Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gopher football 2013 letter grades - Potential Ad Nauseam

Quaterback – C:

Philip Nelson has promise, but he must become a more consistent passer.  He has the arm talent to get there.  I’m not sold on Mitch Leidner or Chris Streveler being competent B1G backups, but we shall see…

Running Back – B+:

I think Minnesota has all the ingredients.  The hard running, physical styles of Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams should complement the speedy Berkley Edwards perfectly.   For the first time in 8 years, there is real talent and depth in the Gophers backfield.

Offensive Line – B:

Lots of depth and “potential” here, however this unit must stay healthy in order to maximize it.  The Olson brothers are the key, if they can stay healthy then look out.  Highest ceiling of all the Gopher units in my opinion. 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – C:

Like Philip Nelson, the wide receivers and tight ends do not lack talent and potential, but must be more consistent.   The lack of a true #1 WR must be addressed in fall camp.  Andre McDonald has all world potential and Jamel Harbison looked fantastic in the spring game less than 8 months after tearing his ACL.  Isaac Freuchte is a solid receiver who should more than double is catch total from last year.  Maxx Williams looked the part of a big time tight end in the spring game.  Potential to be much better than the letter grade, but not a lot to go off of right now.

Defensive Line – B:

Ra'Shede Hageman “looks” like the best and most intimidating defensive player in the B1G.  However, Big Shede must become more consistent and not take plays off, the latter of which he listed as one of his goals after the spring.  Roland Johnson is a nice space eater in the middle and Thieren Cockran has all B1G potential at DE.

Linebacker – D:

Right now this unit is a complete unknown and a real concern.  De’Vondre Campbell has all the tools, he held offers from Texas, Kansas State, and Tennessee before signing with the Gophers.  Damien Wilson has caught a bunch of people’s eyes as well.  James Manuel and LaMonte Edwards are undersized linebackers that need be become more consistent.  This group has potential, but right now it is a complete unknown.

Secondary – B+:

Loads of talent and depth at safety and cornerback.  I think it’s the strength of the team.  Don’t laugh I’m serious.   Derrick Wells, Briean Boddy, Jeremy Baltazar, Martez Shabazz, and Eric Murray are all legitimate B1G corners.  The safety spots will be occupied by veteran Brock Vereen (arguably the smartest player on the team) and Antonio Johnson.

Special Teams – D:

This is a major concern.  The Gophers currently lack a punter or place kicker they can rely on.  The return game should be fine.

Overall team grade – C+:

I see strengths and weaknesses on this team, and ultimately I expect them to be just barely better than last year.  Staying healthy will be key.  Some positions lack depth such as linebacker, quarterback, and defensive line.  I used the word “potential” ad nauseam.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

12 Step Program For Gopher Football Fans

1.    We admitted that we were powerless over the futility of the Gopher football team – that our lives had become unmanageable.
2.    Came to believe that a Power greater than Glen Mason could restore the Gophers back to glory.
3.    Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the College Football Gods as we understood them.
4.    Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of the Gopher football program.
5.    Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of the wrongs of the Gopher football program.
6.    Were entirely ready to have the College Football Gods remove these defects of character.
7.    Humbly asked the College Football Gods to remove these shortcomings.
8.    Made a list of all persons we had harmed after a difficult loss, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9.    Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or ourselves.
10.  Continued to take inventory of the program and when we were awful, promptly admitted it.
11.  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with the College Football Gods as we understood them, praying only for knowledge of their will for the Gopher football program and the power to carry that out.
12.  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to all suffering fan bases and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Tebow lunatic fringes have been silenced

We can finally put the lunatic fringes to bed on Tim Tebow.  He will no longer be a quarterback in the NFL, at least not a quarterback with a significant role.   Tebow will be at best a 3rd team quarterback brought in for a wildcat play or two, at worst a backup quarterback in the arena league.  Tebow was offered a contract by the Arena League’s Orlando Predators.  Tebow’s career in the NFL has been one marked by controversy before he even stepped foot on the field.  Just months before he was drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos, Tebow and his mother filmed a controversial pro-life commercial during the Super Bowl.  Recently Tebow backed out of an appearance at a Dallas Baptist Church with opinionated Pastor Robert Jeffress.  Jeffress has made controversial comments about homosexuals, Jews, Catholics, and Mormons.   Some people think Tebow backed out to save his image, but this isn’t about Tebow and what he does off the field, this is about his career on the field and the fact that it is disappearing faster than a plane through the Bermuda Triangle.

