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Minnesota Gophers Football Preview: Predicting the 2016 season

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It’s that time of the week….for all the talk to be put to action, as we as a staff at talking10 put our money where our mouths were all week.

Yes, after looking at the defense, offense and even our bold predictions on the talking10 podcast — it is time for us to look at the 2016 Minnesota Gophers schedule and predict the whole damn thing.

Yes, we’re going game-by-game as a staff and giving you a look at just how we all see the season play out.

Will there be a consensus on how the season goes? Let’s dive in to the 2016 Minnesota Gophers schedule, shall we…

2016 Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time/TV Tickets
Thurs.
Sep. 1
Beavers Oregon State Beavers
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
Time TBA
BTN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 10
Sycamores Indiana State Sycamores
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 17
OFF
Saturday
Sep. 24
Rams Colorado State Rams
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 1
Nittany Lions at Penn State Nittany Lions
Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 8
Hawkeyes Iowa Hawkeyes
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 15
Terrapins at Maryland Terrapins
Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 22
Scarlet Knights Rutgers Scarlet Knights (HC)
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
11:00am CT
TV TBA
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 29
Fighting Illini at Illinois Fighting Illini
Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 5
Boilermakers Purdue Boilermakers
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 12
Cornhuskers at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE
6:30pm CT
BTN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 19
Wildcats Northwestern Wildcats
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 26
Badgers at Wisconsin Badgers
Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI
TBA Buy
Tickets

*courtesy FBSchedules.com.

vs. Oregon State Beavers
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen is no stranger to games in TCF Stadium, but this trip is likely to end much different than the first one because he isn’t wearing the motion W on his chest anymore. Instead, his Oregon State team is in need of a lot of help and this is the classic case of a Pac-12 school coming to Big Ten country. Give me the home team every time.

vs. Indiana State Sycamores
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

The Sycamores are a good FCS program, but the level of play is just too much for them in this one. Do we even need to waste more words on it. Chalk it up to a pretty easy 2-0 start to the Tracy Claeys era as full-time head coach.

vs. Colorado State Rams
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

It appears the Rams’ high-water mark was the Jim McElwain era, and he is now plying his trade with the Florida Gators. However, this could be the toughest test the Gophers face in the non-conference season. Don’t be surprised to see this one close at the half before Minnesota pulls out a relatively easy second half victory. Besides, the Rams have their annual clash with in-state rival Colorado coming up following this contest…expect them to be looking ahead just a bit.

at Penn State Nittany Lions
Andy: Loss
Dave: Loss
Kevin: Loss
Zach: Loss

Boring agreement between our staff members again, huh? For me, this game is all about who is at home and the Victory Bell trophy will state in Happy Valley thanks in large part to home field advantage. That, and Penn State should still have one heck of a defense to combat anything the Gophers throw its way.

vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
Andy: Loss
Dave: Loss
Kevin: Loss
Zach: Win

Finally, some disagreement and I can see why. Earlier in the week I called this game as one of my four bold predictions. I still feel that was a bold prediction, mainly because I don’t actually seeing it happen. Yes, Iowa has its issues up front on both sides of the ball and may be a bit overhyped, but they are still a very good team. Crazy things happen in this series, and I expect a crazy finish to fall the way of the visitors in all reality.

at Maryland Terrapins
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Loss
Zach: Win

This is going to be the most telling and interesting game of the season for the Gophers in my opinion. One can not underestimate the travel, as this will be the longest trip Minnesota takes all season long, and Maryland’s atmosphere (or lack thereof) is tricky too. That being said, Maryland’s program is in a complete overhaul, while Minnesota is working with a much fuller deck. Give me Mitch Leidner over any quarterback the Terps throw out there in this contest.

vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Andy: Loss
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

Are you seeing a pattern yet? After a lot of agreement in the front part of the season for the Gophers, there’s a lot of difference amongst the staff the rest of the way. That continues with this game, and here is my reasoning for thinking this is a loss for the Gophers. Just as much as I believe Maryland has a lot of overhauling to do, Rutgers gives Chris Ash a lot more to work with given what he’d like to do on both sides of the football. While a trip from Jersey to Minnesota can be as taxing as the one Minnesota took the week before, Rutgers isn’t coming off a long trip…as they play the previous two games at home. That’s a massive advantage, and expect Minnesota to be caught off guard for one of the biggest head scratcher’s of the season.

