Friday, July 6, 2007

More Negative Minnesota Football Previews

In what is becoming a weekly ritual, more highly negative Minnesota football previews are being penned aroud the blogosphere and by the typical college football pundits.

It's been hard to find someone predict the Golden Gophers, under the new tutelage of Tim Brewster, will finish in position to extend Glen Mason's bowl streak. The consensus seems to be that Brewster's first version of the maroon and gold is rotten enough to finish 11th in the Big10.

Sunday Morning Quarterback does a good job of running through what the various pundits are saying about our Gophers. Street & Smith's predicts a 10th place finish. Athlon? 11th. Phil Steele agrees with Athlon.

SMQ doesn't take a position on Minnesota's eventual finish in the B10, but it questions the logic of a total regression.

What's really interesting about the expected downturn in this fate isn't only that Tim Brewster has essentially the same set of players to guide into the Insight Bowl, but that everybody likes Brewster, and his staff. Among those who foresee the kind of doom Minnesota hasn't known in a decade, we find that Brewster's "non-stop energy and enthusiasm created a buzz around the program that had been missing" as he "reached out to the general fan base, high school coaches and recruits in a way that Mason never did," "restored the team's confidence and rebuilt a shattered psyche" and brought hope that "the program might finally elevate past mediocrity." His offensive coordinator, Mike Dunbar, is "a terrific hire...who did a GREAT job as OC at Northwestern from 2001-05," where his balanced spread led the league in total yards twice. His only effort at Cal was the highest scoring in the Pac Ten last year. Which equals...significant regression?
Yes, SMQ, many seem to think so. Count Spartan Nation among the haters. The blog wrongly points to the glorious days under Glen Mason, like in these paragraphs for example.

Oh how soon people forget. Someone forgot to tell Minnesota before Glen Mason arrived that they had a football program. The perennial doormat was horrendous with only three bowl game appearances in over 20 years and facilities that were not even on par with a division two program let alone a Big Ten squad. Glen Mason changed all of that and after placing the Gophs among the most consistent programs in the nation, he was sacked last season after a very disappointing 44-41 loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Because of the hard work of Mason and his staff, the Gophs were entering a great era with a new on campus stadium coming (thanks to Mason) and other amenities. Now they bring in a guy with no HC experience and who lastly was a TE coach with the Broncos. Minnesota should be an elite job, but evidently a guy learning how to be a head coach on the job is O.K. there.

What Spartan Nation fails to add here is that meltdowns like the one against Texas Tech were commonplace during the Mason era. Did Mason help the program take a step forward? Absolutely. Was he the guy to take another step? Gopher Nation didn't think so. He lost his job for many more reasons than the Texas Tech embarrassment.

The negative previews are coming almost too rapidly to relay to PJS readers. Armchair GM also predicts a 10th place finish. Here's the gist of what this writer believes.

The arrival of Tim Brewster has created enthusiasm and excitement surrounding the program. The former Denver Broncos tight end coach has displayed his PR skills by his promise to recruit more Minnesota-based players. Depth remains the biggest problem for the Gophers. They are extremely thin at receiver and in the secondary. These issues aren’t going to be resolved within the season. The quarterback, whether Mortensen or Weber, is inexperienced. There are just too many question marks remaining for the Gophers to become a contender in the Big Ten.

They do have a chance to become bowl eligible. They have three easy non-conference games against Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio), Florida Atlantic, and North Dakota State. Three of the four are at home and the Florida Atlantic game is at a neutral site. They also get to play Northwestern, Indiana, and Illinois. Seven wins is a strong possibility, but so are four.

There seem to be a few common themes in the negative football previews. As best as I can tell, the pundits and bloggers:

1) note that Brewster has no head coaching experience. This is true, but from day one he's been sold as a recruiter, and has brought in Mike Dunbar, a well-respected offensive guy and Everett Withers, who has performed everywhere he has been.

2) suggest that Glen Mason was moving the program up in the world. This is also true, but that would imply that Mason had a team he could compete with, but not Brewster. If Mason were still in Minny, would Spartan Nation predict a B10 slide? I doubt it. Mason didn't leave the cupboard bare.

3) point out that the "winnable" B10 games are on the road. We should go 4-0 in the nonconference schedule, these writers admit, but pulling off even one B10 victory, with primarily Mason's players who were able to notch a few Ws is apparently inconceivable. I don't buy that.

I'm the first one to say Gopher fans need to take a wait-and-see approach with our new head football coach. He needs to perform before we construct a Tim Brewster statute in front of TCF Stadium. When I write my Minnesota preview, I won't dare to suggest Brewster will take Mason's team to the Rose Bowl. But a 10th or 11th place finish for a team that has consistently been mediocre--not bad--is a stretch as well.

(And the photo, by the way, is to encourage Minnesota fans to think positive, in the face of tiresome negativity.)


Anonymous said...

I don't understand why you or anyone else would think the team is going to be good no matter who the hell is coaching them. The Gophers suck. They always suck. right?


PJS said...

Not sure about 'suck,' Roger. They've been a mid-level B10 team for the last 6 years. If Brewster is a horrible coach, perhaps they regress. I just don't see a decline to being the worst team in the conference. I also don't see a top-3 conference finish.

Anonymous said...

A mid-level B10 team? Come on PJS. Give me a break. They stink. They've been a laughing stock B10 team for decades, with maybe one or two bright spots. I respect your fan-ship, but anyone who thinks this team will compete needs to put down the wacky tobacky.


PJS said...

Compete with OSU/Michigan for a B10 title? No. Go 2-6, 3-5, 4-4 in the B10? That's not a stretch at all.

Mason took them from 'laughingstock' to use your word to mediocrity. Many BCS teams can't say they've been to 6 straight bowl games.

Anonymous said...

Much of it depends on how much of a hybrid spread Coach Dunbar is willing to use this year. He just doesn't have the horses to install a spread offense yet. If he's willing to run the ball 50-60% of the time this year, he'll probably provide a level of offense similar to the years when Khaliq and Cupitor were inexperienced QB's. The real question of performance rests with the Defense. If Coach Withers can get a more aggressive, penetrating defense working for the entire game, Minnesota could go 4-4 in the B10. They definitely have bowl game potential, but it's going to be a nail-biting year for virtually every game. Anyway, I liked your article.

Jon Marthaler said...

I agree with you, in that it's silly and foolish to assume that somehow everyone's going to be so unsettled by Brewster that they forget how to play football and end up 0-8 in the Big Ten.

That said, I remember all too well the arrival of Mason, when he took Jim Wacker's run-and-shoot guys and made them run the option. I'll never forget the sight of Cory Sauter carrying the ball 17 times for -21 yards against Hawaii. And that could be what happens when Dunbar lines everybody up in the spread.

But if everybody thinks the Gophers are going to be the conference doormat, I think they may surprise a few people.

Dallas Cowboys Blog said... picked up my espn blog post :)

i got one hit from it. grrrr

Matt Barker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.