Analyzing the Minnesota-Nebraska game coming up this Saturday, it’s tough to figure out how the two teams will react to what happened to them in their previous games.
Nebraska suffered one of the worst defeats in their history, 59-24 at Wisconsin on Saturday, something that was not expected. Earlier this season, Wisconsin was having quarterback problems. But they have found a quarterback in Joel Stave, although against Nebraska only threw for 46 yards.
Melvin Gordon ran for an NCAA-record 408 yards for the Badgers who, as usual, have a great ground game.
So the question is can Minnesota, which lost a one-touchdown margin game to Ohio State, bounce back against the Cornhuskers? And can David Cobb duplicate, to a point, the rushing totals of one Melvin Gordon against Wisconsin?
The Gophers have taken some awful beatings at Nebraska. But I think it will be hard for Nebraska to bounce back, and I think the Gophers, who performed so well against Ohio State, will play their best of the season.
Of course, it could be the opposite. Nebraska could take it out on the Gophers, because it is tough to win at Lincoln.
This was the second time that the Badgers have handed the Cornhuskers a big, lopsided loss in a big game. They beat them 70-31 in the Big Ten title game two years ago.
Considering they are in the same conference, Minnesota and Ohio State playing each other in a Big Ten football game is a rarity.
The teams haven’t met since 2010, and have played only 50 times since 1921.
During the years Woody Hayes coached Ohio State (1951-78) and Murray Warmath coached the Gophers (1954-71) they played only five times. They didn’t meet at all until Warmath was in his 11th season (1965).
Because their teams didn’t play much, Hayes and Warmath because friends, and started sharing scouting reports. This was the days before teams exchanged game films, so assistant coaches would scout. On more than one occasion, the scouting reports were different, and I believe a couple of assistant coaches got fired on account of that.
I was standing outside of his Warmath’s office more than once and heard him yell at a scout for not having the same information that Hayes had reported on the telephone.
The Gophers have maybe the toughest remaining four games of any team in the Big Ten. All of a sudden, Iowa becomes one of the better teams in the Big Ten, even though earlier this season they lost to Iowa State, lost to Maryland and needed a last-second field goal to beat Northern Iowa.
But the Iowa team that comes in here Saturday is a much improved team over what it was three or four weeks ago when most of the experts, including myself, thought the Iowa game would be a pushover, and the worries would be about the final three games against Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Now Iowa could be just as competitive as any of those teams.
The Gophers will have to play so much better than they did against Purdue and Illinois if they want to beat the Hawkeyes on Sunday.
Yes, the final four games of the Big Ten season will be a big test for Jerry Kill and his team. If they want to be among the elite of the league, they'll have to find a way to win these games.
The Gophers football team lost at Illinois on Saturday, and it's amazing how all the people who were loving a winner fell off the bandwagon once the team suffered an unexpected loss.
Listen, Jerry Kill inherited a tough situation when he took over the Gophers football program. While a lot of people criticized former coach Tim Brewster, and he had his issues, Brewster had a hard time getting kids into school, and that was one of the reasons he didn’t win much.
It’s not easy to get the average kid into school at Minnesota, and when they cut out the General College at the university in 2005, it was a big blow of the ability of all major coaches at the university – football and basketball especially – to recruit kids who didn’t have strong academic record in high school. General College helped those students get started at the university.
The basketball programs and football programs at Minnesota are still hurting because of the absence of the General College. And Minnesota is one of the toughest schools in the Big 10 to stay eligible because of their rules concerning advancing academically from the freshman year to the senior year each semester.
Jerry Kill needs more time to recruit good players to put Minnesota in a position with Iowa and Wisconsin, similar programs.
One last thing – there is a danger of the Gophers losing a couple of coaches after this year, and that would be a big blow.
Stay patient with Jerry Kill. He will continue to improve the winning records at Minnesota. Just give him time.
In the Vikings offices at Winter Park, they often have videoconferences with the principal owners of the team, Zygi and Mark Wilf, who are based in New Jersey.
There was such a meeting on Tuesday that was unusual, because the non-football executives took part.
You want a good guess what one of the topics was, in addition to updates on the stadium?
Well, look for an announcement any day that coach Leslie Frazier is going to get a contract extension. As reported in my column on Dec. 10, Frazier is going to be the team’s coach in the future, and I believe he will get a two- or three-year extension to his current deal, which expires after next season.
The Wilfs have an outstanding relationship with Frazier, one that has improved steadily since he took over as the team’s coach near the end of the 2010 season.
New thinking at U
All the talk about adding athletic facilities at the University of Minnesota has usually focused on putting those facilities around the TCF Bank Stadium-Williams Arena-Mariucci Arena area.
But Norwood Teague, the Gophers athletic director, and his new staff have different ideas. They would like to see everything built around the Bierman Building, including the basketball offices and any new basketball practice facility. The Gibson-Nagurski football building will be enlarged and remodeled, a new track will be built, among other things, if everything eventually gets approved. This is a change in thinking, but likely the way they will go.
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