Good morning OTE. Our resident Minnesotan GoAUpher graciously allowed me to take the reins for the Minnesota Potluck. He probably thought it was because I was doing something nice for him as he recovered from his sinus infection. That's partly true, but really, I wanted to take over the potluck to put to rest any notion of hotdish ruining this great institution. It's casseroles and casseroles only this week. [GoAUpher: You sonofa...that's it. This means war runza lover!] Oh, and while the Minnesota guys might try to sneak in some lutefisk, we're going to try and keep these dishes tasty. Follow along for today's part one as we talk expectations, bowl games, schedules, Coach Kill, strengths, and lack thereof. It's another fun one people.
Appetizer Casserole: The Tater Tot Casserole - A longstanding tradition at Midwest potlucks, this casserole is a mixture of canned condensed soup, ground beef, frozen tater tots, and whatever sauces you find in your cupboards. Basically, it's about as B1G as you can get. And just like this is a successful casserole, let's talk about Minnesota being a successful football team... [roll with it people]
Last year, the Gophers surprised quite a few with a nice run to the Randombowlintexas Bowl against Syracuse. While they couldn't get the job done against the Orange, you could argue that last year was a success by almost all measures. This year, Kill looks to get this team ready for bigger and better things. Namely, he is looking to get this team to win a bowl it seems. Unfortunately when you look at the schedule, the Schedulegods (Copyright Delany and Company) didn't exactly do the Gophers any favors. Games at TCU, Michigan, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, and OSU and Iowa still left to be dealt with at home. There is a strong argument to be had that Minnesota could finish the season with a much worse record, even if they're a better team. That being said, where do you see Minnesota finishing in 2014. Moreover, what do you think it will take for Minnesota to call 2014 a success?
Aaron Yorke: For the season to be a success, Minnesota must win the bowl game against an inferior ACC opponent this time. I'm predicting an identical 8-5 record, but this time the Gophers go 7-5 in the regular season and end with a good taste in their mouths: the taste of victory! It's going to be tougher to beat the inferior ACC team now that Maryland has joined Winterfell (hahaha I like turtles!), but Jerry Kill and company can get it done. And next year, maybe your gods can bless them with an Eastern visitor and an experienced quarterback.
Mike Jones: I could see the Gophers getting out to a hot start at 4-0, upsetting Michigan and going on a three game win streak before losing every game in November to finish the season 8-4. More likely, I see them losing one of their first five games, losing one of the three against Northwestern, Purdue and Illinois and possibly losing out in November. The best team they have a chance at beating is Iowa and, well, considering how the Hawkeyes have gameplanned the Gophers as of late, I don’t see that happening. Despite that: 7-5.
With regards to the second question: find some consistency at the quarterback position.
babaoreally: I'll go with a 6-6 season and a cruddy bowl game. I think 7-5 would be considered a successful season, so count me as thinking the 2014 Gopher season will be just slightly less than successful. But then again, Northwestern finally managed to get their bowl win during a slightly down year, so there's a good chance that the Gophs win a bowl.
Green Akers: 7-5 or 8-4 sounds about right with that schedule. Whether Gopher fans consider that a success probably depends on how sharp your memories of the Mason-Brewster transition are. If you really don't think Jerry Kill is making adequate progress with that kind of record given the total rebuild, lack of local recruiting resources, and a long run of mediocrity in this program's recent and medium-distance history that he has to deal with, you absolutely deserve to see him canned and replaced by another Brewster type so the whole thing goes straight down the drain again. These things take time for schools that aren't OSU, which is most of us. People asked the same questions about Mark Dantonio circa 2009, when it wasn't clear if he could do what we (MSU fans) all ultimately wanted.
More Orange: Fans determine success based off the performance of the past few years, and for Minny fans, the last few years can only be considered as successes. Ol' Man Kill has done a tremendous job of building a solid team. They aren't great by any stretch of Goldy Gopher's imagination, but they will easily beat weaker teams, put up competitive losses to greater teams, and they will pull at least one 'upset' between Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Let's say they do beat Michigan (which in my mind isn't that much of a stretch) and Minnesota may be 8-0 going into the highly interesting game against Iowa on November 8th. The winner will have a prime opportunity to claim 3rd or maybe 2nd in the West. Ending the season with Ohio State, at Nebraska, and at Wisconsin is about the roughest way you can end a season in the B1G West. Good luck. I think a 9-win season or an 8-with-a-bowl-win marks this team as a success for another year.
MNWildcat: I think 7-5 with a bowl win would be a successful (if not satisfactory to the fanbase) season for the Gophers. The Gophers, by my recollection, got a little lucky with injuries last year, and I recall a team having a surprisingly good season with very few injuries. Don't make the same mistake I did, Gopher Nation. In all seriousness, I'm very, very intrigued to see if Minnesota can impose David Cobb and Mitch Leidner on people in 2014. They'll succeed again if they can establish the ground game and minimize mistakes on defense, grinding the game down and boring us all to tears. B-1-G! B-1-G!
That, and Kill needs to bring home a trophy. It's high time, if this progress is to be taken seriously, that Floyd, the Axe, and/or the Jug need to come home to Minneapolis. Even 8-5 with a bowl win might ring a little hollow if those losses are to Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Nebraska. Minnesota needs to prove it can take down an upper echelon giant (OSU) or at least bring home some bacon (filthy skunk thieves).
