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2018 Closing Arguments: The Case Against Minnesota

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Before we get to what will happen, let’s see what could go wrong.

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s the day that everyone has been anxiously waiting for! It’s Minnesota’s Closing Arguments! But before we get to my optimism and the rest of the OTE staff’s foolishness (GF in particular, but we’ve come to expect it from him), let’s go over what could go horribly wrong for Minnesota that could lead to them just getting to 6-6 and a bowl game. Or, if some of these fools are to be believed, worse. We’ll start with the 2nd week of the season. Fresno State coming to town is no joke, and the Bulldogs could be the 3rd best team the Gophers face all year after Ohio State and wisconsin. But what else could cause heartburn in Dinkytown that’d be worse than a bad trip to Mesa Pizza? Well...

Offense

The only thing Minnesota needs to be worried about on offense is a repeat of last year. By that I mean subpar QB play, sketchy OL play that’s paired with a lack of depth up front, and WRs not being ready to play at a B1G level.

Both QBs from last year, Conor Rhoda and Demry Croft, have been future endeavored. While losing what they put on the field isn’t a bad thing, that means that the program is once again with a lack of experience at the most important position (for everyoneexcept wisconsin) on the field. With JUCO transfer Victor Viramontes barely staying in MN long enough to enjoy the week and a half of summer we usually get, there are 0 snaps of college football between our redshirt freshman and true freshman walk-on. That’s right. 0 experience, 1 scholarship player. That’s not good, and could be a huge detriment to any improvements the team made anywhere else.

The OL last year was just a disaster. From having just 5 healthy OL for the spring game to going through the entire season with just 7 guys (and keeping Blaise “Of Steel” Andries’ redshirt in place dressing him multiple times with late-season injuries piling up), there wasn’t much to do other than pray and wait for the reinforcements. And hooboy have they arrived. With the arrival of Daniel Faalele and Curtis Dunlap, there’s good reason to think that better days will be coming soon. But with the recent announcement that JUCO T Jason Dickson will RS this year, we’ll be relying on pretty much the same group with a couple talented young players in the aforementioned Andries and John Michael Schmitz. We’ll have to just wait and see how that pans out.

And then there’s WR. Tyler Johnson is back and should continue to be exceptional. Phillip Howard showed flashes at times last year. And after that...well, the Gophers will need to get contributions from a combination of RS FR Demetrius Douglas and Chris Autman-Bell and true FR Rashod Bateman. As English futbol pundit Alan Hansen once said, “You’ll never win anything with kids” and the Gophers will have plenty of kids running routes downfield.

Defense

You know what can go wrong here? Antoine Winfield Jr. could get hurt again. After he got hurt at the beginning of the Maryland game, everything went to hell in a handbasket. His versatility made him the lynchpin for both the run defense and coverage, and without him we looked just atrocious. If he misses any stretches of time again, the defense will be problematic again.

Stove Richardson graduated and moved on to the NFL, and it’s yet to be seen if Alabama transfer O.J. Smith, the magnificently named JUCO transfer Royal Silver, or incoming FR Elijah Teague will be able to fill either his massive shoes from two years ago (metaphorically) or just the massive shoes he actually wore last year in the new scheme. If none of them can, it’ll lead to a big gaping hole in the middle for B1G West teams to run through.

Coaching

I’m going to start by once again reminding everyone that a comparison between P.J. Fleck and Tim Brewster is lazy, dumb, and just plain wrong. Tim Brewster never won a damn thing as a head coach, and is a disgrace to Minnesota Football, the B1G, the United States of America, and the human race. In 4 years at Western Michigan he was able to implement his culture and turn the program into a beast that kicked out multiple NFL players and won the conference. If you’re going to compare the energetic and upstanding Fleck to a former Gopher coach, it’s not shitbag used car salesman Tim Brewster. It’s Jim Wacker.

If there’s one person who has the most to answer for in regards to their performance last season, it’d be Offensive Coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. His unit underwhelmed, and his schemes seemed very vanilla compared to what he did at WMU. If we’re going to get a watered down, terrified, and frankly neutered version of what a coach did in the MAC, we should have kept Jerry Kill’s entire staff. Ciarrocca’s going to need to show that last year was just a blip because he didn’t have the players he needed to fit his scheme, and his use of what he did have seems a little disappointing. He’s going to need to have a big year for things to improve for the Gophers.

And as for Defensive Coordinator Robb Smith...well I think he did OK last year with how the rest of the team performed. You can’t be expected to perform miracles when the offense is scoring 0 points in the last 2 games and your unit keeps getting sent back out on the field. Just do what you did, and only idiots will complain about you.

Everyone Else in the B1G West

You know (no, not the capital of Alaska), Minnesota went 5-7 last year. You know who didn’t go 5-7? Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue, and wisconsin. They were all better than the Gophers. Sure, Iowa only beat a medicore Gophers team by 7 in Iowa City (and didn’t wave to the kids, while the entire Gopher team did), and Northwestern is the team that everyone from both sides looks at the opponent and thinks “yup, we’ve got this!” and Purdue loses a big chunk of their defense, and wisconsin is {REDACTED FOR TASTE}. But they all beat the Gophers, and I’m sure all of their fans think they’re going to be better this fall. And Nebraska and Illinois may have lost to the Gophers, but they’re going to be better too while the Gophers will either be the same or worse according to either their fans or the players’ mothers or Lovie’s beard. It doesn’t matter because the Gophers should just be thankful to be included in the B1G in spite of being in it and it’s prior editions for well over 100 years.

So really, looking at all of these together, maybe Beez, Graham, Boilerman31, Brian, Candystripes, Stew, MNWildcat, and Thump can’t be blamed for thinking the Gophers would fail to make a bowl for the 2nd consecutive season. Or you could be a foolish optimist like me. So join us here at 10 AM for the actual closing arguments, where once again I have a rush of blood to the brain and predict something just insane.