The Gophers Are About to Make a Statement Out of Nebraska on Saturday

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Saturday vs. the Nebraska Cornhuskers, is the biggest football game that the Minnesota Gophers have played in 15 years. But don’t let that keep you awake, when you lie down on Friday night, Gopher fans. The only people who should be losing sleep at night, are those who are cheering for “Big Red” in 2019. The Cornhuskers came into this season, getting their testicles fondled by just about every expert around the country, who was looking for a Big Ten West winner. By the time all of that fondling was finally over, the chaffe was real… even though it only lasted until Week 2 of the non-conference season, when Nebraska lost to Colorado.

Then, Ohio State beat them by 487 points (or something resembling to that) a couple of weeks later, in a game that wasn’t even that close. In-between, they gave up 38 points and barely pulled out a 4-point victory over Illinois (Gophers beat IL by 23), then kicked a game-winning field goal at home, to to scrape one out last week vs Northwestern, 13-10 (NW is also bad).

It’s not just the scores of these games, though… they’ve been ugly to ingest. I watched back the Northwestern game and fell asleep 3 times, puked once, and almost opted to watch European Kickball at one point… (ok, that last one’s a lie)

With Adrian Martinez and JD Spielman both very questionable for the Huskers, due to injuries, you can’t expect their offense to put up a bunch of points (even if those two do play). Nebraska has failed to score over 13 points for two straight weeks, with their two stars, and are now coming into (likely) poor weather conditions at TCF Bank Stadium. If they aren’t 100%, it might be a big mistake for Frost to play either one in those conditions.

While the Huskers are hitting a low point in their offense, the Gophers are just hitting stride in theirs. And… unlike “Big Red”, I expect the Gophers to post a bunch of points… because that’s what they’ve done all season.

Don’t talk to me about the weather. That’s advantage-MN, too. All you have to do is look back to last year vs Purdue, in the game that turned the Gophers’ season around, or this quote from Carter Coughlin, in this week’s weekly press conference:

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Through 5 games, SDSU (Week 1) stands as the only team to hold the Gophers under 30 points this season. After an inconsistent start out of the offensive line, plus the process it has been to get all of the running backs healthy, the run game finally found its footing last week, vs Illinois. They posted a total of 332 yards and Rodney Smith put up a career-high (211), while Shannon Brooks’ hit the 100-yd mark (111) for the first time since his return from injury, vs Purdue.

So, what are you going to do, to stop this run game… stack the box? You’d better hope you don’t have to because you don’t want to leave your DB’s without help vs Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman, & Co… Forcing Tanner Morgan to beat you might be your best avenue to success, but you’d better put it away before crunch time, because Tanner Morgan has done nothing but dagger teams late, all season. And he continues to get noticeably better with every game.

In a sport where scoring more points than the other team is the objective, I’m just trying to figure out how Frost & Co. plan on winning this one at The Bank?

The Gophers are better than the Huskers on both offense, defense, and already carry themselves like they’ve been winning for years (thanks to their culture — see below). If you’ve been reading, watching, or listening to me all week long, you’ve heard me say it a stupid amount of times. This is a massive game for the Gophers, but it is one they should win, easily. Nebraska is reeling right now. They’re stumbling back against the ropes and just waiting for a knockout punch.

The only thing that can beat the Gophers on Saturday, is themselves. Could that happen? Absolutely. If you watch sports (especially MN ones) then you know just how quickly all of this can change. Plus, this is a classic rally-killer game for Minnesota Gophers Football. Throughout the last 50 years, they’ve found ways to lose these games. But that’s where PJ Fleck’s culture (quickly becoming this program’s culture) comes into play:

  • Every week is its own season
  • One game at a time.
  • One week at a time.
  • No win should get you too high.
  • No loss should get you too low.
  • Week-to-week momentum doesn’t exist.

Did any of those sound repetitive or redundant? Exactly.

I’ve covered this team all season. I’ve been at (almost) all of the weekly press conferences/scrums and stuck around for the post games, too. I can’t imagine being a Ryan Burns (GopherIllustrated.com), Megan Ryan (Star Tribune), or Andy Greder (Pioneer Press) who have all covered PJ Fleck for his entire tenure (I believe). It’s redundant to me already. You know what these guys are going to say for just about every question.

You won’t get bulletin board material (unless its a shot from PJ to the media) and you won’t hear anything about one game being bigger than another. They are all the same. They are all important. They will all be treated as such. It’s that type of consistency that will help make PJ Fleck a great college football coach. When you never waiver from your message, no matter the situation or opponent, it breeds confidence, builds focus, and engrains trust. The consistency feasts on its own consistency, building even more on top, until you trust and believe in the message 100%. I can literally see it happening before my eyes. It’s only a matter of time before everyone else does, too.

Even the eyes that are glued shut, will start to see this weekend.

PREDICTION: GOPHERS: 42 | Huskers: 24

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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