The New York Jets recently acquired journeyman quarterback David Garrard who has been cut recently by both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins.   The Jets current starter is Mark Sanchez.  Rumors are swirling that Tebow will be released.  What does that say about Tebow?  If David Garrard and Mark Sanchez look more attractive to the Jets it may be time to shut er’ down.  That means no more Tebow Centers on ESPN.  That means no more quarterback controversies involving Tebow.  The days of Tebow going 3-18 passing through three quarters and 15-20 passing in the 4th quarter to lead a comeback win are no longer, at least in the NFL.  The Twitter fights between the followers of Skip Bayless and Pete Prisco will be no longer and you know what?  I’m sad about that.   The fact of the matter is Tebow brought about great debate whether you loved him or hated him, and let’s be honest almost no one was indifferent regarding Tebow.   Even if you were someone who disliked Tebow, you more than likely enjoyed the relevancy of Tebow and the debate it brought on.  The bottom line of Tebow is he polarized sports fans and brought endless debate because both the Tebow “apologists” and “haters” had concrete evidence to back up their stances.  If you were a Tebow believer you could point to the fact that he is a winner and great leader of men.  After all Tebow took over as starting quarterback for a Denver Broncos franchise that had gone 5-16 while he was the backup and 8-5 after he took over during the 2011 season including an exhilarating overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC playoffs.  If you are a Tebow critic you could say that he started every game miserably and if not for the defense keeping the Broncos in the game he never would have had the opportunity to lead those late game comebacks. 

So we are left with this….  Tim Tebow is going to have to move on to a new career/profession.  Will it be Tim Tebow the Politician?  Tim Tebow the Coach?  Tim Tebow the Pastor.  Tim Tebow the Arena Football League player?  Tim Tebow the businessman?  Or perhaps Tim Tebow the philanthropist.   Tebow has already built a children’s hospital in the Philippines and has brought someone from The Make a Wish Foundation to every one of his NFL games to date.   We will no longer have debates over whether Tebow should start over the mediocre Kyle Orton or the awful Mark Sanchez.  My dream would be for the Minnesota Vikings to acquire him so we could have the Tebow debate in my own backyard, but we all know that isn’t going to happen.  Most NFL GM’s and Execs see Tebow as kryptonite.   Just the presence of Tebow alone will make their current starting quarterback panic and force them to curl up into the fetal position.   The lunatic fringe will start the Tebow chants after the current starter’s first incompletion.   The talk radio lines would be jammed every day with Tebow debate.  “Tebow sucks, get him outta here!”  “Tebow is great, he needs to start right away!”  “I would let Tebow marry my daughter!”  “My daughter can throw better than Tebow!”

I think we all secretly love the Tebow debate because it stirs great passion and opinion and that’s what makes living in America and being a sports fan great.  Just imagine the debate Tebow will create when he runs for President in 2040, of course it will bring back the lunatic fringes and then some!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Week 13 Picks

USC 27, Notre Dame 24: Everyone and their brother think it’s a foregone conclusion that Notre Dame will clinch a BCS National Championship game birth with a win over a USC team that has managed to lose 4 games and will be without it’s starting quarterback, Matt Barkley.    Think again!  USC still has the best wide receivers in the country and will be playing with absolutely nothing to lose.  Lane Kiffin will be back next year according to USC AD Pat Haden.  USC will be replacing Barkley with former 5 star recruit Max Wittek, who is big (6-4, 235lbs) and has a huge arm.  Kiffin is a coach playing with house money.  He knows no one is expecting him to win with a freshman quarterback and disappointing team, but Haden said he will be back and Kiffin will construct his best game plan as a coach in his young career.  USC will expose Notre Dame’s defensive weakness, their defensive backs, with talented wide receivers Marquise Lee and Robert Woods and Wittek has plenty of arm to get them the ball.  A loose, talented USC team beats a less talented, tight Notre Dame team with all the pressure in the world on it. 

