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Minnesota Potluck, Day 1: What’s colder, the Gopher State or Minnesota’s QB stable?

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To be fair, that question was funnier when there was a foot and a half of snow on the ground two damn weeks ago.

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Michigan State v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

WE DID IT! It seems like we’ve reached the end of a long winter, now that we’re 1 week removed from 70 degree weather in Minnesota and 2 weeks removed from 14 inches of snow in various places across the Twin Cities.

[Ed. note: So let’s have a Minnesota potluck! Bring your own hotdish to pass.]

Question 1:

Personally, I can’t wait to get outside and use the smoker to make a couple racks of ribs the first chance I get when it’s no longer encased in ice. What’s your favorite thing to eat or cook right away when the ice age ends in your neck of the woods?

Question 2:

As an aside, there are some hints that Minnesota could be exiting the ice age the offense has been stuck in since the mesozoic era. OL depth has been massively reinforced with the addition of JUCO Jason Dickson and 5 new freshman, including the mammoth Daniel Faalele. RB should continue to be fine with Rodney Smith returning.

WR can’t be worse, with Tyler Johnson coming back, Chris Autman-Bell and Demetrius Douglas returning from injury, and incoming 4-star croot Rashod Bateman. And instead of 2 guys who are question marks at QB, we have 3 guys who are question marks in Vic Viramontes, Tanner Morgan, and (walk-on) Zack Annexstad. Not only was there something that resembled an offense at the spring game, but there were even some completed passes! One even happened right in front of me!

So what’s the biggest thing that Minnesota needs to return to the top half of the conference in total offense since 2006?

MNW: Well, you touched on it, but Minnesota needs offensive line depth. A JUCO transfer and some new freshmen are a great start, but they’re still pouring sand into a crater in Minneapolis. There were, what, 7 healthy offensive linemen for most of November? Maybe something like 5-6, depending on how much of a fatalist you felt like going into the Northwestern and wisconsin ass-whoopings?

Apparently the concern with Dickson wasn’t his run-blocking, but his pass blocking...and I’m not sure whether I trust anyone related to Minnesota football not named Gordie Shaw with developing offensive lines (WSR Note: Gordie Shaw was ungood at developing pass blockers too). Across the line (left-to-right), with just returning 2017 starters, Minnesota has a redshirt senior, redshirt junior, redshirt senior, redshirt sophomore, and either a redshirt sophomore or Dickson (or maybe he’s an LT--I don’t care enough). There’s some returning experience there to a line which hovered in the 40s in S&P+ rushing rankings but was bottom 30 in sack rate and...well, I don’t think Minnesota is gonna have time to pass the ball. So it’s staying on/ahead of schedule with running the ball. If the line can do that, maybe the Gophers have a chance.

I have so many thoughts about the actual purpose of this potluck, that being MEAT and MEAT-related products, but I’ve droned on for 100+ words on the Minnesota offensive line already (God, I miss Greg Eslinger). I am a big advocate for continuing to grill in the snow, and there are a few pictures of me drinking a beer in shorts and a cable-knit sweater while grilling on the deck during snowfall, so I’m not sure I’m a huge transition guy, post-Ice Age. If I had to choose, though, I really love getting back into stuffed and mixed burgers. Had a delicious black pepper/cheddar one from the New Richmond Econofoods the other weekend, can’t wait to really fire up the grill and patty some of my own at the new place.

LGHF: Anything over 55 degrees with a hint of sun is definitely grill weather. I grill everything, but I would say my bluetooth thermometer has really been the star of the show.

https://www.amazon.com/Weber-7204-iGrill-3-Thermometer/product-reviews/B01M27OR8I

Some issues with battery life, but backups cost just a couple bucks. Just makes for a better grilling experience.

BRT: I’m only at the very beginning of real adulthood (aka: having a place to grill), so I’m less beholden to seasonal food prep than many of my colleagues. However, I LOVE hamburgers. So much. There’s a reason I’m 6’8” and 450 lbs [MNW note: Put on that winter weight, did you?] [BRT note: Yes, thanks for noticing! Ass.], and that reason is hamburgers. And summer always means more hamburgers! I make a mean turkey burger too, to keep this trim physique, but as Ron Swanson said so well, “Turkey can never beat cow.” Amen.