at Illinois Fighting Illini
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Loss
Zach: Win

While we know the Gophers have a ton of potential, we really don’t know much about the Illini as we sit here in early June. Even if we did  know a lot, this has a bad matchup for the home Illini written all over it. Minnesota likes to pound the football, and Illinois has a lot of issues on the defensive side of the ball and are likely to be punched hard in the mouth. Look for the run game to be the difference, and that advantage goes to Minnesota in a blowout.

vs. Purdue Boilermakers
Andy: Win
Dave: Win
Kevin: Win
Zach: Win

Poor Purdue fan, you’re likely to have given up by this point in the season and your coach is likely out the door too. Maybe that is a rallying cry for the Boilermakers in a matchup like this, but I just don’t see a win happening here. Don’t think the memory of a bad loss in West Lafayette will fade for the Gophers and look for a pounding of an opponent for the second week in a row.

at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Andy: Loss
Dave: Loss
Kevin: Loss
Zach: Loss

Finally back to a consensus with this Gophers team, unfortunately this is a trip that should scare Minnesota in 2016. One could say the question marks and strengths could be like looking in a mirror between the Huskers and Gophers, but the difference may come in who is playing host to whom…and that’s Nebraska. Advantage Huskers at Memorial Stadium.

vs. Northwestern Wildcats
Andy: Win
Dave: Loss
Kevin: Win
Zach: Loss

Our first 50/50 split on a game for the Gophers all season long. For me, this is a must-win game for the Gophers, because asking for a win in the Border Battle with Wisconsin to get bowl eligible is a frightening thought. Additionally, I think these teams are insanely close in terms of what they do well and need to show more of in the fall. Again, I’m taking the home team in a coin-flip type of game for this writer.

at Wisconsin Badgers
Andy: Loss
Dave: Loss
Kevin: Loss
Zach: Loss

ESPN named this the “must-win” game of the season for the Gophers, but like ex-WWE superstar Wade Barrett…”I’ve got some bad news…” for the Gophers. A decade-plus losing streak in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe has this group desperate for a win, and it just isn’t happening in Camp Randall Stadium. Vince Biegel and the senior class are going to make damn sure of that. Look for Corey Clement to have a great day and Biegel to be a mainstay in the Gophers’ backfield. Sorry, just don’t see the streak ending on the road.

 

OUR PREDICTED 2016 BIG TEN STANDINGS: 

West:
1.
2.
3.
4. Minnesota (Andy)
5.
6.
7.

East:
1.
2. Michigan State (Andy/Dave)
3. Michigan State (Zach)
4.
5.
6.
7.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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Gophers, Huskers could have games altered by Oregon wildfires

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Mother Nature could wreak havoc on college football this upcoming weekend, but the majority of the news has been focused on an impending hurricane barring down on Florida.

A look out West and things are just as dangerous and deadly, as wildfires are raging in California, Oregon and Washington. That could present a big problem for the Minnesota Gophers game on Saturday night with the Oregon State Beavers and Nebraska’s visit to the Oregon Ducks.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune cites sources within the Pac-12 saying that the game time may be moved or the game moved all together.

While the fire isn’t the problem, it is the air quality in the Eugene area that is. Oregon has already had to move practice closer to the Pacific Coast and the air in Eugene appears to be a major issue.

The smoke in Eugene, where an air protection agency listed the air quality as “hazardous,” prompted Oregon to move its Tuesday practice to Florence, near the Pacific coast.

The good news is that the smoke cleared enough a day later for the Ducks to return to practice in Eugene. But, there is reason to believe the game could still be an issue as smoke is expected to return.

The smoke is supposed to return at some point. But we just don’t know when. … There are too many variables for us to look that far ahead of time.”

Yes, that means we won’t know about the status of Nebraska-Oregon until Saturday itself.

Meanwhile, things don’t look as precarious for the Gophers matchup, but that doesn’t mean change would be out of the question.