Nebraska 31, Iowa 17: Iowa will put up a good fight on senior day in Iowa City against one of their biggest rivals, but ultimately Taylor Martinez and the rest of the Nebraska offense proves to be too much for the Hawkeyes.  The regression of James Vandenberg continues as he completes less than 50% of his passes and is picked twice, one of which is returned for a touchdown in the second half thwarting any ideas of an Iowa comeback.

Northwestern 23, Illinois 10: On paper this should be a blowout for the Wildcats.  However, this is rivalry week and the Illini are playing with nothing to lose.  The Illini dig deep and play with pride and effort, keeping the game close until Venrick Mark rips off a long touchdown run late in the second half to ice the game for the Cats.

Indiana 38, Purdue 30: The Old Oaken Bucket game should be a shootout in West Lafayette.  Danny Hope is coaching for his job and the Boilermakers are playing for a bowl game.  Purdue will come up short and we will see the Danny Hope era at Purdue come to an end.  Robert Marve looks great in his last game as a collegian, but is out dueled be Indiana true freshman quarterback Nate Sudfield. 

Ohio State 20, Michigan 16: Ohio State wasted a perfect season this year by not self-imposing a one year bowl ban last year.  Instead the Buckeyes went to a bowl game last year after a 6-6 season with interim coach Luke Fickell.  That was a huge mistake as Urban Meyer has the Buckeyes unbeaten and with the way things are shaking out this year in college football the Buckeyes would have been playing in the BCS National Championship game.  Ohio State and Notre Dame are the only unbeaten BCS teams left.   Ohio State beats Michigan behind the legs of who else but Braxton Miller. 

Michigan State 17, Minnesota 9: Outside of a breakout performance against Purdue the Minnesota offense has been putrid in Big Ten play.  Aside from the Purdue game, which the Gophers scored 44 points in they have scored: 13, 13, 13, 13, 17, and 14 points in conference games.  That simply isn’t good enough.  The Gophers have a true freshman quarterback in Philip Nelson, have gone through 5 different starting rotations along the offensive line due to injury and just lost their most productive wide receiver.  Now the Gophers are going up against what is arguably the conference’s top defense in Michigan State.  The Spartans are pissed and desperate, needing a win to become bowl eligible.  The Gophers on the other hand already have become bowl eligible and most people are slapping them on the back for doing so.  I will go with the urgency factor here and pick Michigan State as Minnesota will be held to single digit points for the first time all year.

Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21: The Nittany Lions aren’t going to a bowl game so they will be extra fired up for their last game of the year.  An emotional Nittany Lions team playing in honor of injured senior linebacker Michael Mauti gets out of the gate quickly building a 14-0 lead at halftime and will hang on at the end preserving a victory on senior day in Happy Valley.  Bill O’Brien locks up coach of the year honors in the B1G with the win.

Last Week: 5-1, Overall: 72-18 (.800)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

B1G Picks: Week 12

Penn State 41, Indiana 17: The Nitts will control this game from start to finish.  The Indiana balloon is deflated after last week’s drubbing at the hands of Wisconsin.  Penn State will use a balanced offense, rushing for over 200 yards and passing for more than 200 yards in the win.  Bill O’Brien doesn’t remind me of a coach that will overlook anyone or allow his team to do so.  Penn State will be sharp and ready to finish its season strong. 

Michigan 38, Iowa 10: I can’t believe how bad Iowa is this year.   They are the biggest dumpster fire west of the New York Jets.  Iowa has a positive turnover margin and has a losing record, which is truly remarkable.  Games left with Michigan and Nebraska make it all but certain that the Hawkeyes will miss a bowl game for the first time since 2007.   I give the Hawkeyes about a .00002 percent chance of winning this game.  Devin Gardener meanwhile gives the Wolverines a quarterback that can run and throw and a bright future at the position heading into the 2013 season. 

