Another even-numbered season, another visit from the Minnesota Golden Gophers is here as fresh-faced P.J. Fleck rows the boys in for what is sure be another afternoon of watching Huskers lines struggle and, even on Friday, still has the starting QB question looming over the proceedings.
And more importantly, looming over the bookies who opened the lines around Gophers -16 assuming Casey Thompson would not play. (That line on ESPN is now -14 1⁄2 which means next to nothing. If you don’t believe me, call up ESPN and place a bet.)
So what’s on the minds of Gopher fans after a 4-0 start was followed by a 3-game losing streak against the gauntlet of Purdue, Illinois and Penn State before righting the canoe with 31-0 shutout of Rutgers? Blake Ruane of The Daily Gopher was kind enough to help us with that by answering a few of our questions for this week’s Q&A.
Many thanks to Blake despite the Brian Ferentz sh*t and away we go ;-) :
1) After getting our Iowa-Nebraska game trophy so brutally wrong (The Heroes Game - some weird salute to the military - corporate sponsor - trophy is basically a football on block of wood - zzzzz), I felt like the $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy was an absolute home run and then took another jump by being used to raise money for cancer research. Being involved with Big 10 trophy games with much more history, where do Minnesota fans stand on the busted chair? Also, where is the damn chair?
I couldn’t agree with you more on the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy. It’s the premier rivalry trophy of the modern era of college football, and its oddball origins are what make it such an endearing trophy. It’s a shame that both football programs have distanced themselves from it, but credit to the fans for embracing and turning it into an opportunity to support two great causes, the Team Jack Foundation and the M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital. As far as where the actual trophy is, your guess is as good as mine. I think it was last photographed in the Nebraska locker room with then head coach Mike Riley back in 2016. (Andy K. - Mike Riley sucks more. Bastard.)
2) We need all the help we can get. Who should we hire as our next head coach?
There is a young up-and-coming offensive coordinator in Iowa City who I think would be the perfect fit for Nebraska. As much as it would pain me to see him leave Iowa, I think he has done all he can with the Hawkeyes and is ready for a new challenge. Like a child leaving home for the first time, he is ready to spread his wings. But if head coaching experience is an absolute must, I have to recommend Tim Brewster. Sure, his tenure at Minnesota wasn’t great, but I believe in second chances. And he has had a decade now to reflect on his mistakes and consider how he might do things differently. Give him a shot, Trev Alberts.
3) When Mohamed Ibrahim gets tired after 40 carries, for whom should we watch out on the Gopher offense?
You really don’t have to bother watching out for anyone else. Mohamed Ibrahim is their whole offense. If Nebraska is able to make Minnesota desperate enough to throw the ball, Tanner Morgan will likely look to connect with tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford or wide receiver Daniel Jackson. When top receiver Chris Autman-Bell was lost to a season-ending injury in Week 3, the passing game never recovered. They don’t have a Trey Palmer who can take the top off the defense. That’s why defenses have been loading the box and putting their cornerbacks in press man coverage to take away the quick passing game.
4) The Corn Nation staff has food/drink questions: Why doesn’t Surly send their limited edition beers down to Nebraska? Are walleye fries truly the best food option in American stadiums?
I took a straw poll among the staff at The Daily Gopher and the reaction was unanimous: Walleye fries aren’t even in the conversation for best food options in American stadiums. So there you have it. As far as Surly not distributing their limited edition beers outside the borders of Minnesota, I applaud it, personally. If Nebraskans want them, they should have to come to Minnesota to get them. Come pay your respects.
5) Size aside, Minnesota’s offensive line doesn’t appear to be as physical as they were in the past couple of seasons (see: Purdue) - what’s the issue here?
It’s tough to say, honestly. John Michael Schmitz at center is going to be an NFL Draft pick next year, but everyone around him is so inconsistent. The only lineman who can use youth as an excuse is Aireontae Ersery at left tackle, and he has the potential to be an NFL Draft pick himself if he continues to develop over the next couple years. But Notre Dame transfer Quinn Carroll has been a disappointment at right tackle. He has not matched up well in pass protection against more athletic edge rushers. At the guard spots, I think a lack of top-level talent is the biggest issue. Left guard Axel Ruschmeyer is a former walk-on and right guard Chuck Filiaga was a grad transfer from Michigan, where he only saw time as a reserve. We all knew coming into the season that this offensive line was going to be a step down from last year with four starters walking out the door, but the lack of improvement over the course of the season has been discouraging.
6) How much have you guys missed Chris Autman-Bell?
I miss him every Saturday. As I mentioned earlier, the passing game hasn’t been the same without him. Minnesota has missed far too often at wide receiver on the recruiting trail, which is how they ended up in this situation.
7) Pick time - the Gophers are currently -16 favorites which probably assumes no Casey Thompson. What do you see the score in Lincoln being and feel free to use Thompson/no Thompson predictions.
Based on what we’ve heard from Mickey Joseph this week, I think Casey Thompson will play. With him at quarterback, I think you can throw that -16 line out the window. Minnesota isn’t that much better than Nebraska. In fact, I think these are two relatively even matched teams. But in the end, I think the Gophers escape Lincoln with a 23-16 win over the Huskers, with Minnesota playing well enough on defense to keep Nebraska from turning this into a shootout.