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Michigan Wolverines vs. Minnesota Gophers: Preview, predictions and prognostications

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When: Sat., October 31; 7:00 P.M. 
Where: Minneapolis, MN; TCF Bank Stadium (50,805)
TV: ESPN
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 69-23-3
Last Meeting: Minnesota win 30-14
Line: -13.5 Michigan

What a backdrop we have for the next installment of the battle for the Little Brown Jug. Not only are we playing this game on the tails of the Jerry Kill abrupt retirement, but on the other sideline, Michigan must go on the road after a bye and try wash the bad taste out of its mouth from giving the game up to Michigan State in the most improbable of fashions as time expired.

There is still a lot at stake for both teams. The Wolverines are still hopeful of its ability to win the East division and subsequent trip to Indy for a shot at the conference title, while the Gophers are looking for a couple more wins to get bowl-eligible. Minnesota is in possession of the jug after embarrassing the Wolverines last year, and the Maize and Blue would love to take what they feel is its rightful resting place in Ann Arbor.

It should be great theater.

1 Burning Question:  Can the Gophers win one for coach Kill?

You know the Gopher players would love to come out and provide an emotional statement for a guy that has led them and the Minnesota program to respectability. Jerry Kill has the respect of many football circles around the country, but he also has the players squarely in his corner. Michigan is sensitive to all the raw emotion and gravity of the situation, but they have goals still before them to take care of. Don’t be surprised if Minnesota finds a way to make a game of this at home, at night, in honor of Kill’s memory.

2 Key Stats:

23.0: That’s the number of points Minnesota is averaging per game, 103rd in the country. The Gophers have shown a strong defense at times, but not getting much in the way of support from the offense has taken its toll. There just aren’t that many explosive play-makers on the outside, so they have to play solid, mistake-free football to have a chance at beating teams with a little better athletic ability. Michigan fits that bill.

— 5: It’s the lowly number of touchdown passes Jake Rudock has thrown this year, good for 116th in the country. Iowa didn’t want him, but he’s the best that the Wolverines have according to Jim Harbaugh. He hasn’t asked Rudock to do more than manage the game because of the nation’s top ranked defense, but if he needs to make plays at critical times, can he? His six interceptions to a five touchdowns, and 119.9 passer rating doesn’t bode well. Can Minnesota shut down the run and make a limited quarterback beat them?

3 Key Players:

Shannon Brooks, Minnesota RB: The freshman burst onto the scene against Purdue on the road, but he fell back into the shadows a bit two weeks ago against Nebraska with some nicks and bruises. Brooks has a strong and punishing running style that will be needed against a nasty Wolverine defense that doesn’t give up real-estate easily. The Gophers need him to get the tough yards to control the game and move the chains to have a chance.

Antonio Johnson, Minnesota CB: Johnson is the leading tackler for Minnesota from the secondary spot. He’s made some plays in the pass-coverage, but he’s also has a nose to be able to come up and find ball-carriers in the ground game. Michigan will follow its formula for winning by trying to establish the running game first and foremost, and Johnson has to dissect the plays and be that extra hat in the box when needed to slow down the game-plan of an angry Michigan team.

De’Veon Smith, Michigan RB: A Jim Harbaugh game-plan starts and ends with a punishing running attack. His latest cog in that wheel is Smith. Though carries do get spread out a bit, it’s Smith at the forefront and others spelling him when he’s tired or banged up. If he can tote the mail about 20 times, that means he’s finding some running lanes and wearing down the Gopher defense. If not, then this could be a game.

4 Bold Prognostications:

— Minnesota will make a game of it. The contest is at night, in the great state of Minnesota, and the team has an emotional bullet to discharge for Jerry Kill who is riding off into the sunset because of health reasons. Michigan is the more talented team, but the same heart and perseverance that Kill showed in his personal life will be there on Saturday night for his former team.

