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.
My assignment for the Tuesday paper was to write about the five biggest reasons for this year's Gophers football turnaround. Look for that later in tonight's first editions.
Meantime, I looked up a bunch of Gophers stats, comparing this year to last year. In no particular order, here's what I found:
Average time of possession: 31:03/33:23
Philip Nelson’s passer rating: 104.4/141.6
Turnover margin: -2 (22 committed, 20 caused)/+6 (9 committed, 15 caused)
Points scored per game: 22.1/30.7
Points allowed per game: 24.7/23.4
Yardage allowed per game: 358.6/380.8
Yardage gained per game: 321.4/367.9
Rushing yardage per game: 151.9/218.5
Leading rusher: Donnell Kirkwood 73.7 yards per game/David Cobb 94.2
Fourth down conversions: 7-for-16, 44%/11-for-14, 78.6 %
Penalty yardage per game: 50.2/36.4
Net punting average: Christian Eldred (primarily) 34.2 yards per punt/Peter Mortell 38.1
Field goals: Jordan Wettstein 14-for-22/Chris Hawthorne 12-for-15
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.
The Big Ten announced its 2018-2019 football schedules today. Here's how it looks for the Gophers, with crossover games against the Big Ten East Division in bold.
Sept. 29 -- at Maryland
Oct. 6 -- Iowa
Oct. 13 -- at Ohio State
Oct. 20 -- at Nebraska
Oct. 27 -- Indiana
Nov. 3 -- at Illinois
Nov. 10 -- Purdue
Nov. 17 -- Northwestern
Nov. 24 -- at Wisconsin
Sept. 28 -- at Purdue
Oct. 5 -- Illinois
Oct. 12 -- Nebraska
Oct. 19 -- at Rutgers
Oct. 26 -- Maryland
Nov. 9 -- Penn State
Nov. 16 -- at Iowa
Nov. 23 -- at Northwestern
Nov. 30 -- Wisconsin
The city of Minneapolis has submitted a bid to host the 2017 College Football Playoff championship game, with the hope of hosting that event in the new Vikings stadium, a spokeswoman for Meet Minneapolis confirmed Monday.
Minneapolis reportedly is one of six cities to submit a bid for the 2017 event, along with Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami, San Antonio and Santa Clara, Calif. The winning bid is expected to be announced in November.
The final BCS (Bowl Championship Series) title game will be played this coming January, and it’ll be replaced next season by a four-team College Football Playoff.
The 2015 title game will be played in Arlington, Texas, at the Dallas Cowboys home stadium. Phoenix, New Orleans, Jacksonville and Tampa each submitted bids for the 2016 game.
Is there anything more frustrating as a sports fan than not being able to see a crucial replay when you're at a game?
You're sitting there with these magnificent, high-definition video replay boards. You're working through sensory overload, with seemingly every spare second filled with blinking advertisements and bellowing sound.
And then, the officials make a game-changing call, and you have no idea what just happened. Your cell phone blows up, as friends watching at home express their outrage about the call. They just watched 16 replays from three different angles, but you were the poor sucker who chose to actually go to the game.
Well, starting tonight, the Big Ten is ready to change that. The conference announced Wednesday that its schools can now show an unlimited number of replays. Previously, teams could show one replay -- even of a great touchdown pass -- at no less than 75 percent of full speed. But now teams can slow it down as much as they want and show it over and over -- just like TV.
“Our goal on game day is to blend the best parts of an in-stadium experience with the best parts of an at-home experience,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said in the press release. “Enhanced replay is just one way to do that and we look forward to making it available to our fans this year."
I doublechecked with a conference spokesman this morning, just to make sure this included close officiating calls, and he said yes.
This should be interesting this year, especially now that the NCAA has established a new "targeting" rule, which calls for an automatic ejection if officials believe a tackler has targeted an opponent's head.
Another key point: The Gophers have the Big Ten's permission to show anything and everything tonight, but the conference still gives teams the discretion to show what they want. So it'll be interesting to see if they give equal exposure to replays that go for and against the home team.
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