Well, there's a flicker of hope for the Nebraska Cornhuskers to win the Big Ten West division, and it has to include a victory versus the Minnesota Golden Gophers tomorrow. They are coming to town for a 11am kick on Senior Day in Memorial Stadium, and the festivities will be on ESPN for all of us to watch.
What to expect from Jerry Kill and his band of Dilly Bar toting men? Well, we reached out to our friends at The Daily Gopher, the SBNation community for Minnesota athletics. JDMill, who contributes at TDG, took our questions and filled them out with ease and knowledge.
We thank him, and make sure to follow him on twitter for the game, as well as checking out The Daily Gopher for their reactions to the game.
1. Well.... 7-3 is pretty good for this Gophers team, isn’t it? I mean, 2 of the 3 losses were to TCU and Ohio State and no shame in that. How’s the outlook on the season so far in Minneapolis?
The reality is that 7-3 is pretty much where most Gopher fans expected the team to be at this point in the season. The season outlook seemed to be somewhere between 6-8 wins. If memory serves me correctly, I think I predicted 7-3 by this point, but I assumed the three losses would be TCU, Michigan & OSU before we knew what Michigan was going to be before this year.
The feeling now is interesting. The Illinois loss is completely haunting. There is a real feeling of excitement that we legitimately control our own destiny, but we know that the road (literally ON the road) to get there is very difficult.
2. Mitch Leidner has some decent stats, along the lines of our Tommy Armstrong. How has he taken the QB role with the knowledge he’s the man who is going to be on the field w/o worrying if Philip Nelson is coming on?
Mitch has acted like a leader, but has played pretty inconsistently. The reality if the situation is that Leidner doesn`t need to be a high-flying oft-throwing QB for this offense to be successful. All this offense needs is for Mitch to do enough as a passer to keep defenses honest in order to set up the run game. If Mitch is throwing more than 20 times/game, the offense isn`t working correctly.
3. David Cobb is pretty good. Nebraska just got trucked for.. well, 408 and we’ll leave it at that. What do you expect on Cobb and this OL to do to Nebraska’s run D?
Uh, yeah, he`s pretty good. I love watching him. But let`s be honest, he`s not the same kind of running back that Melvin Gordon is. Gordon does his damage on massive runs. David Cobb does damage 6-8 yards at a time. If David Cobb were to put up 400 rushing yards on anybody it would probably take him 50 attempts.
The thing with Cobb is that he`s not the fastest guy on the field and if he`s in a foot race he'll get caught. He`s not the most physical guy as he isn`t really one to lower a shoulder and try to run someone over. But he`s got, in my opinion, of any RB in college football. He is patient, he hits holes early, he gets to the second level, and he makes people miss.
I expect him to be able to produce against Nebraska`s run D, but certainly not in the way Gordon did.
4. Maxx Williams is your most dangerous pass threat, but there honestly doesn’t seem like anyone past him that’s really standing out. What’s the deal with the receiving corps?
The receiving group is incredibly young. After Maxx Williams you have two true sophomores who were expected to step up this season. Drew Wolitarsky was having a nice season as a bigger, possession type receiver, but he is out for the rest of the regular season with a high ankle sprain. Donovahn Jones is supposed to be the big-play guy as more of a deep threat, but he was out sick vs Ohio State. Isaac Fruechte is a decent possession guy, but he's not beating anybody downfield.
In this offense, right now, TE`s are going to lead the team in catches because there is more talent at that position and because TE`s overall are on the field constantly due to the design of the run game.
5. This D isn’t the worst one you can find, but they have allowed some points (38 to Purdue). But, they also kept TCU to 30 and held Ohio St at bay until late last week. What are we to expect on Defense?
Typically this is a defense that gives up a lot of yards, but not a lot of points. We`ve had a number of games that we`ve won, but we lost the total yardage battle. The Purdue & Illinois games were... I don`t even know.
It`s an opportunistic defense. They've produced 25 turnovers on the season (2nd in the conference), which gives the team a .9/game turnover advantage, and somehow they have seemed to have an ability to come up with TO`s in big situations.
One thing that D Coordinator Tracy Claeys has been very good at is shutting things down in the 2nd half. This defense does have a tendency to start slow, but they typically finish very strong.
6. Some thought that maybe Jerry Kill would have to leave the program due to his epilepsy. He’s stayed and it has paid off for the Gopher program. How’s the fanbase and alumni feeling about Jerry these days?
I would venture to guess that these "some" you speak of were pretty disconnected from the Gophers and B1G football. I can honestly tell you I haven`t been made aware of a single person who thought Kill would leave until reading this question. There may have been people who wanted him to leave because of his epilepsy, but those people are wrong.
(Pardon my attitude here. I do these Q&A's every week and Kill`s epilepsy and how he`s doing and what`s his outlook and does his health make me nervous is almost always a question. It gets old because it is literally NEVER talked about around the program. The only time his epilepsy is brought up is when he`s doing an event with his foundation to raise awareness.)
We are very comfortable with Jerry Kill as our coach. The fanbase is 100% behind Jerry Kill and believe he is building this program in the right way and for the long term.
7. Is it weird that Minnesota is playing this game with a easier road to a Big Ten West title than Nebraska?
The Quadrangle of Hate is real. We are 1-0 in the Quadrangle so far. Nebraska is 0-1. It's just math and there are two more games left in the Quadrangle for all of us.
8. How many folks do you expect to come down from the Twin Cities to the balmy warmth of Lincoln for the weekend?
I have yet to make the trip to Lincoln but absolutely every single person who I have spoken to has nothing but great things to say about their experience in Lincoln. I have had multiple discussions with other Gopher fans about what kind of fanbase we are and we all agree that we would prefer to be like Nebraska fans over Iowa fans. (By the way, even OSU fans hate Iowa fans... I met several last week who said things like "You guys are great! Those Iowa fans are awful.") So I just want to give you guys a shout out for bringing some class to the Quadrangle of Hate.
I expect a decent contingent of folks down there because of your hospitality and because we are really enjoying our football team right now. It also doesn't hurt that Wisconsin drew up the blueprint of how to run on Nebraska.
9. Who should we expect to see make a difference on Saturday morning that we haven’t talked about in the above questions already?
The Gopher special teams. One thing the Gophers have been good at is controlling field position. Even against OSU our starting field position was our own 35 yard line or about 5 yards better than OSU and the overall national average. Over the course of a game, that can make a big difference.
10. Prediction time. Who do you have winning this game, and why?
This game makes me nervous because I know without question that the Huskers are a much better football team than they showed against Wisconsin. I think Nebraska is going to be pissed and ready to redeem themselves.
But I also know that our football team lost by 1 score to the best team in the conference last week and we didn`t play anywhere close to our best football. Our players are looking to rebound too.
Unfortunately I just don't know if we have what it takes to win in Lincoln quite yet. Nebraska 27 - Minnesota 21.