Michigan State 27, Northwestern 21: The Wildcats can be exposed by running the ball up the middle and a heavy dose of Le’Veon Bell should do the trick.  Northwestern can be pushed around easily up front, and that has been the case for the last decade and a ½.  The last time Northwestern had a staunch interior defense was when their head coach, Pat Fitzgerald earned All-America honors playing linebacker in the mid 90’s.  The Cats have gotten away with mediocre defense all year and Bell, an improving Andrew Maxwell and the rest of the Spartans will expose them on Saturday. 

Purdue 23, Illinois 17: This game could be even uglier than the Iowa/Purdue game last week.  Any game involving the Boilermakers has a chance to be hideous, but if you throw in the Illini it all but makes it a guarantee.  Robert Marve and the Boilermakers are at least playing with a little emotion and determination, which should get them over the top against a hopeless Illinois team.

Nebraska 45, Minnesota 13: This is just about the worst matchup for Minnesota in the entire conference.  The Cornhuskers can run the ball at you about 7 different directions with about 6 different people and that is easily Minnesota’s biggest defensive flaw.  Meanwhile the Gophers will have the Huskers mystique and Memorial stadium to work against, not to mention the fact that Minnesota hasn’t beaten Nebraska since 1960.  The average margin of victory for the Huskers in their 15 game winning streak is 32 points.  So I will go with the average margin of victory in this year’s slaughtering. 

Ohio State 34, Wisconsin 24: Urban Meyer will dissect Bret Bielema like a fetal pig.  This is a huge mismatch coaching wise.  Similar talent on the field, but I give the edge to the Pontiff (Meyer) and Braxton Miller over Bielema and something called Curt Phillips.  Meyer will be extra motivated to win this one.  If you remember,  Bielema, in a jealous rage said what Urban Meyer did to get a kid to de-commit from Wisconsin and sign with Ohio State was illegal.  That simply isn’t true and Meyer remembers those comments and will want to destroy Bielema and show him who his Daddy will be in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division.

Last Week: 4-1, Overall: 67-17 (.797)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

B1G Picks: Week 11

Wisconsin 33, Indiana 24: The Hoosiers have become a fashionable team to pick the last few weeks, in fact they have become just plain fashionable.   However, it’s almost midnight for Cinderella and the Badgers will provide a little taste of reality for the Hoosiers.  Indiana hasn’t arrived quite yet folks, remember this is a team that lost to Navy and Ball State, and has gotten absolutely trucked by the Badgers the last two years.  I think Indiana is a nice story and I would love it if the Hoosiers won on Saturday, but I just don’t think it’s happening.  Montee Ball, James White, and company will run like deer in an open field against a susceptible IU defense. 

Iowa 24, Purdue 16: This looks like a hideous game on paper and I think it will live up to such.   Danny Hope’s job is on life support and a loss to the struggling Hawkeyes will probably cause Purdue AD Morgan Burke to pull the plug and sign the death certificate.   Iowa has at least had its moments this year in victories over Minnesota and Michigan State.  Purdue meanwhile only has wins over directional schools, Marshall, and a moral victory over Notre Dame.  James Vandenberg and the Iowa receivers will have their best game of the year against a horrendous Boilermaker secondary and get one step closer to bowl eligibility.  Purdue will be eliminated from bowl eligibility and will only be able to look forward to the Old Oaken Bucket game with Indiana as their “bowl game”. 

Michigan 27, Northwestern 21: Brady Hoke should be fired for putting Russell Bellamy into the Nebraska game instead of Devin Gardner, of course I’m kidding, sort of…. That was a huge blunder in the Michigan season because it could cost the Wolverines the Legends division crown and a trip to Indianapolis for the B1G championship game.   Bellamy was absolutely awful against Nebraska and Gardener looked really good against a better than advertised Minnesota secondary last weekend.  As it is the Wolverines will go into battle with a combination of Gardener and Denard Robinson.  Gardener will be able to throw the ball and Robinson will run it for 10-15 plays and that will be enough to get past an average Northwestern defense.

