EVANSTON, Ill. -- I passed a few Gopher tailgaters on the way in, an impressive effort given the hour. Lots of liquid breakfast, with grilled sausages on the side.
     That's about it for atmosphere here at Ryan Field, where it's overcast and breezy, but should reach 55 degrees or so. The Gophers have begun their warmups, wearing maroon pants with white jerseys today.
     The Gophers have been up since 6:15, and they had breakfast together at 7. Makes me sleepy just thinking about it, but as coach Jerry Kill said, "these kids are used to getting up early. We make sure they're up every day to go to class."
     Kill said the 11 a.m. kickoff -- this is the Gophers' only one this season (though they had a couple of noon starts in the Eastern time zone), after playing five of them a year ago -- doesn't bother him too much, that coaches simply adjust their preparations for whenever they're told the game will begin. And his staff has had some luck with morning games. As Kill pointed out, Northern Illinois surprised Purdue at that hour when he was with the Huskies.
     That said, the coach is in favor of the Big Ten's efforts to eliminate the morning starts at TCF Bank Stadium, a commitment the league (and BTN) lived up to this season. Next week's season finale against Illinois will kickoff at 2:30, as five of their other six home games did. The only exception this season was the night game against North Dakota State.
     "I think for our crowds, it's better at 2:30 -- [you get] tailgating, atmosphere, all that. The later in the afternoon, the better," Kill said. "These 2:30 starts, that's a good time slot because it gives your fans some time to enjoy themselves. When you have these early games, there's not a lot of people who want to get up that early."