Huskers vs. Gophers: Know Thy Enemy

Bo Pelini - the look of concern is whether or not Nebraska will be up for this game.

Regardless of how bad things look for Minnesota, there's still a game to be played. The main concern for Husker fans will be that the team plays down to their opponent, but the reality of the situation is even that isn't very likely this year against the Golden Gophers. 

The guys from the SB Nation Minnesota site, The Daily Gopher, join us this week for a look at what's going on in Minnesota. 

It's no secret that Jerry Kill has a helluva rebuilding project on his hands. Is there a core area/unit on this Gopher team that's doing a good job, improving, or at least somewhere that provides a good start?

Unfortunately, not really.  I am always looking at the glass as half full, but it is really hard this season to find areas of optimism.  Max Shortell shows very good poise for a true freshman, I think our running backs have been running well with limited holes to run through and we have a couple very good kick return guys.  But other than that it is really hard to appreciate anything about this current season.

Who should be starting at quarterback - Marqueis Gray or Max Shortell - and why?

Can I pick both?  If not I'll stick with Gray.  Shortell is a passer and I think will be a pretty good quarterback eventually but he is a true freshman and sometimes looks like it.  Gray, athletically, is on par with any other player in the Big Ten.  He is not an accurate passer but he can move the chains and can spark the offense when he's playing with confidence and is in a rhythm.  Shortell is going to be our quarterback, maybe even next year, but right now Gray gives us the best chance to win.  With our offensive line, it really isn't fair to put a less mobile, true freshman back there to get creamed.  Gray can make things happen when the line breaks down.

Who are the offensive and defensive stand outs that Husker fans should be aware of?

Offensively Gray is our best weapon.  Da'Jon McKnight is also a very dangerous wide receiver but he has had trouble making significant contributions this year.  Defensively, I've been asked this before and I cannot come up with anyone.  There really are no standouts on the defensive side of the ball and right now I'd be thrilled if they played well together as a unit.  Our linebacking corp is probably our deepest and most talented defensive unit, but no one guy stands out.

Kill seems to have gotten his medical issues straightened out after a scary end to the New Mexico State game.  Did Kill's absence disrupted Minnesota's progress, or is this such a long term project that it won't matter in the long run?

Yes.  I think it really did disrupt the season a bit, particularly the North Dakota State game, but ultimately this is such a mess that it isn't really slowing down the long-term plan.  

What's your take on athletic director Joel Maturi?

His time here is coming to an end sooner rather than later.  A lot of Gopher fans are very passionate about their dislike for Maturi.  Many fault him for putting such an emphasis on the success of minor sports while basketball, football and hockey fall into various levels of mediocrity (or worse).  Personally I don't have a problem with baseball, volleyball, wrestling, etc being successful programs.  But his hiring of Brewster set the football program back at least 5 years and any momentum we could have gained from the new stadium has already been lost.  The U of MN needs a big-time athletic director who recognizes the need for a quality football program and then makes that a priority.

There is going to be thousands of Nebraska fans in Minnesota this weekend. What will you be telling them about Minnesota and the Gopher program when you encounter them?

I will tell them that I am thrilled to have Nebraska in the Big Ten, they are a perfect fit.  Nebraska and Minnesota has a long history having played each other more than the Gophers have played Michigan State, Ohio State and obviously Penn State.  The Skers have won the last 14 meetings but I really look forward to when this will be a competitive game.

Prediction?

Well...the last eight meetings (mostly in the 70s and 80s, which obviously have no bearing on Saturday's game) Nebraska has outscored the Gophers 412-34. (Jon J: EGAD!)  And just the last two meetings were 56-0 and 48-0 in 1990 and 1989 respectively.  Those are some really ugly numbers and I fear we will see something in that neighborhood again.  The spread is around 25 and if I were a betting man I'd put my money on Nebraska to cover.  Again, I really look forward to when this is a more competitive game.    
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