After finishing last season 3-9, the Golden Gophers are aiming for a bowl game in 2012. This means doubling their win total from last year and tallying at least six wins. Is this do-able? Fair question. Let’s take a look at how the Gophers could reasonably reach their goal of a post-season bowl game.
Before we begin, we will be looking at how the Gophers can reasonably make a bowl game. To do so, we need to first take into account the games the Gophers will most likely lose or should most likely win. This is not to say that our beloved Maroon and Gold can’t win a game they should lose or vice versa, this is simply to say that if we are going to get to a bowl game this year, then we need to win the games that we should without a doubt win and should not bank on winning the games that we will most likely lose, (not if we have reasonable post season hopes.)
First off, here’s the Gophers 2012 Schedule:
|08/30/12||at UNLV||Las Vegas, Nev.||10:00 p.m. CT|
|09/08/12||vs. New Hampshire||TCF Bank Stadium||11:00 a.m. CT|
|09/15/12||vs. Western Michigan||TCF Bank Stadium||11:00 a.m. CT|
|09/22/12||vs. Syracuse||TCF Bank Stadium||7:00 p.m. CT|
|09/29/12||at Iowa *||Iowa City, Iowa||11:00 a.m. CT|
|10/13/12||vs. Northwestern (HC) *||TCF Bank Stadium||11:00 a.m. CT|
|10/20/12||at Wisconsin *||Madison, Wis.||TBA|
|10/27/12||vs. Purdue *||TCF Bank Stadium||TBA|
|11/03/12||vs. Michigan *||TCF Bank Stadium||TBA|
|11/10/12||at Illinois *||Champaign, Ill.||TBA|
|11/17/12||at Nebraska *||Lincoln, Neb.||TBA|
|11/24/12||vs. Michigan State *||TCF Bank Stadium||TBA|
So what are the games that we will most likely lose? It’s safe to assume that we will lose every game against a Top 25 opponent on the road. That means at preseason #12 Wisconsin and at #16 Nebraska are losses. (Note that all rankings are from the preseason AP poll.) While we’re at it we might as well chalk up a loss to every top 25 team we play this year, which means losses against #8 Michigan and #13 Michigan State in November at home.
We’re left with 8 remaining games, of which we need to win 6. So what are the “for sure” wins this year. Again, it’s worth repeating because this is, after all, Gophers football–there are no “for sure” wins when it comes to Minnesota Golden Gophers football in its present state. These are simply wins we must win to make a bowl game this year. So who are those “for sure” wins?
A game against the Football Championship Subdivision New Hampshire Wildcats in the home opener is a must win. So is a home game against a Syracuse team that went 5-7 last year and 1-6 in the Big East. A victory against a UNLV team that went 2-10 last year should be in the cards, even if it is on the road. Beyond that, there are no more games we feel comfortable chalking up with a win right now. (And the Syracuse and UNLV games are really light chalk at that.)
This leaves us with five remaining games, of which we must win three: Western Michigan, at Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue and at Illinois. A bowl berth is looking less reasonable by the minute. However, the Western Michigan game is winnable. The Broncos went 7-6 last year, losing to all three Big Ten opponents they faced, as well as losing to Jerry Kill’s former team in a 29-point blowout to Northern Illinois. The Northwestern game is also a home game we should win. Despite playing in a bowl game last year, the Wildcats finished the season 6-7. A Northwestern win is a must if the Gophers are to show any signs of improvement this year.
This leaves us three remaining games. Both Purdue and Illinois finished 7-6 last year. Illinois was only 2-6 in Big Ten play, but the game is on the road. Purdue was 4-4 in the Big Ten, but the game is at home. Anticipating a split from these two games is reasonable, (and a must if we’re going to make a bowl game).
We’re now sitting at 5-6 with one game remaining. You hear that Iowa?! That’s us Gophers coming for a third straight victory, this time in Iowa City. You’re standing between us and a bowl berth this year. Floyd’s staying with us! Get ready. We comin’! We comin’!
In all reality, it’s safe to say that a bowl game is not an easy task for our boys this year. It’s going to mean dramatic improvement from last year on both sides of the ball. Time will soon tell if Kill’s plan is starting to take shape, though. It begins in just over three weeks in Las Vegas. The Road to 6.