Jesse: I'm thinking 7-5 as well, but I could see them stretching to 8-4 with a couple of big upsets and at least one setback against a team they expected to beat. As for expectations and fans being happy? Well, I think this team will feel good about themselves if they can win a trophy and knock off someone like OSU or Wisconsin. In fact, if they can do anything better than 0-4 on that stretch of Iowa, Nebraska, OSU, and Wisconsin, I think they should feel pretty damn great about the season (you know, assuming that wasn't all a dumpster fire as well).
GoAUpher: I think 7-5 is the mostly likely outcome. Sweep the non-con, beat Northwestern/Purdue/Illinois, and take one from Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, or Nebsraska (oh hai there Ohio State, don't worry, we know better). I think most MN fans will find that to be a successful season so long as the team is competitive in it's losses. They'll especially be ok with it if it includes W's over Michigan or Iowa. The team could miss a bowl game and people would be happy if the season ended with a win at Wisconsin, so...yea.
DJ Carver: I know nothing about Minnesota except that they like to run the ball and didn't watch any of their games last year, so I could give you a completely made up opinion if you want words on the page.
C4B: Yep, you're definitely an OTE writer.
Aaron Yorke: You think any of us watched a UMD game? We still pieced together a potluck for the Terps!
Second Casserole: Strawberry Jello Casserole - Is it a casserole? Well, maybe not specifically, but I feel like we haven't had a good old fashioned potluck this year and someone needed to bring the Jello! You know, because Jello is the strength of a good potluck, right? That doesn't make very much sense... Let's just get to the question.
A big question I know that I have going into 2014 for Minnesota is asking what their strength is. Is it a good rushing game? Is it a smarter QB after year one? Is it a retooled defensive line that will be missing the giant in the middle? Despite it feeling like Minnesota was genuinely great at times last year, statistically the Gophers were in the middle to back of most every statistical category. That could be due to some really bad losses to Michigan and Iowa, and then again to Wisconsin and MSU, but the big picture is that it was hard to give this team an identity. That being said, what do you perceive to be the Gophers strength this year?
Aaron Yorke: It doesn't take a Big Ten football fan to figure out that a Gopher's strength is in the ground. John Madden would love this team. They have a big ole offensive line and some big ole halfbacks. When Minnesota runs it up the middle, it's gonna be like BOOM! WAP! First down! Oh no, there's a man down, except hopefully with less injuries. But you get the point. This is old time football played by old time football players whom the southern powerhouses have forgotten.
Mike Jones: I think Minnesota’s greatest strength is their rushing attack. That’s why they were so successful last season. Wait, there’s a correlation between winning football games and having a strong running game in the Big Ten? You do not say. Minnesota averaged the most rushing attempts per game last season and had a 1,000 rusher in Cobb. Cobb, Williams and Kirkwood return in 2014 so I think this will be another year where they pound the football. However, they could stand to churn out more YPC.
C4B: The Gophers' biggest strength this year (and for the next few years at least) is being in the less top heavy division, so they have some time to build up and challenge for the divisional crown every couple of years. For this year specifically, their biggest strength is, as Aaron said, probably the running game, because it is for most Big Ten teams (Indiana generally excluded).
babaoreally: Since they were pretty much statistically in the middle of the pack last year, maybe their strength is that they don't have a glaring weakness?
Green Akers: They don't get much credit for it because it's still kind of an underrated ability, but Kill and his staff are probably second only to Dantonio and Co. in evaluating and training defensive backs, and the quality of athlete they've been able to land is improving, so that upward trend in secondary play should continue. Aaron is right, though. This team is thoroughly oriented around operating near the line of scrimmage on offense- the linemen, backs, and lead blockers are all deep, experienced units that should have some success even against the likes of Iowa, Nebraska, and Ohio State's defensive lines. And we've seen from their playcalling proclivities and total lack of any passing threat that that isn't a terrible approach for them.
More Orange: Analogy time: Minnesota is Mario from MarioKart. There is no B1G team, or Nintendo racer, more middle of the pack than Mario and Minnesota. However, you should not misunderstand this as a bad thing. Mario doesn't having any glaring weaknesses, and neither do the Gophers. No, they won't be a Top-20 team, but Minnesota will be good enough. You want solid, dependable, adequate, and capable? Here it is.
MNWildcat: I perceive the Gophers' strength to be very few glaring weaknesses. They need to get Thieran Cockran some help on the D-line, but losing only the star power of Ra'shede Hageman and Brock Vereen (along with a couple LBs) on defense bodes well for the Gophers. Their stats weren't overwhelming, but they were stats indicative of Minnesota's ability to grind out close games and work the clock -- when things went south, they just went south. Minnesota needs to impose its style of play again in 2014: solid, fundamental football that dares the opponent to blink first.
Jesse: A couple of you all hit on it, but Minnesota is probably most well suited to not be great at any one thing, but also not be bad at any one thing. Last year, I was impressed by the Gophers' ability to stay in games by limiting mistakes and playing sound football with a good gameplan. That is most likely a reflection on coaching, which I think is most definitely the strongest point for Minnesota all around.
GoAUpher: Running game. Also, in the spirit of More Orange's answer, here's to hoping the Gophers knock someone out with a blue shell in glorious upset fashion this year. And for that matter, here's to Purdue "Billy Bullet-ing" their way into 12th place.