Minnesota 31, Illinois 10: The worst team always seems to win, at least if we go back the last 4 meetings of this series.  So if that trend continues the Illini will win, but not so fast my friend!  The Gophers are looking to become bowl eligible for the first time in 3 years.   They will get it done against an Illinois team that lacks an identity on offense.  The Gophers will shut down the Illini and score early and often against a team that struggles against teams that can spread the field.  The Gophers will come out fired up and dominate the line of scrimmage from the get go against an uninspired, lethargic Illinois team.  Philip Nelson will continue to impress by throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. 

Nebraska 28, Penn State 24: The Huskers are playing with a lot of confidence right now and they will ride said confidence and a home field advantage to victory over the surging Nittany Lions.  The Huskers are far from perfect, they are flawed in many areas, but they feel like a team that is destined for Indy.   Taylor Martinez will continue his Jekyll and Hyde ways, however the Huskers running tandem of Burkhead, Martinez, and Abdullah will pile up over 250 yards and grind out the clock in the 4th quarter to preserve the victory and get the Huskers one step closer to a Legends division crown.

Last Week: 4-1, Overall: 63-16 (.797)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

B1G Predictions: Week 10

Michigan 31, Minnesota 13:  The Gophers go back to scoring 13 points in B1G games against the best defense they have faced all year.  The weather forecast is supposed to be wet and cold on Saturday afternoon, which will play into the favor of Denard Robinson’s legs.  If Robinson had a leg injury I would be tempted to pick a closer score and maybe even predict the Gophers to pull off an upset, but since it’s a hand injury the Wolverines should win comfortably.  Robinson won’t have to throw it much in this game.  Minnesota’s defensive weakness is their run defense and their strength is their pass defense.  Look for a heavy dosage of Robinson on the ground and a comfortable win for the Wolverines. 

Ohio State 55, Illinois 17: If the Illini can’t stop IU or Arizona State just imagine the problems they will have with Braxton Miller and company.  This game will be over by halftime.  Illinois has no idea what they are doing or even what they want to do offensively.  The lack of identity on offense has to be a real concern to Illinois fans.  A lack of identity on that side of the ball indicates a coach who is unsure of himself (see Tim Brewster).  I don’t think the Tim Beckman era is going to end well at Illinois, that’s just a hunch.

Penn State 28, Purdue 23:  I think the Boilermakers will show up and play inspired football for their coach Danny Hope.  If they don’t I think he’s gone after this week.  Hope is on life support right now.   Purdue’s secondary absolutely sucks!  They got torched by Minnesota true freshman quarterback Philip Nelson last week, who was making only his second start.  Nelson threw for nearly 250 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first half and at one point completed 11 consecutive passes.  Matt McGloin will do equal damage this week, but I expect the Purdue offense to come to life a bit under Robert Marve making this an interesting game. 

Michigan State 24, Nebraska 20: I have gone back and forth on this game all week.  Do I pick the hot team coming off an emotional win at home or do I pick the team that has lost a ton of close games coming off an emotional win on the road?  I am going with Sparty because the Huskers have been a bad road team the last few years and I think Michigan State is better than their record indicates.  LeVeon Bell continues to churn out yards and Andrew Maxwell building off the confidence he gained last week in Madison connects on several key third down throws, meanwhile the Spartans D completely shuts down the Huskers passing game forcing them to become a one dimensional offense.  A Dan Conroy field goal at the buzzer wins it for Sparty keeping the Legends Division race really interesting.  Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, and Northwestern all have a chance to go to Indy after week 10. 

Indiana 28, Iowa 27:  I can’t figure out Iowa.  They lose to Central Michigan, then smash Minnesota, then beat Michigan State on the road, and follow that up with back to back embarrassing losses to Penn State and Northwestern.   Yep, that seems to make perfect sense!  The Hawkeyes could win a close one in Bloomington, blow out the Hoosiers, lose a close one or get blown out, nothing would surprise me.  I like the direction IU is headed under Kevin Wilson, and I hate the direction Iowa is headed, so I will go with the Hoosiers.  I also don’t like the way the Iowa defense matches up with IU’s offense.  I think this is a real bad matchup for Iowa.  It should be noted that my confidence level in picking this game on a scale of 1-10 (1 being low and 10 being high) is about a .05.  

Last Week: 4-2, Overall: 59-15 (.797)