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 coach Jerry Kill received a 2013 Regional Coach of the Year Award from the American Football Coaches Association on Tuesday, joining Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, Baylor’s Art Briles and Stanford’s David Shaw as one of the five selections from the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Those coaches will be recognized at the 2014 AFCA Convention on Jan. 14 in Indianapolis, where a National Coach of the Year selection will be made for each of the Association’s five divisions.
Minnesota State Mankato coach Aaron Keen also won a regional award for Division II, Bethel's Steve Johnson won a regional award for Division III. Here’s a complete list of the regional winners:
Football Bowl Subdivision
Region 1: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State University
Region 2: Gary Pinkel, University of Missouri
Region 3: Jerry Kill, University of Minnesota
Region 4: Art Briles, Baylor University
Region 5: David Shaw, Stanford University
Football Championship Subdivision
Region 1: Joe Moorhead, Fordham University &
Jack Cosgrove, University of Maine (tie)
Region 2: Jamey Chadwell, Charleston Southern University
Region 3: Dino Babers, Eastern Illinois University
Region 4: Craig Bohl, North Dakota State University
Region 5: Ron Roberts, Southeastern Louisiana University
Region 1: George Mihalik, Slippery Rock University
Region 2: Scott Maxfield, Henderson State University
Region 3: Bill Conley, Ohio Dominican University
Region 4: Josh Lynn, Eastern New Mexico University
Region 5: Aaron Keen, Minnesota State University-Mankato
Region 1: Mike Welch, Ithaca College
Region 2: Jim Monos, Lebanon Valley College
Region 3: Pete Fredenburg, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
Region 4: Tom Arth, John Carroll University
Region 5: Steve Johnson, Bethel (Minn.) University
Region 1: Chris Oliver, Lindsey Wilson College
Region 2: Mike Woodley, Grand View University
Region 3: Larry Wilcox, Benedictine (Kan.) College
Region 4: Ross Cimpl, Dakota Wesleyan University
Region 5: Mike Van Diest, Carroll (Mont.) College
For the second consecutive year, the Gophers are heading to Houston for a bowl game, this time against Syracuse on Dec. 27, a person familiar with the decision confirmed Sunday.
The Gophers (8-4) accepted their invitation from the Texas Bowl, hoping to improve on their performance from last year, when they lost 34-31 to Texas Tech, when the game was known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Many projections had the Gophers playing Texas Tech again in Houston, but the Texas Bowl was able to avoid a rematch, selecting Syracuse (6-6) from the ACC.
The Gophers defeated Syracuse 17-10 last year at TCF Bank Stadium.
This year, in Syracuse's first year in the ACC and first year under Coach Scott Shafer, the Orange finished 4-4 in conference play and defeated Boston College 34-31 in its final regular season game. Its other victories this year came against Wagner, Tulane, North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Maryland. Syracuse opened the season with losses to Penn State and Northwestern.
Syracuse did not allow a 100-yard rusher this season.
While waiting today’s bowl announcement, the Gophers held their annual team banquet and announced this year’s awards winners. Here’s a list, as compiled from Tweets from the @GopherFootball account:
Bronko Nagurski Award (MVP): Ra’Shede Hageman
Bruce Smith Award (outstanding offensive player): David Cobb
Carl Eller Award (outstanding defensive player): Ra'Shede Hageman
Bobby Bell Award (outstanding special teams player): Peter Mortell
Outstanding Offensive Freshmen of the Year: Donovahn Jones and Maxx Williams
Outstanding Defensive Freshman of the Year: Hank Ekpe
Wide Receiver of the Year: Derrick Engel
Offensive Back of the Year: David Cobb
Offensive Lineman of the Year: Zac Epping
Defensive Back of the Year: Brock Vereen
Linebacker of the Year: Aaron Hill
Defensive Lineman of the Year: Ra’Shede Hageman
Gary Tinsley Award (underdog): David Cobb
Neil Fredenburg Award (courage and love of the game): Aaron Hill
Butch Nash Award (competitive on field and in classroom): Jon Christenson
Paul Giel Award (honoring unselfishness, concern for the 'U'): Brock Vereen and Aaron Hill
Tony Dungy Character/Community Service Award: Chris Hawthorne
Work-Team Players of the Year: Jephte Matilus and Chris Wipson
Later today, the Gophers will learn their bowl destination and opponent. Our latest Big Ten Bowl Projections still have the Gophers going back to Houston to play in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27.
That's not an ideal situation for the Gophers, who played in that same bowl last year when it was called the Meineke Car Care Bowl, losing 34-31 to Texas Tech.
But the bowls can pick teams regardless of records. There's a selection order, and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Dec. 28 in Tempe, Ariz.) or the Gator Bowl (Jan. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla.) are bound to take a 7-5 Michigan team over 8-4 Minnesota -- because it's all about filling seats and TV ratings.
For a long time, several projections had the Gophers facing Texas Tech again in Houston. It would have been tough generating much interest in that rematch, but that can be avoided if the Big 12 lands two teams in BCS Bowls. Baylor won the Big 12 title, assuring a Fiesta Bowl trip, and many projections now have Oklahoma going to the Sugar Bowl with an at-large berth.
That would let Texas Tech go to the Holiday Bowl -- as the last Big 12 selection -- and then the Texas Bowl could pick a team from another conference.
Our current projections have the Gophers playing Oregon State from the Pac-12. Washington State, coached by Mike Leach, is another possibility. So the opponent will be the most interesting component. Stay tuned.
INDIANAPOLIS – The bowl projections keep changing at the top, with Northern Illinois and Oklahoma State falling out of the BCS picture with losses in the past 17 hours.
The Gophers seem to be headed back to Houston for the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27, but they could wind up facing a Pac-12 team instead of a Big 12 team. Jerry Palm currently has the Gophers facing Oregon State, and Phil Steele has them playing Washington State. Stay tuned.
Tomorrow is Bowl Selection Day, and we'll have you covered.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
I’m really enjoying my first trip to the Big Ten Championship Game. I’m impressed by how functional Indianapolis is for an event like this. I’m staying about a half-mile from Lucas Oil Stadium, but the hotels all seemed connected to the Convention Center by skyway, and it’s a short walk from there to several bars, restaurants and the stadium.
The streets are filled with fans yelling “O-H!” and “I-O!” or “Go Green!” and “Go White!”
I’m tempted to pick Michigan State in an upset. But I’m predicting a 34-30 win for Ohio State. I think the strength of Michigan State’s defense can cancel out the strength of Ohio State’s offense, and I think the Buckeyes’ defense is better than the Spartans’ offense.
That might sound blasphemous after Ohio State just gave up 600 yards to a sputtering Michigan team, but I’m chalking that up to a rivalry game where anything can happen. I think this one will be close, but Braxton Miller will make just enough plays to send Ohio State to the BCS title game.
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