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.
Sports Illustrated picks the Gophers to finish last in the Big Ten, and disintegrate into a 2-10 season. CBSsports.com's Dennis Dodd also expects Minnesota to own 11th place, and says "walls are closing in" on coach Tim Brewster.
None of that jibes with what Adam Weber says he has seen on the practice field.
"We're going to be fundamentally sound. We're going to be a tough football team," the senior quarterback said. "We've seen great improvement in our running game, and that gives us great excitement. If you can run, it makes everyone's job easier."
And it sows the seeds of a surprise season, Weber believes.
"We know everyone has written us off, but there's only one way to change that, and that's by how we play," Weber said. "If we want respect, we'll have to take it. We've got the guys who can do it."
This is not news, of course. As Weber himself points out, every team in every conference is optimistic in August. Shock-the-world is a pretty standard football motivator.
But this is different, Weber said. This is about as big a gulf between perception and reality as he can imagine.
"There are only a couple of teams in the Big Ten where people are saying, you guys are horse----," Weber said bluntly. "At Ohio State, everyone is saying, 'Oh, you're going to win the Big Ten again.' With us, it's, 'Oh, you might win a game. Or two.' "
That dynamic makes for a remarkably loose team, he said, and yes, he believes it will help. "We can just go play football," Weber said. "If it was up to sportswriters, we'd just give Alabama the national championship and skip the season. But we get to play, and we think we've been" misjudged.
While the Gophers are preparing for Middle Tennessee State in just 10 days, the Blue Raiders are dealing with some untimely turmoil. You may have read over the weekend that MTSU quarterback Dwight Dasher has been accused of borrowing $1,500 for a high-stakes poker game, then not repaying the loan.
The senior quarterback ranked ninth nationally in total offense last season, so this is no small matter for the Blue Raiders. And whether the quarterback's 80-year-old accuser can prove Dasher owes him the money is only part of the problem. The NCAA is going to want to know about this poker game that Dasher allegedly took part in, since gambling is understandably an enormous worry for college sports.
Dasher, second-team all-Sun Belt in 2009, took part in practice on Monday, but the school is busy trying to determine his eligibility. The Gophers might face a significantly damaged (or distracted, at least) team next week.
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