— Jake Rudock will throw a couple of interceptions. The Michigan QB has thrown one more interception that he’s thrown touchdowns on the season (6 to 5), and it’s come in games where he has been forced to try and throw the ball down the field. The Golden Gophers have a solid secondary, and they’ll have some success slowing down the Michigan running attack and bait Rudock into a couple of ill-advised throws.

— Jabrill Peppers will break one in the return game. He’s been oh so close, and I’ve called this before to no avail, but Peppers will get one too many lanes in the return game on Saturday and take one to the house for a big, big special teams play for Michigan.

— The Minnesota defense will hold Michigan to under 30 points. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Wolverines will be able to wear down the Gopher defense and beat them into submission at will and rack up some points. It won’t happen. Remember, this is the same Gopher defense that held TCU to 23 points and has only allowed Nebraska to score more than 27 through seven games.

5 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Michigan 31-20 (65-15 overall; 35-44 ATS)
Dave: Michigan 38-6 (65-15 overall; 43-35 ATS)
Greg: Michigan 34-13 (59-21 overall; 44-34 ATS)
Matt: Michigan 34-10 (64-16 overall; 48-30 ATS)
Phil: Michigan 26-17 (19-8 overall; 9-15 ATS) *joined in Week 5

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Buckeyes Hockey

2017 NCAA Hockey Tournament: A Big Ten Primer

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The creation of the Big Ten hockey conference shook collegiate hockey to its core. Some believed the league would be too top-heavy and others believed it would ultimately kill the sport.

If the 2016-17 season has taught us anything, it is that it appears Big Ten hockey is alive and well. Three teams are in the 2017 NCAA tournament, including the once upstart Penn State Nittany Lions.

Penn State earned their way in thanks to a victory in the Big Ten tournament finale, one that PSU didn’t necessarily have to win to get in, but one that made their tournament appearance a lock.

As the tournament draws near, let’s take a look at the details for the three Big Ten teams in the tournament.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Seed: No. 1 seed in Northeast Regional (No. 4 overall seed)
1st Round Matchup: vs. Notre Dame
When: Saturday, March 25; 3:30p.m. ET
TV/Streaming: ESPNU/watchESPN

Other Teams in Regional: Cornell and UMass Lowell
Regional Championship: Sunday, March 26; 3:30p.m. ET (ESPNU/watchESPN)

You would think the Big Ten regular season champion would get some more love. However, off to New Hampshire are the Gophers. No matter, because there isn’t a more dedicated group of hockey fans in the country (sorry, not sorry, North Dakota). There’s also the fact that Minnesota is the last of the No. 1 seeds in the tournament. You aren’t going to get your choice of places to play in that scenario.

That said, the Gophers are also in the second-most loaded regional in the tournament. Blue blood names like Notre Dame and Cornell is bad enough, but UMass Lowell are quickly becoming a powerhouse and a mainstay in the NCAA tournament over the past 6-7 years.

Getting out of this group likely makes the winner a favorite to take home the national championship.

As for the Gophers’ chances, well they haven’t seen any of the teams in its regional yet this season. They are 7-4-1 against fellow NCAA tournament teams though, while first round opponent Notre Dame is just 7-6-1 and come out of the equally loaded Hockey East. However, the Golden Domers come in to the tournament having gone 5-1-2 over the last 11 games of the regular season before dropping a game to UMass Lowell in the Hockey East semi-finals.

It will also be a matchup of future Big Ten teams, and one that will likely come down style of play. Minnesota and Notre Dame are both averaging over three goals a game and come in with top 25 defenses as well. Something is going to have to give and it could be the most intriguing of the first round matchups in this year’s tournament.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Seed: No. 4 in West Regional
1st Round Matchup: vs. No. 1 Minnesota Duluth (25-6-7 overall record)
When: Friday, March 24; 6:30p.m.
Where: Fargo, North Dakota; Scheels Arena
TV/Streaming: ESPNU/watchESPN

Other Teams in Regional: Boston University vs. North Dakota
Regional Championship: Saturday, March 25, 6 p.m. ET, ESPNU/watchESPN

When you are one of the last at-large bids, draws like Ohio State got are what will happen. Being unable to play in Cincinnati was a big blow, but there wasn’t a whole lot of choice for the selection committee.

