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B1G 2021: Minnesota Golden Gophers Cocktail Party Preview

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Is it time for Minnesota week? Yup, so let’s Gopher it.

Behold the glory and majesty of Mo Ibrahim running free with nothing but a speedbump around him.
Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

WELL HELLO! Welcome to Minnesota week. I’m WSR, and I’m not actually dead. I just feel that way on the inside most of the time. But it’s time to put the golf clubs aside for a bit and take part in one of my favorite pre-pandemic activities: “WRITING” ABOUT THE GOPHERS! With the season being just 65 days away, let’s jump in and talk about football and stuff!

The 2020 Season

Most of it doesn’t count. I didn’t get to go to any games, so it’s not an actual Gopher football season. Joking aside, the ennui was very real last season. I had an exceptionally difficult time giving a shit about any college football, considering everything else going on in the world. To those of us who made it, let’s try to make the best of things even if there’s plenty of shit that still sucks.

Anyway, right. Football.

The 2020 edition of the Gophers went 3-4 and missed a pair of games due to COVID sweeping through the program. For the good of all humanity, the game against Northwestern was not rescheduled.

The defense started the year by looking like it had no idea what it was doing. Things were so bad that we made Michigan and Maryland look like competent offenses, which they most assuredly were not. Things got back on track thanks to a healthy dose of Illinois, but as always things got dumb against Iowa. Purdue got hosed due to some home cooking from the refs, and that’s terrifying because you should never need to rely on the refs to beat them with a godawful PI call after the offense goes into vapor lock for the entire 4th quarter.

The next two weeks were wiped out due to COVID, and the team returned very short-handed (33 players down per PJ Fleck, but a number of those were walk-ons. Only Nebraska thinks that walk-ons matter that much Peejus.) and made the trip to Lincoln to beat Scott Frost and his Huskers. This game matters so little that I had completely forgotten that it happened while discussing the season at the Gophers Spring game with Friends. I thought it had been wiped out like Northwestern. If there’s a better measure of where Nebraska is as a football program right now, I’d love to hear about it.

The season ended with a thud the next weekend in madison with a 20-17 OT “classic” that only badger fans could appreciate. RIP in Peace, 2020 season. Put a stake through it’s heart just to make sure it never comes back again.

The Offense

The list of players not returning is rather short: WR Rashod Bateman was taken by the Ravens in the first round, Sethcat QB Seth Green is transferring to Houston, and TE Jake Paulson medically retired. Everybody else is back in the boat for another year, including some huge additions in 2019’s starting RG and RT Curtis Dunlap and 6’9” “380 lb” (**chuckles**) Daniel Faalele. Both of them sat out last season due to COVID concerns, and both are back to anchor the OL leading the way for Mo Ibrahim. As noted by famous Gopher lover Beez, Mo was pretty pretty good last year. If the running game is going to be at its best, Tanner Morgan is going to need to improve on his very Leidneresque 2020 (7 TD 5 INT 57.9% completion rate). Thankfully, he’s got Chris Autman-Bell back for another season, former Texas A&M WR Dylan Wright joins the crew, and Spring Game Phenom True FR Brady Boyd. And as we all know, Spring Game success always translates to regular season performances, right?

The pieces are in place, now it’s on OC Mike Sanford to look like something better than “not a schmuck.” Gain yards, score points, burn clock. It’s fun.

Defense

It was bad. Dead-last in the B1G with a not-very-nice 6.9 yards per play allowed. CB Benjamin St. Juste is now plying his trade for the Washington Football Team in postgraduate football, and a number of rotation players (Keonte Schad, most notably) transferred out. Key additions to the squad will be DT transfers Nyles Pinckney from Clemson and Val Martin from NC State and LB Braelin Oliver, who missed last season with some sort of leg injury, assuming he has legs (there was never any official word from the Gophers, so we’re just going to have to assume).

Joe Rossi needs to get the defense back on track. “OK” should be good enough with the offense, so let’s try to just be OK. Any good Midwestern knows that competent and decent is far better than being too showy, anyway.

Special Teams

Yes, special teams is an important part of a football team. Let’s hope that the Gophers have learned this as well. If not, I will be more than happy to use a nail gun to attach an old book I have on the subject to Special Teams coach Rob Wenger.

2021 Schedule

Untitled

Date Opponent
Date Opponent
9/2 (Thursday) THE Ohio State University
9/11 Miami Oxide
9/18 at Colorado
9/25 Bowling Green
10/2 at Purdue
10/9 University of Minnesota Police
10/16 Nebraska
10/23 Maryland
10/30 at Northwestern
11/6 Illinois
11/13 at Iowa
11/27 wisconsin
12/4 Big Ten Championship Game

So we’re going Double MAC, huh? Well when previewing Michigan I said that teams who play two MAC opponents shouldn’t be allowed to wear B1G logos on their uniforms or have conference branding in their stadium, so let’s get to work removing all of it. Other than that...that’s a pretty nice schedule. The crossovers aren’t perfect in that we’re facing the two best teams, but you have to play everyone eventually and that’s just how things shook out for now.

So in conclusion...

When talking to a Gopher fan, do mention: The 2019 Penn State game and the Outback Bowl, Grain Belt, how beautiful fall can be in Minnesota, Gopher Volleyball, Olympian Gable Steveson, and I’m sure a few other pleasant (and meaningless) topics that good Midwesterners can just kinda coast through.

When talking to a Gopher fan, do not mention: Tim Brewster, the Metrodome, any bullshit spewed from Tom Friedman or any other idiot that thinks that Minneapolis is some sort of dystopian hellscape, what season follows Minnesota’s beautiful fall, Tracy Claeys’s team having all-b1g talent at nearly every level, Spotted Cow, and the fact that we’re all probably going to need to get COVID boosters for the Delta variant sooner than later because we’re surrounded by states full of fucking morons (and our own out-staters are dumbasses too).

Poll

How excited are you for the 2021 Gopher Football Season?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    YAY GOPHER FOOTBALL AND FRIENDS AND STUFF!
    (65 votes)
  • 2%
    Meh
    (4 votes)
  • 30%
    I’m happy that Gopher Football exists because it means that my favorite team will be playing too.
    (47 votes)
  • 25%
    I said "Meh."
    (40 votes)
156 votes total Vote Now