Fort Collins, Co. _

In two conversations with Gophers coach Jerry Kill this week, I sensed a couple of themes.

1. He really likes most of his roster. He likes what he has built. He thinks he has a mentally and physically tough program.

2. He's worried about his passing game, and injuries.

Ohio State, as he said, ``gets hurt and gets better.'' Despite the upgraded talent at Minnesota, the Gophers will never have that kind of depth, and they've already taken hits to their offensive line and secondary.

The Gophers should enter the Big Ten season at 3-1, which is what everyone expected. With a limited passing game and serious injury concerns, ti's hard to find a game on the schedule the Gophers couldn't win - with the probably exception of Ohio State. It's also hard to find a Big Ten game they couldn't lose if they don't become healthier and more proficient in the passing game.

I keep hearing great things about Demry Croft. Even if Kill decides to stick with Mitch Leidner, I would suggest that Croft can be his change-of-pace quarterback instead of Chris Streveler. Streveler is an excellent runner, but when he enters the game the defense knows what to expect. Croft could make the Gophers more unpredictable, at least.

I'm heading home for a few hours today before heading to San Francisco for the Vikings' opener. On my podcast at MalePatternPodcasts.com, San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami and I broke down the opener.

I see the Vikings overwhelming a 49er team that is in flux. He thinks the 49ers will play it close because it's early in the season and the 49ers promise to be at their best. That pod, along with Roy Smalley on the Twins, Viking Update's Tim Yotter on the Vikings and the Strib's Michael Russo on the Wild are all at MalePatternPodcasts.com, or via Itunes or Sticher.

My not-to-be-bet-on predictions for this NFL season:

1. Seahawks over Eagles in the NFC title game, Colts over Patriots in the AFC title game, Colts win the bowl.

2. Charles Johnson tops 1,000 yards receiving. Teddy Bridgewater ranks in the top five in the NFL in completion percentage. The Vikings finish second in the division to Green Bay and win one playoff game. Sam Bradford is comeback player of the year. Andrew Luck is offensive player of the year and MVP. Peyton Manning finally falls apart physically, dooming the Broncos. I finish last in my fantasy football league and blame injuries. The Gophers finish 8-4 but lack a signature victory that gets bigger bowls excited and end up playing in a December bowl. Russell Wilson has his best statistical season, thanks to Jimmy Graham and a better receiving group. The NFL is found to have fixed every game in its history and its popularity only increases. Joe Berger ends up being a fine replacement for John Sullivan. Matt Kalil plays well. Trae Waynes doesn't start playing well until December. Harrison Smith continues to call the other Vikings' safety ``Hey, you.'' Gerald Hodges plays well enough at middle ilnebacker that Kendricks has to beat out Chad Greenway to earn a starting job this season.

Enjoy the football today. I know I will.

@Souhanstrib

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