As a result, the Buckeyes are off to the hostile confines in Fargo, where they must face UMD. Get past that and there’s a likely date with home-state UND in the following round. To say the deck is stacked against the Buckeyes in this regional isn’t an understatement.

Minnesota-Duluth is battle-tested this season, winning a rough NCHC tournament title and coming in at No. 3 in the latest USCHO.com national poll. Oh, and that NCHC title? It came over fellow West regional squad North Dakota.

Ohio State loves to bang and loves to score goals, but this is going to be a tough regional to get through. In fact, it is arguably the toughest quartet to predict a winner out of.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Seed: No. 3 seed in Midwest Regional
1st Round Matchup: vs. No. 2 seed Union
When: Saturday, March 25; 4:30p.m. ET
TV/Streaming: ESPN3

Other Teams in Regional: Denver and Michigan Tech
Regional Championship: Sunday, March 26; 6p.m. ET (ESPNU/watchESPN)

Penn State didn’t need the Big Ten tournament title win, but it got it. Sure, it took two games of double-overtime to achieve it, but here are the Nittany Lions as Big Ten title holders in the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

Unfortunately it will happen in a regional with the No. 1 overall seed and against a team that historically hasn’t been kind to the Nittany Lions. Union is 4-0-0 all-time against Penn State, but they haven’t met since the 2013-14 season.

Let’s just say the Nittany Lions are no longer a building program like they were back then, while Union is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since winning the national championship that same season.

Penn State comes in to this tournament as one of the best offensive teams in the country. The team is tied for second nationally, averaging 3.97 goals per game. Defensively the team is just 22nd and gives up 2.68 goals per game as well. Union features a Hoby Baker Award finalist in Mike Vecchione, and he too can score — notching 29 goals alone this season.

Doubting the upstarts has been a bad idea most of this season, but this is one of the harshest spots the Nittany Lions could find themselves in. Can they make a run like they did last weekend and rep the Big Ten in Chicago for the Frozen Four? That certainly will be interesting.

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Badgers Basketball

2017 talking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards Special

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The Big Ten may have its awards, but what is the point of watching endless hours of Big Ten basketball without putting our two cents in, right?

Welcome to the 2017 taking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards special. Our hope is to educate you on the names that dominated our conversations and the hardwood across the Big Ten this season.

So, sit back and enjoy our special for your viewing pleasure.

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Minnesota and P.J. Fleck’s First Order Of Business: A New Slogan

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“Row The Boat” is sooooo 2016. And with the hiring of P.J. Fleck as the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ new head man, it’s time to usher in the sparkle and shine for the new year.

Fleck has gone on record to state that Row The Boat will continue on with Ski-U-Mah in the Twin Cities, but we here at Talking10 couldn’t help but ponder what a new slogan could be now that the man who loves to get his oars in the water, has now backed the U-Haul up to Minneapolis.

So, without further delay, and without further whimsical nonsense, Andy Coppens, Dave Fitzgerald, Phil Harrison and Philip Rossman-Reich provide you with some corny, edge of craftiness potential slogans for the marriage between P.J. Fleck and Minnesota:

Defend The Bank-

Yep, they play in TCF Bank Stadium so…

Protect The Bank-

Again, the Gophers play in TCF Bank Stadium. Rinse and repeat.

Shovel The Snow-

Lest you forget, it’s COLD in the Twin Cities. They get a lot of snow.

Chip The Ice-

See above and add water.

Grind The Axe-

Made especially for you Badger fans.

Chuck The Wood-

Gophers aren’t wood chucks, but close enough, eh? You betcha.

