Posted at 6:37 AM on October 31, 2008
by David Zingler
While I follow the Twins and Vikings religiously, I have to admit that I am a casual Gophers fan. I didn't attend the U and really don't feel any connection to the place, but this year's gang of gridiron Gophers has gotten my attention.
The surprising squad enters tomorrow's homecoming game vs. Northwestern an amazing 7-1 overall and 3-1 in conference play. They are currently ranked 20th in the AP and Coaches polls and 17th in the BCS. Keep in mind this is a team that lost to Bowling Green and Florida Atlantic en route to a 1-11 (0-8 in conference play) season last year. Once a punchline, head coach Tim Brewster is now the toast of the town (eat your heart out Brad Childress).
Unlike their pro counterparts, the U actually has a legitimate QB in sophomore Adam Weber (141.24 QB rating, 10 TD/3 INT), who could eventually become the first Gophers signal caller to start an NFL game since...I don't know when (seriously, if anyone out there knows, please share).
The exciting offense also features freshman RB DeLeon Eskridge (520 yards, 7 TD) and junior Eric Decker (66 catches, 833 yards, 5 TD), one of the best wide receivers in the country. The much improved defense is led by linebackers Deon Hightower (senior) and Lee Campbell (junior).
You have to like the looks of the schedule as well. Three of the team's final four games are at home, beginning with Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) tomorrow. Struggling Michigan (2-6, 1-3) enters Metrodome next week followed by a visit to Madison to play the Badgers (4-4, 1-4) before the squad closes out the regular season and its tenure at the Dome on November 22 against Iowa (5-3, 2-2).
That means the Gophers duck playing Penn State,
Ohio State (correction, OSU beat the Gophers 34-21 on 9/27) and Michigan State, the three teams currently ahead of them in the Big 10 (actually 11) standings. This is a Golden opportunity for the Gophers to win a conference title. Just the fact this is possible has to be the Minnesota sports story of 2008. (And most of us actually get the Big Ten Network this year!)
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)