“Based upon the information provided by the air protection agency and the expert health and safety advice of the respective University medical professionals, a decision will be made on whether or not to adjust game times and/or dates with the safety of student-athletes and fans as a priority,” Andrew Walker, the Pac-12’s vice president of public affairs, wrote in an e-mail to the (Portland) Oregonian.

Once again, it appears things are going to be in a wait-and-see mode in Corvallis as well.

It hasn’t affected Minnesota all that much, as they are more worried about playing at game that would kick at 9pm in Minneapolis if it were being played at home.

Head coach P.J. Fleck has talked this week about making sure players are staying up later as the week goes on to adjust their bodies. That’s especially important as practices are taking place first thing in the morning this season.

Either way, both of these programs are dealing with a lot of uncertainty right now and that may be the biggest hurdle to get over when prepping for Week 2.

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Fleck smart to let QB battle play out in actual game action

P.J. Fleck continues to row the boat at his own pace, deciding on not one, but two starting quarterbacks for the season opener against Buffalo.

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What is better than one starting quarterback? Two starting quarterbacks.

At least that is the theory Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck is going to test out for his first season at at the helm of the Gophers.

It’s a bold strategy (insert meme here), and one that hasn’t exactly worked out well for just about anyone in the past you say? Heck, even with two potential NFL draft picks it didn’t work out well for a program like Ohio State and a coach like Urban Meyer back in 2015.

The history of bad news coming with dueling starting quarterbacks heading in to the season hasn’t stopped Fleck from doing just that though.

It shouldn’t be surprising however. After all, P.J. Fleck is his own man, and many of the decisions he makes on and off the field demonstrate just that.

But, on Thursday Fleck made a pretty bold decision at quarterback — he’ll go with both Demry Croft and Conor Rhoda as starters entering the season.

To be fair, the two quarterbacks haven’t exactly separated much in fall camp.

To the outsider that could be bad news, but according to the head coach himself, it was due to both earning the opportunity on the field.

“Every time I think I see one nudging the other out, the other one closed the gap and passed him.” Fleck said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “And they’ve continued to do that. That tells me this late in training camp that both of ’em deserve to play.”

Fleck also brought up a very good point in his talk to the media — neither have a wealth of game experience to draw on and that makes separating based on practice alone a bit of a crapshoot.

“If I was to tell you that I knew exactly how those quarterbacks are going to play in a game, that’s a guess,” Fleck noted, while also pointing out just how little game experience exists.

There is a grand total of 17 passing attempts in a game between the two of them and 15 of them belong to fifth-year senior Rhoda. He went seven of 15 for 82 yards and a touchdown.

Fleck is also thinking ahead with this decision, because we all know every team in America is just one big hit away from having to go to the backup quarterback. Why not get whomever that will ultimately be some game experience while sorting things out?

It was part of Fleck’s reasoning to the media on Thursday as well.

“If we think we can go through the Big Ten and not need two quarterbacks at some point, I think we’re crazy to think that,” he said. “We’re gonna need ’em.”

With a new energy and style around the Gophers program, it seems almost fitting that Fleck would buck most of recent history — whatever he wanted to claim about two-quarterback systems working.

For every Alabama in the past few years, there is an Ohio State or Wisconsin or others to show Fleck the dangers of a prolonged QB battle.

The hope has to be that the separation that didn’t happen in spring or fall camp does happen once the games go live. Otherwise this could be one interesting first season in Minneapolis.

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WATCH: Gophers describe personality of 2017 team

P.J. Fleck says Rodney Smith is the personality of the 2017 Minnesota Gophers. So, what exactly is Smith’s personality and why is a fit for the Gophers?

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At Big Ten media days on Tuesday, Minnesota Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck opened up the day by announcing that the personality of this team was that of running back Rodney Smith.

However, Fleck left that statement wide open to interpretation. What is that personality and why is it Rodney Smith? I mean, he is one of the best returning running backs in the Big Ten, so having him be the focal point of the team on the field is just smart.

So, curious as to why Smith was the one singled out by Fleck at the podium during his initial press conference, we went to his teammates to find the answer. They all seemed to have one common answer — happy.

