Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Calgary 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Edmonton 0 FINAL
Calgary 1
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pm
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

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