Let us complete our picture of the Gophers upcoming season by looking at how the season will most likely turn out.
Aug. 30 - at UNLV - WIN
UNLV was 2-10 last year and 2-11 in 2010 and haven't even been 6-6 since the 2003 season. Their last win vs. a BCS conference team was September 20, 2008 vs. Iowa St. in overtime. The bottom line is the Gophers are more talented and with a complete off season to work with his players Jerry Kill will have his team ready to turn the page on a difficult 2011 season and begin setting the tone on the 2012 season.
Sept. 8 - New Hampshire - WIN
New Hampshire is a IAA program coming off an 8-4 campaign in which their only IA game came against Toledo, which crushed New Hampshire 58-22. The Gophers recent track record against IAA schools is absolutely embarrassing having lost last year to North Dakota State 37-24 and South Dakota 41-38 during the 2010 campaign. In 2009 the Gophers squeaked out a win against the mighty Jackrabbits of South Dakota St. 16-13. It is inarguable that the Gophers will be more talented at nearly every position and with more familiarity with Jerry Kill's system I think the Gophers begin exercising the demons of IAA opponents from the prior five years. In addition, it must be pointed out that the IAA schools the Gophers have played are the Dakota schools which are full of players from Minnesota that feel snubbed by their hometown team. Against, New Hampshire that personal motivating factor will be lacking. Chalk up a W for the Gophers.
Sept. 15 - Western Michigan - WIN
The Gophers face their first true test of the season against an underrated Western Michigan team. The Broncos have a returning senior starter at quarterback in Alex Carder that can put up points in a hurry, as he racked up 31 TDs last year while completing 66% of his passes. Ultimately, he ranked 8th among all players in IA by averaging 335 yards of offense per game. This will be a huge test for the Gophers secondary to see if the holes from last season have been filled. Ultimately, the Gophers improved secondary led by Stoudermire, Carter, Vereen and Shabazz prove up to the challenge while the Gophers young, but talented, offensive line controls the trenches. Gophers win a close one.
Sept. 22 - Syracuse - LOSS
I think the Gophers will ultimately split the Western Michigan and Syracuse games. I will say that the Gophers beat Western Michigan, but fall to a steadily improving Syracuse team led by Coach Marrone. The Gophers exit non conference play with a solid 3-1 record.
Sept. 29 - at Iowa - WIN
The Gophers have won Floyd of Rosedale the past two years, but now they make the trek back down to Kinnick Stadium. From the realistic perspective this proved to be one of the most difficult games for me to decide upon and could prove to be a key game in the Gophers becoming bowl eligible. There is no doubt the Hawkeyes are in transition and I think it benefits the Gophers to get them early in the season. Some way some how the Gophers eek out a road win and hold onto Floyd for a 3rd straight year.
Oct. 13 - Northwestern (Homecoming) - WIN
Northwestern has beaten the Gophers the previous two seasons, but Dan Persa, Drake Dunsmore and Jeremy Ebert have all graduated. New starting quarterback Kain Colter is unable to make up for the team's lousy running game. With the Wildcats forced to be one dimensional, the upgraded Gophers secondary shines again and MarQueis exposes a suspect Wildcat defense in an inspired Homecoming effort
Oct. 20 - at Wisconsin - LOSS
The Gophers exciting 5-1 start comes to a sudden halt with a defeat at Camp Randall Stadium to the hated Badgers. Without the transfer of Danny O'Brien into the Badger program, the Gophers may have had a shot, but his veteran leadership keeps the Badgers balanced. Montee Ball and the hostile Camp Randall atmosphere are to much for the young Gophers to handle.
Oct. 27 - Purdue - LOSS
The Gophers come out slow after the hard fought border battle of a week ago. Purdue proves to be the surprise team in the conference and they keep things rolling with a road win in a high scoring affair.
Nov. 3 - Michigan - LOSS
Sadly, Michigan has dominated the Gophers seemingly forever and you need look no further back than last year's 58-0 dismantling of the Gophers. While 2012 is a more competitive game and the Gophers defense continues to make strides, it is simply not enough. The Little Brown Jug remains safely in the Wolverines trophy case.
Nov. 10 - at Illinois - WIN
Illinois is mired in a difficult season with their first year head coach and arrive at this game 3-6 on the year and having lost 4 of their last 5 games while getting drilled by Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State. In addition, the Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State games were all on the road. The battle weary Illini simply get out of the gate slow and the Gophers offense takes advantage. Gophers win a game that was never as close as the score indicates.
Nov. 17 - at Nebraska - LOSS
Gophers enter Lincoln one of the major surprises of the season and the program appears to be leaving the Tim Brewster era behind. Nebraska comes into the came sluggish having just wrapped up consecutive games against Michigan, Michigan St. and Penn St. However, Nebraska reminds the Gophers they still have a ways to go by coming from behind in the second half to earn the victory and stay on track for the Legends division title.
Nov. 24 - Michigan St. - LOSS
The Gophers offense simply can't get anything moving against perhaps the conference's best defense. While the Gophers defense keeps the Gophers in the game, the Spartans pull away late.
Final Record 6-6 and goes to a bowl game
I think the Gophers can reasonably be expected to win between 5 - 7 games in 2012. I will say that the Gophers reach the 6 win mark and are able to go to a bowl game and allows Jerry Kill to highlight to steady growth in the program. The X factor will be our quarterback play. MarQueis is immensely talented, but erratic as a thrower, if he can put it together and be an All Big Ten quarterback the Gophers could be a sneaky good team. Defensively, I believe you will see the Gophers secondary be immensely better than a year ago. If Michael Carter and Ra'Shede Hageman can play up to their talent level this will be the best defense the Gophers have had in awhile.
They key games for the Gophers to reach a bowl game are the following:
Western Michigan/ Syracuse - The Gophers get both these games at home and really need to win at least one of them. If somehow the Gophers win both of these games they will be in great shape.
Northwestern - The Gophers get this game at home on homecoming and Northwestern is going through a lot of offensive transition. The Gophers really need to win this game to help them get to 6 wins or they will head down the home stretch having to chase a win against Michigan, Nebraska or Michigan State.
Iowa/Purdue - Much like Western Michigan/ Syracuse, I think the Gophers really need to at least split the Iowa and Purdue games. You may have noticed I am down on Iowa this year, but that game is on the road. Plus, Iowa has been upset by the Gophers the past two seasons, which means they will enter the game motivated. Meanwhile, Purdue could be another sneaky good team this year and we know what they did to the Gophers last year. If the Gophers drop both these games and were unable to sweep Western Michigan & Syracuse the odds turn towards a so close but so far away 5-7 campaign and the bowl drought continues.