Well that and plenty more..Check out the answers from Smith himself and his teammates. All that

and more from the highlights of Day 2 at Big Ten media days.

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Fleck, Harbaugh finally make Big Ten media days interesting

P.J. Fleck and Jim Harbaugh book-ended the second day of Big Ten media days. They also managed to steal the show while they were at it.

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Day one of the Big Ten media days provided little in the way of drama or intrigue. Considering what was to follow on day two, perhaps that was a good thing.

Many wondered what P.J. Fleck, the human ball of energy, would bring to the table. Fewer wondered just how quirky Jim Harbaugh would be. Let’s just say both lived up to the billing and made for an early morning of intrigue.

Fleck spoke a mile-a-minute and delivered his brand of culture, but he also gave us some good working insight to his team. That includes a look at whom he sees representing the personality of his first team.

That name is a familiar one — running back Rodney Smith.

“When you look at who we brought, I’m very proud of these three student-athletes,” Fleck said. “Rodney Smith you all know is our running back. He’s kind of the personality of our football team. Huge smile, ton of energy, very charismatic. I think you’ll enjoy spending time with him. By the way, he’s a pretty phenomenal running back as well.”

It’s a good place to start for a team, as Smith was fourth in the Big Ten in rushing with 1,158 yards and 16 touchdowns last season alone. Fleck seems to know he needs to build from the run game up on offense, and having Smith certainly helps matters.

The head coach also gave us a good idea on how he will go about getting people interested in Gophers football again — reality television.

That’s because Fleck will be the start of an upcoming ESPN 4-part mini-series documenting his first year at the helm of the Gophers program.

“I think it’s every head coach’s job and responsibility to bring attention to their institution,” said Fleck.

“That’s not self-promoting, but I think every head football coach in America is self-promoting at some point. We’re all selling ourselves and showing what we’re like and recruiting our cultures and developing our cultures. You’re the front porch of the institution.

You’re not the most important thing on campus, but you’re the front porch of nationally what everybody sees.”

Fleck just hopes the attention and show is less like The Kardashians and more about Minnesota Gophers football. Considering the sales job he did at media days, that shouldn’t be a problem.

As for Harbaugh, it all started with his walk up to the podium in full sideline gear.

It ended with Harbaugh managing to work in mentions of orange construction cones on the side of the road, 600-year serving stadiums and the old sleep deprivation patterns of medical residents and pilots.

As for the orange cones reference, that was all about Rashan Gary and the hype surrounding him coming out of high school and in to his second year at Michigan.

He’s had a lot of hype,” said Harbaugh. “He’s had a lot of adulation. And there’s some people that that’s what they live for. They live for approval of others and to be recognized as a hyped-up player.

“And then there’s other people that they see that hype or that adulation and they go by it like it’s an orange cone on the side of the road. There’s some people that are just aspiring for greater things than just the adulation of somebody. And I think Rashan is that type of guy. You’d really like him. He really doesn’t care too much about that.”

One of the biggest topics of media days has been that of the changes to fall camp. Gone are two-a-days and in place is an expanded camp schedule of five weeks for the 2017 season.

Apparently one of Harbaugh’s biggest concerns has been the sleep deprivation of his players…or something like that.

“It (doing away with two-a-day practices) just makes all the sense in the world,” said Harbaugh. “There’s really nobody having three-a-days anymore or two-a-days anymore.

“Residents in hospitals don’t do sleep deprivation anymore. Pilots have to sleep ten hours, I think, before each flight. It’s just everybody is doing it that way. Even the military doesn’t have sleep deprivation and three-a-days, et cetera. So I’m all for it.”

Yep, football players undergo the same strains as life-saving doctors and those in charge of keeping planes from dropping out of the sky.

Hyperbole aside, Harbaugh is in the vast majority of coaches who are glad to see two-a-days banned.

Today’s college athlete is working out year-round and hardly out of game shape, which was the point of two-a-days to begin with.

No doubt the changes will be good for the athletes involved.

No doubt Fleck and Harbaugh stole the show on day two of Big Ten media days so far.

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