Fact: The Minnesota Twins are in the middle of a Major League Baseball playoff race.
Fact: The Minnesota Vikings have a new coach in Brad Childress.
If you are Glen Mason these two facts spell more relief than Rolaids, and I'm sure Good Ol' Glen couldn't be happier.
Last January Glen Mason got a contract extension, and if you have read this blog even once you probably know that I, for one, and Jeff for another, do not believe that he deserved it. Glendolyn should most certainly be under the strongest of microscopes this season as Gopher Football Head Coach. But instead the Twin Cities media and fans are focused on the Twins making a run at the playoffs and what Brad Childress will do in his first year as Vikings head coach. To the Twins and Vikings, on behalf of Glen Mason, THANK YOU!!!
Here's the deal folks... everything that Glen Mason and Joel Maturi have been talking about for the past, who knows how long, regarding Gopher Football, you can throw it all right out the window. 5 bowl appearances in 6 years, two 1,000 yard rushers the past 3 seasons, one of the top running games in the country, the top offensive line in the country... honestly, forget about all of it. Because if you plan on remembering any of these things during the Gophers fall 2006 football campaign you are going to be sadly disappointed.
There are only three ways in which the Gophers of this fall will resemble the Gopher teams of the past 1/2 decade: Glen Mason's inability to recruit defense will still be glaringly obvious, Glen Mason will still spend roughly 50% of his time on the sideline looking completely dumbfounded, and the defense will still look like it belongs in Division II.
For several years the Gophers have taken a gunslinger's mentality toward their competition: hit them before they hit you, and pray. Generally the offense hasn't been a question mark, especially the running game, but the big question was always if the defense would be able to hold up it's end of the bargain, or if the offense would just have to outgun the opposing team on the ground and hopefully score last. We all know how well that has turned out.
Glen Mason would probably be happy to find himself in a similar predicament this season.
But there's a problem with that equation this year. The defense is still a huge question mark, but Glen doesn't have the high powered, predictable offense to rely on anymore. I'm not gonna lie to ya: things could get ugly.
As far as the offense is concerned the Gophers have no 1,000 yard rusher returning, thanks to the NFL draft (Maroney) and Gary Russell's lack of work ethic in the classroom. This is a luxury that they certainly will miss.
And so, the entire success of the offense rests on the arm of Bryan Cupito. Cupito is ready to be a quality Big 10 quarterback who can lead his team on and off the field, but he will not have a world-class running game to fall back on when things get tough in the pocket. The Gopher offense is going to look much different than we are used to seeing. You can expect to see the ball flying through the air much more than usual, and since the Gophers will likely be playing from behind often this season, the number of passes Cupito throws could be absolutely insane.
Remember that look that Glen Mason had on his face during the Iowa game last year? The one where he looked sort of dumbfounded by the whole thing? The one where he almost looked like he wasn't sure where he was or what he was doing, or what game he was supposed to be coaching? You know the one, the one that is sort of a half smile, sort of a half questioning look? The one that almost looks like he just messed in his pants, or is constipated or maybe just broke wind?
Here's my suggestion: get used to that look.
Let's go through the schedule...
Thu, Aug 31, @ Kent State - Look, if we lose this game, just pack it in. Seriously, board up the program and let's just wait for next year. 1-0.
Sat, Sep 09 @ California - If you're the Gophers starting your non-conference schedule with two games on the road is bad enough. If one of those games is at California... 1-1.
Sat, Sep 16 Temple - Metrodome - Please see comment for Aug 31 Kent State game. 2-1.
Sat, Sep 23 @ Purdue - Now this is where things start to really get dicey. Purdue is more experienced and should be a better team this year. In addition, the Gophers have generally had trouble with the Boilermakers. 2-2.
Sat, Sep 30 Michigan - Metrodome - Since the Gophs beat Michigan in the Big House last year, the Wolverines are going to be looking for revenge and this one is going to be carried on a major network. Ouch! Before last year it had been two decades since the Gophers had beaten Michigan... so what does 2026 look like for you? 2-3.
Sat, Oct 07 Penn State - Metrodome - Are you getting depressed yet? Penn State most likely won't be the team you saw last year, but they should still be a top 20 team even after losing Michael Robinson. 2-4.
Sat, Oct 14 @ Wisconsin - If there was ever a year where you could go into Madison and beat Wisconsin, this could be it. With Alvarez gone Wisconsin could have it's first down year in awhile. Keep in mind that a down year for these guys is probably .500 or slightly above. Knowing that we generally win a game we shouldn't, I'm going to go out on a limb here... 3-4.
Sat, Oct 21 - Metrodome - North Dakota State - I don't know why, but this game concerns me. It's true, the Gophs usually win a game they shouldn't, but they also generally lose a game that they should win, and that's why this one makes me nervous. NDSU is going to come in here with something to prove as they ramp up their D-I schedule against some tougher talent. The Bison will come in ready to play the game of their lives and if the Gophers don't take this game seriously... yeah, I'm nervous. 3-5.
Sat, Oct 28 @ Ohio State - Um, yeah... 3-6.
Sat, Nov 04 - Metrodome - Indiana - For no reason whatsoever Glen Mason's teams have historically had trouble with Indiana. Along with the NDSU game, this is a game that the Gophers could sleep on and lose. But maybe they'll wake up this year. 4-6.
Sat, Nov 11 - @ Michigan State - This is a winable game if the Gophers are doing everything right, but what scares me is that, in the past, weak Gopher teams have generally been especially weak on the road. East Lansing isn't the Big House, but it isn't an easy place to play either. On top of that John L. Smith is going to be coaching to save his job this year. 4-7.
Sat, Nov 18 - Metrodome - Iowa - So remember that look I was talking about that Glendolyn had during last year's Iowa game? By this point of the season that look will be ingrained in your brain. Iowa is going to be good this year. Real good. We're talkin' Top 10 in the nation good. By the way, I hate Iowa. It's staggering how much I hate Iowa, it's unexplainable. 4-8.
So there it is, my prediction is 4-8. As always, one game in either direction is always possible, with possibility of 5 wins definitely feasible. I just don't see any way that this team can get 6 wins and make another bowl game.
Look, I love this team. It's well documented that I love this team. I attended my first Gopher game with my uncle before I even knew what a first down was, we have season tickets, my wife and I are decorating our camper in Gopher gear, and I have the Minnesota fight song as the ringer on my cell phone. I'm locked in. And despite all of the disparaging remarks I am making I still love this team. But I'm just fearful that this year's version is going to leave quite a bit to be desired.
I'd love to go ahead and call this year a rebuilding year, and that would be the generous thing to do. The fact is that as long as Glen Mason is at the helm I always feel like the Gophers are rebuilding. Our glimmer of hope this year would have been the running game, but Gary Russell took care of that. Amir Pinnix is a good back, but he's not going to carry your offense, and he's probably not even going to play every down.
I really hope the Gophers surprise me this year. I'm trying to turn my wife into a Gopher fan, but I might have picked a bad year to do it. Come on Gophs!!! We're workin' on a lifer here!
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