The Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Golden Gophers both entered 2020 with high expectations, after successful 2019 campaigns. Last year, the U of M won 11 games and an Outback Bowl vs SEC power Auburn. The Vikings finished 10-6, marched into New Orleans on Wild Card Weekend and upended the Saints in OT.
Into the offseason, both teams knew they would lose vital pieces. For the Gophers, the NFL drafted FOUR defensive mainstays in Antoine Winfield Jr, Kamal Martin, Carter Coughlin, Chris Williamson and Tyler Johnson. None of the former Gophers landed with the Vikings, who were heavily hit by exits of their own. Stefon Diggs, Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander all left via free agency.
From bad to hopeful…
Both teams stumbled out of the gate. The Vikings fell to 1-5, before they strutted into Green Bay and pulled a victory out of their rear-ends. Suddenly, “Tank for Trevor” talks quieted as playoff dreams started creeping.
That was BEFORE Dalvin Cook rushed the Vikings to victory over the Lions in week 9, moving their record to 3-5 and instilling dangerous levels of optimism in the fanbase. Next up, is a Monday Night showdown in Chicago at Soldier Field.
The Gophers were boat raced by Michigan 49-24 to start the season. Then, they entered the game vs Maryland as 18.5 point favorites, but were upset 45-44. At 0-2, Minnesota desperately needed a win vs the Illini and they finally got one, thanks to 224 yards + 4 TD’s from Mo Ibrahim and a much improved defensive effort.
Seasons on life support…
Someone cue “Breakeven” by the Script and turn it up to the max. Football is a lot more fun when there’s hope involved… and now, both Gopher and Vikings fans have some.
The Vikings can still sneak into the playoffs and the Gophers still have a shot at winning a Big Ten West title. That would have been crazy talk just a week ago… but here we are. The one catch? There’s absolutely no room for error. You can’t have misreads on 4th and 1 or missed extra points in overtime.
The Vikings remaining schedule is the easiest in the NFC and the NFL has already added one additional playoff spot in each conference. They might add another, if games continue to be canceled because of COVID-19.
The Gophers have only two ranked teams left on their schedule and Iowa on Friday isn’t one of them. It’s Wisconsin, who has already missed two games this season because of COVID-19, and Northwestern, who has surprised everyone after a miserable 2019.
For each other. pic.twitter.com/a14vogT7q4— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) November 10, 2020
The opportunity is there for both clubs, but the grind will be uphill. Still, we should feel good. These teams should be buried by now, but they’re not. It’s win or go home for the rest of the season though.
To preview Vikings vs Bears, I interviewed Matthew Coller of PurpleInsider.com yesterday. You can hear that below. I will also chat with Tom Kakert of HawkeyeReport.com (Rivals), before the Gophers battle Iowa on Friday night!
Stephen Strom | Minnesota Sports Fan