BRT’s favorite topping combo: goat cheese with jam (apricot preferred, but strawberry is great too). Throw on a few greens if you’re the type who needs to rationalize burgers that way. This sounds weird, but is SO good. Try it, I promise.

Oh, something about Minnesota? Um, they’d probably need OSU, PSU, NW, Purdue, and Wisconsin to quit football to have a shot at the top half. That would be their best bet, I think.

Jesse: <looks outside> I mean, I have been growing vegetables since February so like… the ice age never came? But seriously, as it gets warmer, it’s time to fire up the smoker and make chicken thighs. It’s not necessarily my favorite smoked meat to eat, and if we’re being honest, give me a Prime Steak over any of this, but as a starter to Summer, there’s nothing better than chicken thighs.

That low and slow smoke and heat renders the fat and crisps the skin in a way that is reminiscent of any bacon you’ve ever had, and if you have a little extra time - as I generally try to do - you can brine it ahead in lime, soy, salt/sugar, and maaaaaaaan is that good with some Aji Verde, pickled vegetables, and stewed greens.

Also, uh, football. So I was looking back at Fleck’s Total Offense rankings at Western Michigan and while they were impressive, it’s worth noting that he basically took a team that was ranked 34 (2010), 19th (2011), and 38 (2012) and made them 112 (2013), 41 (2014), 17 (2015), and 19 (2016). So I guess good on sustaining the heights and what not, but WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT 112?!? Of course, the growth is great and all, but maybe he was also in a conference where there was some sustained setup for success? I don’t know. Just spitballing.

Anyhow, I’m with the general consensus that Minnesota needs to figure out how the hell to pass the football before they can begin to be top half. As a fan of Nebraska during the Taylor Martinez era, I can assure you that not being able to do that severely hinders a team’s ability to move the football and get those counting stats we like to talk about. Actual useful answer? Pick a quarterback who can throw.

Stew: First thing I put on the grill is generally a combo of brats and Iowa Chops. Iowa Chops are about the best grilling item for the $. I can get 4 of them for $10, dry brine them for a few hours, a bit of Lawry’s, garlic powder, pepper, and cayenne, and grill them with low, indirect heat until they hit about 125 degrees. Throw them on super high heat for about 30 seconds a side, making sure to crisp up the fat cap, should be about 140, just perfect.

About a week later, after it’s ready to go, I’ll break out the smoker and do a full load of ribs, pork shoulder, and bacon-wrapped, stuffed jalapenos.

As to the varmint related question, an honest to god miracle. Not really, as the conference is generally poor at the whole offense thing, so getting to the top half isn’t really that impressive. Also:

LPW: I like grilling chicken and steak, alas my current apartment doesn’t have a deck or room for a grill, so I just pan-fry everything. I hope my new apartment will have a deck so I can get a proper gas grill.

I think the Goofballs need another year or so to gel under Coach ROWROWROW, and obviously they need a good offensive and defensive line that’s healthy in order to compete.

Fun fact: Minnesota hasn’t scored a point in Evanston since 2013. :)

Poll

First thing when you’re back to spring grilling?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Burgers (maybe stuffed, maybe you share a recipe)
    (44 votes)
  • 5%
    I just want to brag about my meat...thermometer
    (10 votes)
  • 27%
    Steak
    (49 votes)
  • 11%
    Chicken (of some shape and size)
    (21 votes)
  • 25%
    Brats
    (46 votes)
  • 2%
    Chops
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Other meat (and tell us in the comments, or you’re uninvited from the OTE cookout)
    (4 votes)
178 votes total Vote Now

Poll

What’s the one thing Minnesota’s offense needs above all else?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    A stable QB/passing game
    (95 votes)
  • 15%
    A rash of teams disqualified
    (38 votes)
  • 17%
    An offensive line with something approaching depth
    (43 votes)
  • 2%
    Wide receiver(s, though they’d just take one)
    (5 votes)
  • 25%
    A miracle
    (62 votes)
243 votes total Vote Now