I. Case History/Opening Statement
A. Case History
"A program that is building under Jerry Kill." That's the sort of thing you'll commonly hear from media members and commentators when they speak about the Minnesota Gophers. After the hard fall the program took under Tim Brewster, Coach Kill is implementing a plan and the team is making progress on the field and in the classroom. When you hear this sort of talk and look at last year's team making a bowl, the easy assumption to make is that the 2013 Gophers should improve their record by a game or 2.
But there's a second statement you'll also hear frequently in reference to this year's Minnesota team..."This team could be better and not win any more games than last year thanks to the schedule." So where does the truth lie?
B. Opening Statement
Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I submit to you that both of the above statements are true. Coach Kill is building something at Minnesota. Last year's Gopher team improved considerably on defense, especially against the pass. The offense struggled to find a rhythm as the coaching staff was forced to play 3 different quarterbacks (including sticking with true freshman Philip Nelson for the entire second half of the season) and 3 different centers. Despite all this the Gophers surprised almost everyone by reaching bowl eligibility. The team made the most of their opportunities as then ran the table in the non-conference, destroyed a Purdue team that was positioned to make a bowl game, and made sure Tim Beckman went winless in his first season in the B1G. Best of all was the team's strong performance against Texas Tech which I think was a positive sign of things to come. Though they gave up a late lead and lost 34-31, the Gophers surprised many by controlling the line of scrimmage and never looking like the double digit underdog Vegas made them out to be.
The good news for the Gophers is the fact that the majority of the core pieces of last year's team return. Positions where starters were lost were either underwhelming to the point that any newcomers aren't expected to be a downgrade (see: linebackers) or have enough returning young talent to make up for the departures (see: defensive backfield and defensive line). The offense loses it's most potent weapon in MarQueis Gray, but his injury struggles gave newcomer Philip Nelson the chance to seize the reins at quarterback. The offensive line is as deep and as talented as Minnesota has seen since the end of the Mason years and if the big men up front can avoid major injuries they seem poised to help the running game take big strides forward. Receivers are still a bit of a question mark, but an improved running game and a solid stable of tight ends should reduce the burden on both the inexperience WR's and Nelson
Looking more at individual players, Nelson has taken control of the offense and become a leader at QB despite only being a sophomore. He's shown greatly improved decision making and better accuracy in both the spring and fall camps, important improvements to areas lacking in his freshman campaign. The backs are led by the experienced Donnell Kirkwood, who is poised to break out and be the first Gopher running back to hit 1,000 yards since 2006. The defensive secondary, led by Derrick Wells and Brock Vereen, could be one of the better units in the B1G. The defensive line is anchored by an athletic freak in RaShede Hageman and the young ends should be able to generate the pressure the Gophers need to remain stout against the pass.
With one of the easier non-conference schedules in the B1G, a 4-0 start to the season should be assured. And the path to 6 wins is clear, with only a struggling Iowa team and an improved but still very vulnerable Indiana squad standing in the way of a 2nd consecutive bowl berth. In fact, if the 2013 Gophers faced the same B1G teams as last year's schedule I submit that they would win 7 games without issue.
But the scheduling gods have seen fit to replace Purdue and Illinois with Penn State and a rising Indiana team. As a result, I see this year's Gopher squad matching their bowl eligibility from last year but struggling to find a 7th win to show progress in the W/L column.
A. What OTE Has Written About Minnesota
B. What We Can Learn From Pop Culture
Daft Punk - Lose Yourself To Dance
It's an enjoyable song, and for everyone who doesn't hate electronic music or Daft Punk, it's a decent selection to listen to. It's not going dominate the charts like fellow album mate Get Lucky, but it also won't leave you feeling empty like Within does (word is Daft Punk wrote this song while visiting Champaign-Urbana). It has the pieces to be a modest success but unless the conditions are right, it probably won't rise as high up the charts as it's fans might like.
III. Emotional Plea
I believe in Coach Kill. While I want to watch him steal a game from a team he shouldn't, finishing the year 6-6 (with Floyd back home) won't disappoint me because I can see what he is building in Minneapolis and I think you can see it too. And Jobu willing, if the Gophers manage to pick up an extra win (looking at you Wisconsin or Penn State), I believe that all good fans of the B1G should be excited to see an all around good guy (and quality mascot look-alike) like Coach Kill succeed.
Ladies and gentleman of the jury, you're all Americans. And since you didn't make up an excuse to get out of jury duty you're all patriotic Americans. Well, there is nothing more American than Coach Kill. He's from Kansas for gosh sakes! I mean, that's the place where car companies go when they need shots of grain and hard working Great Plains farmers because AMERICA! So unless you hate America, you should want to see Coach Kill and the Gophers beat Wisconsin and win 7 games.
Apparently many of my fellow OTE writers hate America, as the overall average from the group has the Gophers winning 5.33 games and losing 6.67 overall, with a conference record of 1.83 wins and 6.17 losses. I'm proud of you for standing up in the face of tyranny Jonathan, Ted, and MNWildcat. Everyone else? Communist sympathizers, the lot of you! BETTER DEAD THAN RED!
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