Joe Pasquali, our college football analyst, is back to breakdown and pontificate the upcoming season for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Jerry Kill has had one full year of recruiting and coaching, can he turn the program around in a hurry?
Year one wasn’t the greatest season for Jerry Kill’s Minnesota Golden Gophers, but heading into 2012 there is reason for optimism in Minneapolis. The Golden Gophers return five starters on each side of the ball, plus a much easier schedule than 2011. Traveling to USC is no way to start off any campaign, and in 2012 Minnesota should have better luck @ UNLV in week one. Purdue and Northwestern at home should be both good games, and Minnesota avoids Ohio State and Penn State this year. After reading below you’ll probably wonder, why do you have them better than Northwestern? I don’t necessarily think they are a better team per say, but so much went wrong for Minnesota last year I just think they’ll rebound. That and their schedule is kinder than the Wildcats.
Word is JUCO transfer James Gillum will get the majority of carries in 2012, which should be a good thing considering he has gained over 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons. Having a weapon in the backfield is going to be key to keep defenses from spying dual threat quarterback MarQueis Gray. When healthy, Gray is one of the more dangerous weapons in the conference. Last season Grey passed for 1,495 yards while running for 966. Though the offensive line lost three starters, six big men up front return with some experience and should remain strength of this offense. Another year under Kill and another year in this scheme should improve the dreadful 18 points per game of 2011.
Minnesota ranked 93rd in the nation last year in points against, giving up almost 32 points a contest, but only gave up 26 points a game in their last five. I believe the key to a bad season is trying to end on a good note and for Minnesota they did just that. Drubbing Illinois 27-7 at home should have left the team as a whole with positive feelings for the 2012 campaign. Replacing both defensive tackles plus 75% of their secondary won’t be an easy task, but the Gophers do have Keanon Cooper and Gary Tinsley returning at linebacker to clean up in the middle. In 2011 Minnesota only forced 9 turnovers, which was good enough for dead last in the nation…NINE! Teams thrive on opponents turning the ball over. Momentum swings, short fields for your offense, and potential big plays are all huge for a team’s success. Minnesota will force more than nine turnovers in 2012 and in turn they’ll win more than three games.
Special Teams (B+)
After taking over the kicking duties halfway through 2011, Jordan Wettstein returns to what is a very strong Minnesota special teams unit. Wettstein was a perfect 6-6 in field goals last year, including kicks from 48 and 51 yards. Dan Orseske returns to do the punting duties as well as top return man Marcus Jones.
It took three years for Jerry Kill to really find success at Saginaw Valley State, so no one is jumping the gun after one year in Minnesota. Both coordinators return for Minnesota as well and another year in both schemes should serve the Gophers well. Did you know this season Minnesota will have the only stadium in the conference that serves beer? That’s good for an upset at home.
2012 Win/Loss Prediction: 5-7 (5th in Legends)