Know Your Opponent: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Written by Lloyd Ribner III (@Ribner3

As far as hot Golden Gophers cheerleaders go, this was literally the best I could do guys...

As far as hot Golden Gophers cheerleaders go, this was literally the best I could do guys...

This Years Record: 6-2 (2-2 4th in Big Ten Legends)

Head Coach: Jerry Kill

Overall: 142-91

At Minnesota: 15-18 (6-14)

Last Years Record: 6-7 (2-6) Lost Meineke Car Care Bowl 34-31 to Texas Tech

Bowls Since 2000: 9 Appearances (3-6 Record)

Mascot: Goldy Gopher

Colors: Maroon and Gold

Outfitter: Nike

National Titles: 7

Conference Titles: 18

Heisman Winners: 1

Fun Fact: The 1930’s were a “Golden Decade” in which the Gophers won 3 national titles and 5 Big Ten championships.

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!

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. I know that’s not what you want to be hanging your hat on, but it is what it is Hoosier fans.

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.

The Gophers come into the 2013 matchup on a high after upsetting Nebraska and become bowl eligible. With the Hoosiers desperate for victories with their post-season life on the line here is a bit more about that Golden Gopher team that you might not realize. 

1. The Gophers can run the football...

Minnesota loves to keep the ball on the ground and play some old school Big Ten football. They are sitting inside the top-25 nationally in terms of rushing yards per game. Even more impressively they are averaging 4.7 yards per carry as a team on the season. They have three different rushers, including their two quarterbacks, who each have over 275 yards rushing and at least 5 touchdowns on the season.

2. They can’t pass it

While the running game has carried this team to early bowl eligibility this season, they have struggled mightily to throw the ball with any consistency in 2013. The lack of consistency starts with who is actually playing quarterback as the coaching staff has bounced back and forth between Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner. Both have similar skill sets, while neither has shown that they deserve to be “the guy”. Combined they are completing just 55% of their passes and have thrown for under 1,000 yards over the first eight games of the season. Even more disturbing is the fact that as a duo they have tossed just five touchdowns while also throwing five interceptions.

3. Tempo Tempo Tempo

This game has a plethora of factors, but the biggest might just be what tempo it is played at. We all know that Kevin Wilson and his coaching staff want the Hoosiers to strike quickly and speed up the pace of the game. There might not be more of a juxtaposition out there in styles as what Minnesota throws at you. As we have already discussed this is a team who likes to keep the ball on the ground, and even more important to them is time of possession. In the Gophers six wins this season they are averaging nearly 34 minutes per game of ball control. On the other hand in their two losses Minnesota only holds on to the ball 28 minutes per contest.

4.  Emotions are running high

Head coach Jerry Kill has taken a leave of absence from the team to death with his personal health issues. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys has served as the Gophers' acting head coach through the recent string of wins. It is reported that he is taking on some coaching duties for this week. This team was already “playing for Jerry”, and the locker room celebration after the Nebraska win so obviously displayed. However, with him slowly making his comeback you have to wonder what that means. Are the emotions still there? Are they higher now that he has essentially rejoined the team? As much as I hate to say this, does him coming back mess with the mojo that this Minnesota team has developed. In addition the players celebrated the Nebraska win combined with bowl eligibility as if it was a national title. Was it too much? Could this be a let down game heading on the road against a two-win Hoosier team? All of these outcomes are very possible and things that the Gophers need to have a handle on if they want to win on Saturday.

5. Ra’Shede Hageman is a Beast

The 6-foot-6, 311-pound defensive lineman has been a force to be reckoned with this season. Hageman is taking on double, and even triple teams at times, but you wouldn’t know it with the type of impact he has on the opponents’ offense. He is chronically in the backfield making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. He has outstanding top-end speed especially with his blend of height and weight. Hageman can play against both the run and pass and will likely be the toughest test of the season for the Hoosier offensive line.