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Gopher Football Closing Arguments

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Is the the year Jerry and the boys break through?

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Case History

Brick by brick. That's both a marketing slogan and the mantra of Gopher Football under head Coach Jerry Kill. The goal is continual improvement as he rebuilds the Minnesota program from the derp filled tire fire that was Tim Brewster's tenure. Much like the building of brick wall this process isn't flashy. It doesn't draw attention to itself. But the goal is the same, create a structure that can stand up to the big bad wolves of the conference when they come knocking at the door.

The 2013 season was the year that the building project felt like it got on track. The Gophers overcame a rough start to the Big Ten season to roll off 4 straight conference victories, including the first win over Nebraska since the 60's. While the season ended with stagnating offensive performances again Wisconsin and Michigan State and disappointment against Syracuse, the season as a whole was a success and was something the Gophers could build on.

Opening Statement

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, the 2014 Minnesota Gophers have the chance to build on the success of last season. They return the school's first 1000 yard rusher since 2006 and an offensive live that helped lead David Cobb to over 1,200 yards. The defense brings back a stout secondary, speedy ends, and improved athleticism in it's returning linebackers. Once again the entire coaching staff returns and this continuity is a big key to helping the Gophers continue to build on the foundation they've already established.

The common refrain you'll hear from many is that this Gopher team could be a better team with a worse record because of their schedule. And this is true. The non-conference schedule has a little bite this season with the addition of a road game at TCU. Michigan is on the road (again). What should on paper be the second easiest B1G game is on the road at Illinois. And the final four games are Iowa (home), Ohio State (home), Nebraska (road), Wisconsin (road). But look carefully and you can see the openings for continued improvement as a program and as a team. One trophy game is at home, another is on the road against a flawed team early in the year. An Braxton Miller's injury takes what was an assumed loss and gives the tiniest flicker of hope, so long as you drink some kool-aid first.

Minnesota's rushing attack will again be formidable. David Cobb returns and will be supported by a deep stable of running backs including Donnell Kirkwood, Rodrick Williams, and perhaps most importantly by the addition of speedy Berkley Edwards. This is a group that will be able to execute the Golden-I to perfection friends. For the first time in several seasons, the quarterback situation coming out of fall camp will be completely settled, as Mitch Leidner is the unquestioned starter. The only issue with that? We have no idea what kind of passing quarterback he'll be. And while they weren't always the flashiest group, the Gophers bring back experience in the receiving core including the powerfully named Maxx Williams (who I think has the chance to be the best TE in the B1G this season). If Mitch is able to show the needed improvement as a passer I have no doubt that this group can support him.

The loss of RaShede Hageman and Roland Johnson will be a painful one for the Gopher defense. At best I think the Gophers can only hope to match the production of a year ago. But the opportunity is there for Theiran Cockran to improve upon his 7.5 sack performance of a year ago, the linebacking corp will be faster and stronger (though still lacking a bit in experience) and a secondary like by future NFL'er (book it) Eric Murray will be a great assest for this defense.

As for special teams? Kicking is still a bit of a question mark, but the return game boasts experienced and speedy return men and Peter Mortell has grown a quality mustache which means everyone the Gophers play is doomed. DOOMED.

It would be easy to pick up the "better team/worse record" refrain. And the realist in me is very willing to do just that. But the optimist in me sees a time that could match or better last season's record while shocking some folks along the way. The opportunities are there and it's up to the Gophers to seize them.

Discovery

What We've Written about Minnesota This Offseason

B1G 2014 // Minnesota Cocktail Party Preview

B1G 2014 // Minnesota's Smartest Guy in the Room

B1G 2014 // Minnesota Pot Luck 1 & Pot Luck 2

B1G 2014 // Minnesota Hate Day - The Hate Reckoning

What We Can Learn from Pop Culture

Jerry Kill doesn't care about your pop culture references. Jerry Kill just wants to dance.


Pending Docket

Seriously though Big Ten. If the Gophers had a Charmin soft schedule like Iowa or Wisconsin the conversation would be "how many wins can Minnesota add to last year's total" not "better team/worse record." Go suffer hypothermia from your Ice Bucket Challenge until you learn the error of your ways Delany.

Date

Opponent

8/28

Eastern Illinois

9/6

Middle Tennessee State

9/13

@ TCU

9/20

San Jose State

9/27

@ Michigan

10/4

BYE

10/11

Northwestern

10/18

Purdue

10/25

@ Illinois

11/1

BYE

11/8

Iowa

11/15

Ohio State

11/22

@ Nebraska

11/29

@ Wisconsin

Emotional Plea

Come friends, drink the Kill Aid with me. It's delicious and totally free of rat poison. With it's restorative powers in your system, you too can see a path to 9 or 10 wins. A path that includes the Pig, another Nebraska fanbase crushing W, and either the Jug or the Axe . Sure, that path looks hazy like a mirage when you see it but have no fear. Just walk it with me and we'll hope there's no cliff at the end.

The Verdict

Better team, worse record. At least that's what I'll assume the bulk of the OTE staff meant when they picked 7-5. Also Candystripes? Please let me know when you need a refill on that delicious Kill-Aid.

W

L

CW

CL

Aaron Yorke

7

5

4

4

Aaron Rench

7

5

3

5

Green Akers

6

6

3

5

Brian Gillis

6

6

4

4

GoAUpher

8

4

4

4

Ray Ransom

5

7

2

6

MNWildcat

7

5

3

5

DJ Carver

6

6

3

5

MC ClapYoHandz

7

5

4

4

CandyStripes

9

3

5

3

Eric Schulman

7

5

5

3

Graham Filler

8

4

4

4

babaoreally

6

6

3

5

Jesse Collins

7

5

4

4

Mike Jones

7

5

3

5

GoForThree

7

5

3

5

Conf Avg.

7

5

4

4