July 29, 2008

An optimistic Gopher preview (not from me)

If you are like me you have probably seen at least a dozen Big Ten preview and just about every one of them has the Gophers finishing 11th in the Big 10.

Big Ten Bloggers - 11th
NYT-Quad Blog - 11th (101st in NCAA)
Lindy's Sports - 10th
Athlon - 11th
Phil Steele - 10th
SureFireScouting.com - 10th
USA Today - 11th
The Sporting News - 11th
Game Plan - 11th
ESPN / Blue Ribbon - 11th

(HERE is a good link with the Big Ten Grid for all rankings above.)

Of course, who can blame them. Minnesota's defense was on the verge of setting some dubious records, a -15 turnover +/-, our worst non-conference record in recent memory and the fact that we actually finished 3 games out of 10th place in the Big Ten.

Gopher fans would like to believe that last year was the perfect storm of things going wrong and 2008 will be very different.

Well, the brilliant football minds over at Saturday Sound Off think the Gophers could conceivably go 7-5 this year.

THE OUTLOOK: I LOVE Minnesota this year. Are they this year's Kansas? Not in a sense that they'll go 11-1 and win a BCS bowl game in the process, but in terms of +/- wins from 2007 to 2008, they might have the largest overall improvement. Weber is a sophomore, the running game will take on more of a priority and they'll be fine there, the WRs are more than solid, the offensive line is decent, the defensive line isn't that great but should get marginally better, the LBs are solid, and incoming JUCO talent in the secondary will send the pass defense's production skyrocketing.
I know it sounds like you are reading a post on a Gopher message board that tends to ooze with optimism. Of course I tend to agree with the handsome, witty, clever and handsome folks at Saturday Sound Off.

Previews are a fuzzy formula of looking at

last year + (looking at the schedule + opponents last year)
+ looking at returning talent + incoming talent.

Looking back at 2007 there is no reason to believe that we should have any hope for this year. This is about where everyone stops with the Gophers. Most publications and blogs do more than their share of previews and Minnesota is an easy one to gloss over.

But if you ask me the schedule + Weber's added experience + a defensive talent upgrade makes us ripe for a win turnaround. I'm going to e-mail the SSO staff to find out exactly why the "LOVE Minnesota this year" but it is refreshing to see someone else who thinks they just might be more than a 1-11 team this year.

The only thing that bothers me is that people will be happy with a 7-5 season and a trip to the Poinsettia Bowl. How quickly we lower expectations and backslide to the Mason Mindset. 7-5 would be a massive improvement and is really the upper limit for this team, but I still yearn for the days of more. I'll be happy to take a big step forward this year but I really hope it would lead to more steps forward.

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