B1G/Nation is Sleeping on Gopher Football in 2019

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I spent yesterday in Chicago at Thursday’s version of Big Ten Media Day. We came back early (events are still going on today) because Brandon still has a day job and two nights in a really nice Chicago hotel is currenly out of our company budget (go buy a shirt). Thank god/aliens for Pro Image Sports in the Mall of America, who paid our way for one night (use our promo code “MSF” to buy something from them).

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4-time cancer survivor and Gopher holder, Casey O’Brien, just gave an emotional speech today that we VERY regrettably missed. Most of Gopher media access was yesterday though, so we were able to ask PJ a couple of questions and talk to Mo Ibrahim, Carter Coughlin, and Tyler Johnson on a variety of topics.

There were a few takeaways I left with, that I will be blogging about over the next couple of days and if you were following on Twitter or Instagram, you were pretty much there with us yesterday. But, one thing was clear for sure…

Everyone is Sleeping on the Gophers

Seth and I have discussed this on his radio show but if you haven’t heard, the Big Ten West is WIDE OPEN in 2019. Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa certainly aren’t at peak points of their programs and all three play either Michigan or Ohio State out of the Big Ten East this year, while the Gophers’ opponents from that side of the conference will be lucky to lick the bottom of the Eastern scrap bowl at season’s end.

It’s not just about the schedule either. The mid to low-tiered teams in the West are getting better every year, closing the recruiting gap and then coaching up those better players to levels, previously unknown to those schools… and the Gophers are leading the charge.

But, nobody was asking PJ Fleck about playing in the B1G Championship game as the West representative for 2019 yesterday, and if they did bring up any chance at that opportunity, it was laced with hypotheticals and dreamworthy thoughts. Apparently (at least this is what everyone is talking about), Nebraska finished last year STRONG, racking up an astonishing record of 4-8 overall, after starting 0-6 (including losses to Troy and Colorado)

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They started that crazy-STRONG finish with their first victory of the season over a struggling (at that time) Minnesota team in week 7, that fired their defensive coordinator 2 weeks later. The Huskers then charged forward with two close losses to Ohio State and Iowa, and BIG victories over Illinois, Bethune Cookman???, and then Michigan State in a 9-6 offensive shootout)………………

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Wow, am I ever afraid of that Huskers team…. Are you over my sarcasm yet?

I asked Mo, Carter, and Tyler yesterday; if they feel any additional excitement or hope for this season, given their rising program within a wide-open B1G West and they all downplayed it. They are excited for the season because they feel like they are improving and getting better everyday but none of them were concerned about what was going on outside of their locker room. 

Tyler and Mo both told us that PJ talks to them about the outside hype (or lack-there-of) but only to crumple those thoughts up and throw them in the trash. He wants them to know what the outside world believes but only to motivate them. Only they can actually produce results. It’s on them to change the narrative but they can’t worry about that. They need to worry about growing as players, humans, and as a team. They do that, and the results will speak for themselves.

That’s the right approach. But, it’s clear there is a quiet confidence within team……

I’m not a very quiet person though, so I’m going to scream it from the rooftops and then remind everyone about how smart I am, when the Gophers are playing to go to the Rose Bowl in December.

So, bookmark this blog.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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