2013 Preview: Week 10: Minnesota Gophers

Written by Lloyd Ribner III (@Ribner3

 The Hoosiers will try and make Goldy hang his head during Homecoming.

The Hoosiers will try and make Goldy hang his head during Homecoming.

The season hasn’t even started, yet we’re already nearing the end of the year as far as our previews are concerned. Today we take a look at Week 10, yes that’s right we have already hit double digits and that’s not the most exciting news of the week, it also happens to be homecoming!

Yes, that’s right, the yearly tradition where alumni from around the Hoosier state and the rest of the world come back to Bloomington to revel in the memories of their colligate days. Ok, so maybe I am glorifying it a tad, however there are festivities galore from alumni tailgates to Greek Life parties.

Oh yea…. there is also a football game!

Like I did in week five, I decided against previewing the bye on the schedule in week nine. I am sure there will be some quality Madden tournaments between the players, and maybe even a steak dinner or two, especially if the Hoosiers did well in their tough three game stretch heading into the off week. However, this is a site where we talk football, no matter how good that porterhouse might be.

The Golden Gophers coming to town represents another program that has the upper hand on the Hoosiers historically. While Indiana has a losing record against every Big Ten program, except for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Minnesota is one of the four teams that the Hoosiers win over 40-percent of their games against.

The two schools have played 66 times dating back to 1906, but have not met on the gridiron since back in 2008 due to conference scheduling rotations.  Of those 66 matchups the Hoosiers have walked away victorious 26 times.

Before the season starts, to many fans, this game is a ho-hum week on the schedule. However, the 67th edition of this game will feature two teams heading into the season on the rise, and by the time Week Ten rolls around, this match-up could have some fire to it.

Week 10: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Time & Date: 3:30 pm, Saturday, Oct. 19th

Venue: Memorial Stadium (Bloomington, IN)


Golden Gophers at a Glance:

Head Coach: Jerry Kill (9-16 (4-12), 2 years)

Last Season: 6-7 (2-6, 6th Big Ten Legends)

Offensive Formation: Spread

Defensive Formation: 4-3

Returning Starters:

            Total: 16

            Offense: 10

            Defense: 6

            Specials: Punter

Returning Team Leaders:

            Passing: Philip Nelson (49.3%, 873 Yds, 8 TD, 6 INT)

            Rushing: Donnell Kirkwood (926 Yds, 4.2 Avg, 5 TD)

            Receiving: Derrick Engel (18 Rec., 376 Yds, 20.8 Avg, 1 TD)

Preseason Magazine Predictions for Minnesota:

Athlon: 6-6 (2-6), 5th Place Big Ten Legends

Phil Steele: 5th Place Big Ten Legends

Sporting News: 5th Place Big Ten Legends, Heart of Dallas Bowl

Why the Golden Gophers could win:

The Minnesota program is clearly on the rise, making their first bowl game under head coach Jerry Kill, and the teams first since the 2009 season. The team allowed a touchdown less per game in 2012 than in the previous season, leading to a doubling in wins from three to six. Throughout the season the team started to adopt Kill’s mentality and with another recruiting class of his guys in addition to another offseason for the current players to be apart of the system that should only take hold further.

 Donnell Kirkwood will need to have a big day on the ground to keep up with Indiana's explosive offense.

Donnell Kirkwood will need to have a big day on the ground to keep up with Indiana's explosive offense.

The offense returns nearly an entire unit of experience starters that will be paced on the ground by returning starter Donnell Kirkwood. The Florida native is amongst the most underrated backs in the Big Ten as he receives little to no media recognition despite putting up nearly 1,000-yards on the ground last season as a sophomore.

Many are excited about the potential that Philip Nelson displayed during his true freshman year. The coaching staff burned his redshirt in week seven and he was able to get a half-year of starting in the Big Ten under his belt.

Many of the Gophers defensive playmakers return for another season lead by Ra’Shede Hageman. In his junior season he tallied six sacks prompting the defensive tackle to think about leaving to play on Sundays a year early. Instead he opted to stay in the twin cities for his senior season.

To bolster what was already returning, the coaching staff brought in junior college transfer Damien Wilson. The linebacker was ranked fourth in the nation amongst JuCo players after racking up 122 tackles last season.

Why They Won’t Pull it Off:

While the Gophers went bowling last season, they did drop six of their final eight games. The hopes of this season rest on the arm of sophomore Philip Nelson. While he showed flashes of brilliance, the fact remains that he completed less than half of his passes on the year, while throwing more touchdowns than interceptions in just three games. In five of Nelson’s seven starts the gophers did not manage more than 14 points. He doesn’t have much help when it comes to weapons either; as no returning receiver caught more than 19 passes in 2012.

While there is depth and talent on the defense good enough to place them in the top 45 nationally in most categories, the Gophers had a hard time creating big plays. This is obvious when you see that last seasons turnover differential was a minus-two.

Final Analysis:

After three straight games against some of the conferences biggest names Indiana gets a bye week before hosting Minnesota. In addition to having an extra week to prepare, there will be the added incentive of it being homecoming weekend in Bloomington.

Both teams have been spoken about as the favorites to surprise the Big Ten conference and put together a better 2013 campaign then expected. In week ten, much will come down to the quarterback play for both sides. Each team has questions at the position and multiple possibilities to fill it. The Gophers have a bunch of talented players, however there is little experience and even less production to fall back on.

On the other hand the Hoosiers have an excess of experience under center, with three different signal callers having seen meaningful playing time in Big Ten competition.

While it might not be a Big 12 style shootout, I expect a large number of points on the scoreboard, with the defenses desperately trying to tread water.  Indiana’s big play ability on offense may very well be what puts the Hoosiers over the top on Homecoming weekend.

Indiana Chance of Winning: 60%