Build The Dam-

Okay, okay, Gophers aren’t Beavers, but neither are wood chucks.

Dig The Hole-

Now we have the right rodent. Sounds imposing doesn’t it?

Shop The Mall-

This might be more for Fleck’s wife Heather, for the many trips to the Mall of America there in the suburb of Bloomington.

Go.Pher.It-

Sometimes it just works …

Win, Don’t Cha Know-

It’s not Canada, but pretty close. That Fargo accent has to rub off somewhere right?

Hot Dish, MMMMMM Bacon-

Literally everything is better with bacon, even big-time college football.

Secure The Trophies-

They certainly play for enough of them in Minneapolis, so why not?

Protect The Jugs-

You can figure this one out.

Clip The Mullet-

Minnesota loves hockey with its football. Hockey players love mullets. Fleck’s style is business up front, but party in back in the post game, so it all fits.

Drain The Lake-

It’s not Donald Trump draining the swamp in Washington, but Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes and its looking for a new direction.

Hit The Bull’s Eye-

Minnesota is home to mega-department store Target where you can waste hours looking at nothing, yet everything.

Walk The Skyway-

Have you ever been to Minneapolis in the winter? It’s a God-send to have the connected walkways in the air going from building to building so you don’t freeze your Gopher hiney in the brutal winters.

 

Okay, if we had the energy of Philip John Fleck, maybe we’d keep right on going. We don’t, and you’ve likely spent ten minutes of your time you’ll never get back. But hey, we had fun with it, and we hope you did too.

What do you think? Should Fleck implement one of these? Got one that you think would fit that we missed? Feel free to comment on Twitter to @BuckeyeFitzy @AndyOnFootball @RiseNU or @PhilHarrisonCFB

 

 

 

 

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P.J. Fleck’s got plenty of challenges ahead of him in building Gophers program

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A sea change is afoot in Minneapolis, as P.J. Fleck has been announced as the head coach of the Minnesota Gophers football program. Given he was at the top of the list for the administration and fans, excited is the word of the day.

However, once the initial excitement fades away the reality of the Gophers’ situation will settle in. That reality? A locker room that is a mess and players who feel hurt by the administration and the university at large.

Fleck comes in as a man with a reputation as a program builder and a man with plenty of motivational techniques in his arsenal. That’s the good news here, as Fleck faces a challenge that just about no nine-win team will face heading in to the 2017 season.

The reality is he needs to start over on and off the field. Minnesota’s offense was stagnant at best, its defense just okay and its culture clearly a mess. Fleck addressed that need for cultural change head on in his first press conference.

“I am more than football,” Fleck said, via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Our kids will be more than football. What does that mean. We are going to serve and give as much as can. In the new era of Gopher football it is not about us. We’re going to connect people to Gopher football who don’t even like football. … Our players will have incredible, elite actions every single day. When you watch Gophers football from this point on, it will be different.”

He is going to have to change things in the locker room first and foremost. He is going to have to change the moral culture within this group of players, while also building a program within his image on the recruiting trail too.

At least the opening moments of his tenure have been full of the right words. Actions however will speak louder, and judging by his actions at Western Michigan, there’s little doubt that his actions more than back up the words spoken.

Those needed changes aren’t always immediate though, and the question in Minneapolis has to be just how quickly Fleck can get this group of players to buy in to what he is selling.

We’ll know more when Fleck announces his staff, but perhaps the best bit of news is that Fleck will get to work with a clean slate in terms of what is around him on the field. There will have to be a new quarterback with Mitch Leidner graduated, meaning Fleck can mold the offense in his image quickly rather than slowly.

This team also has plenty of experience returning from that 9-4 team, meaning he won’t be working with a completely bare cupboard either. But, are those returning players ready for what Fleck and Co. will bring and expect from its players?

Spring football is going to go a long way towards telling us all the answers. For now, we saw a coach who understood what he was walking in to and that is half the battle of getting a program to believe in you going forward.

 

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