Friday, November 2, 2012

Who Are You and Why Do We Care?: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Is there a rivalry here?
This will be the 98th meeting overall, 93rd for the Little Brown Jug, between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Michigan Wolverines. The "rivalry" between the two teams is much more based on history than on recent competition. Since Bo took over as Michigan's head coach in 1969, Michigan has only lost three times, in 1977, 1986, and 2005.

When did we see them last?
Last season, the Golden Gophers entered the Big House with a 1-3 record. After playing a surprisingly close game against USC (losing 19-17), the Gophers lost to New Mexico State and North Dakota State, beating only Miami (NTM). Michigan received the ball to start the game, and seven plays later, Vincent Smith had a three yard touchdown run. Michigan got the ball back after a Minnesota three and out and ran the ball down the field, ending with a Denard Robinson 9 yard touchdown run. Again Michigan got the ball back, and with the first play of the second quarter, Vincent Smith threw a pass to Drew Dileo for a 17 yard touchdown. Minutes later, the Wolverines got the ball again, and Vincent Smith received a touchdown pass from Denard, completing the trifecta of throwing for a touchdown, rushing for a touchdown, and receiving a touchdown. Minnesota was finally able to stop the Wolverines from scoring a touchdown on the next possession, resulting in a 25 yard Brendan Gibbons field goal. The Golden Gophers' following possession concluded with a Brandon Green fumble, recovered by Carvin Johnson. Michigan then ran the 2 minute drill to perfection, as Denard threw an 18 yard pass to Kevin Koger for a touchdown. The first half ended Michigan 38-Minnesota 0.

The second half was not much better for the Golden Gophers. Michigan left the first team offense in the game, and on their second possession of the half, the Wolverines scored a touchdown on a Fitzgerald Toussaint 1 yard rush. Finally, it was time for the second team offense to get some reps. Devin Gardner lead the team to the Minnesota 15 yard line, where Gibbons was able to hit a 32 yard field goal. Michigan's first drive in the fourth quarter was Thomas Rawls' time to shine, as he got 5 carries to get into field goal range, where Gibbons converted again.  After a Michigan 3 and out, the Gophers got the ball and David Cobb rushed for 28 yards. On the next play, Cobb fumbled, and Courtney Avery recovered and ran it back 83 yards for a touchdown. Final Score: Michigan 58 - Minnesota 0.

Throughout the game, Minnesota had 13 drives. They only had one drive of 6 plays, the rest were less, they also never had a drive take more than three minutes. It was Michigan's most lopsided win since beating Indiana in 2000, and outgained the Gophers, 384 to 69.

Minnesota would go on to have a bad season. They beat Iowa and Illinois, but lost to the rest of their schedule, finishing the season 3-9. This season the Gophers have looked better. They swept their non-conferencee opponents before losing three straight Big Ten games against Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. Last week they beat Purdue 44-28.

What do they look like?
The Golden Gophers official colors are Maroon and Gold. I've always been a fan of both Minnesota's color scheme and their logo. As you can see, they have multiple combinations of uniforms. I'm not a fan of the monotone maroon on maroon, but the maroon on gold is not bad at all. I stripe on the jersey is pretty unnecessary, and a classic example of Nike trying to make jerseys more exciting. We will probably see something like this on Saturday. The biggest issue with the Gophers uniforms is when they break out the gold on gold, which ALWAYS looks terrible.

What's their coaching situation?
In the past off-season, Minnesota fired Tim Brewster, and hired Jerry Kill. Kill has been a head coach for a very long time, working his way up from the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals to the Emporia State Hornets to the Southern Illinois Salukis, finally he broke into Division 1-A with the Northern Illinois Huskies, before getting the promotion to the Big Ten with Minnesota.  In 2008, Kill took a Huskies roster that went 2-10 in 2007, and lead them to 6-7 including a bowl appearance in the Independence Bowl. In 2009, the Huskies improved to 7-6 with an appearance in the International Bowl. Finally, in 2010, Kill lead Northern Illinois to a 10-3 record. They were undefeated in MAC play until the MAC Championship Game, which they lost to Miami (NTM). Early in the season, Kill's Huskies beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis, 34-23. Before Kill could coach the Huskies in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl, Kill was offered the Minnesota job, and he resigned. As mentioned earlier, Minnesota did not perform well under Kill last season, going 3-9. This season they are currently 5-3, and have a chance to be bowl eligible for the first time since the 2009 Insight Bowl.

Have they won National or Big Ten Championships?
The most recent Big Ten Championship for the Golden Gophers was in 1967, under coach Murray Warmath. Warmath also won a National Championship 7 years earlier in 1960. Minnesota also enjoyed two dynasties in the very early history of college football. Henry L. Williams and the Gophers won Big Ten Championships in 1900, 1903, 1904, 1906, 1909, 19010, 1911, and 1915. The Gophers' second dynasty was in the 1930s under Bernie Bierman. They were National Champions in 1934, 1935, 1936, 1940, and 1941.

Did anyone famous play there?
Depends what you consider famous...
  • Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney - Combined were one of the best 1-2 punches at running back. Separated, they have been average professionals. 
  • Tony Dungy - Played his college ball at Minnesota, and went on to coach the Tampa Bay Bucs and Indianapolis Colts, whom he lead to a win in Super Bowl XLI. 
  • Verne Gagne -American Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Champion and WWE Hall of Famer. 
  • Otherwise, they have had 215 players in the NFL and 6 NFL Hall of Famers. 
Do they have a goofy mascot?
We No Speak Americano gets me every time. 

Anything you could ever want to know about "Goldy the Gopher" is right here and here.

Prediction based on everything but football: Michigan 38 - Minnesota 13

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