Tickets to the Huskers - Gophers game are still overpriced, even now when it's clear that the Gophers are struggling to keep together any semblance of a team. If you're a Gophers fan, you're probably thinking ill of Tim Brewster and his coaching staff, and you should be. They left you next to nothing, and Adam Weber's graduation didn't help either.
A few days ago, I wasn't going to go. I've been feeling lousy, (but it hasn't kept me from working late every night this week), but then I thought - hell, I paid way too much for tickets to Wisconsin, drove all the way over there, and paid too much for everything else, so why not watch Nebraska beat the heck out of someone when I don't have to drive very far at all? On top of that, most of the family wants to go.
So - I'll be looking for tickets. Honestly, I'm planning on heading down and seeing what I can find near the stadium, although I'll be checking the prices on through our TIQIQ affiliate throughout the day tomorrow.
Ah, but enough about me. On to the keys.....
The keys to this game aren't elaborate. Nebraska is playing an opponent that's struggling under a first-year head coach and they're a 26 point favorite, or something around there. Earlier this week, Tim Beck had this to say about Minnesota:
"I've been very impressed with how hard they play. I think they have a lot of respect for their coaches ... They play extremely hard, probably as hard as anyone I've seen on film this year.
Minnesota plays hard. In other words.... "She's nice".
Kind of insulting, really.
Mobility - The Bane of the Husker Defense!
Marqueis Gray is a mobile quarterback. That seems to worry some people because, as the phrase commonly goes "Nebraska doesn't do well with mobile quarterbacks", as if this is a unique characteristic of the Husker defense (I hesitate to call them Black Shirts until they earn them.).
All of those quarterbacks had something that Gray does not - assistance in the running game. Wilson has Montee Ball (107 carries, 653 yards, 16 TDs) and James White (69, 416, 4), Miller has Carlos Hyde (78, 408, 5), Price has Chris Polk (134, 728, 5), and even Carr has Robbie Rouse (167, 812, 5).
Compare them to the Gophers. Gray is the leading rusher with 77 carries for 371 yards and one touchdown. Behind him are Duane Bennett (68, 250, 1), and Donnell Kirkwood (38, 155, 3) and you see the difference. Minnesota doesn't have much offense without Gray. Is he a threat? Not really, because he doesn't have a lot of help.
Expect to see a Husker defense shut down a Minnesota offense that simply doesn't have many weapons. If the defense struggles, you better lower your expectations for the rest of the season.
Continued Improvement - What You Want To See
The biggest knock on this Nebraska team so far this season is that they play down to their opponent - that they don't put away inferior teams. That should change this week, or at least it better.
Husker fans want to see this team play the way they did the last quarter and a half against Ohio State. It'll be a sign that the team is serious about winning their division, that they've realized their potential on offense and on defense have found the right combination of players in the secondary.
If the Huskers come out and walk around the field, woe be the following week despite a victory.
I don't expect that to happen. I expect to see a team that's figured out how good it can be, and a team with much more confidence.
Part of that continued improvement is consistency. Sustain drives, eliminate penalties, turnovers and negative plays.
This game doesn't require any new twists, no new formations, no trick plays, just consistency.
Again - a failure to show it and you need to lower your expectations for the rest of the season (maybe I should make that into a t-shirt, huh?)
In The End
I realize that I've spent most of this article running Minnesota into the ground. Do they have some good players? Yes, they do. Max Shortell should develop into a decent quarterback with some experience. Da'Jon McKnight might be one of the best receivers in the Big Ten, and Marcus Jones has been surprising as a newcomer.
I expect the Gophers to improve greatly under Jerry Kill - I think he's a great hire for them. He's all about hard work, and he's not the loudmouth jackass that was Tim Brewster. It will take time - but right now, Minnesota is just not a very good football team.