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Minnesota Gophers Football Preview: Predicting the 2015 season

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As we wrap up our look at the 2015 Minnesota Gophers, it’s time to do our annual duty and bring you a look at the 2015 season ahead and stick our necks out to predict how the season will go.

Following a 2014 season full of surprises and a near Big Ten West division title to boot, will Jerry Kill’s 2015 team be able to build on that success or will it take a step back?

Other Big Ten Predictions:
WestIowa | Northwestern
EastMichigan | Rutgers

Let’s get to the predicting!

2015 Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time/TV Tickets
Thursday
Sept. 3
Horned Frogs TCU Horned Frogs
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
8:00 p.m. CT
ESPN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 12
Rams at Colorado State Rams
Hughes Stadium, Fort Collins, CO
2:30 p.m. CT
CBSSN
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 19
Golden Flashes Kent State Golden Flashes
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
11:00 a.m. CT
BTN/BTN2Go
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Sep. 26
Bobcats Ohio Bobcats (HC)
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
2:30 p.m. CT
TV TBA
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 3
Wildcats at Northwestern Wildcats
Ryan Field, Evanston, IL
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 10
Boilermakers at Purdue Boilermakers
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 17
Cornhuskers Nebraska Cornhuskers
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Oct. 24
Open Date
Saturday
Oct. 31
Wolverines Michigan Wolverines
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
7:00 p.m. CT
ABC/ESPN/2
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 7
Buckeyes at Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH
6 or 7 p.m. CT
ABC/ESPN/2
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 14
Hawkeyes at Iowa Hawkeyes
Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
7:00 p.m. CTBTN/BTN2Go Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 21
Fighting Illini Illinois Fighting Illini
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 28
Badgers Wisconsin Badgers
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Dec. 5
Big Ten Big Ten Championship Game
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
7:00 p.m. CT
FOX
Buy
Tickets

 

Here’s how we see the 2015 season play out (both Andy and Dave are predicting each week):

vs. TCU:
Andy — L
Dave — L

TCU comes in to the 2015 season as one of the top preseason contenders for a College Football Playoff spot, and last season’s matchup in Fort Worth, Texas may have been the worst game Minnesota played all season long. Not much has changed with these two teams other than a few key pieces, but I expect the Gophers to show they are closer to winning than last season. It’s just hard to see them winning against a national title contender.

at Colorado State:
Andy — W
Dave — W

If there is a team poised for a downward trend in 2015 it is Colorado State. While the Rams aren’t going to be a super easy contest, don’t expect CSU to be as challenging as this game would’ve been last season. No Garrett Grayson at QB for the Rams is key to this decision. Personally, this game could be a blowout in favor of the Gophers if my thoughts on this CSU program are correct in 2015.

vs. Kent State:
Andy — W
Dave — W

Really? Really…like anything but a win over the MAC was going to be predicted here. Under Jerry Kill, the Gophers have not lost to a MAC school, while the program as a whole has just four losses to conference teams in their history. Kent State won just one game in MAC play and were 2-9 overall (with the game against Buffalo canceled). Can you say blowout?

vs. Ohio:
Andy — W
Dave — W

While Kent State won’t be a challenge out of the MAC, Ohio can and should be just that. The Bobcats have built a solid program under Frank Solich. However, this was a .500 team last season in both overall and MAC play. This shouldn’t be too difficult for the Gophers, but don’t be surprised to see Ohio step up and challenge Minnesota early on.

at Northwestern:
Andy — W
Dave — W

Until Northwestern proves it has something resembling a scary total offense, this matchup favors the Gophers in a big way. Yes, a trip to Evanston isn’t exactly a picnic for most teams, but the Gophers don’t seem intimidated by Ryan Field. Minnesota’s defense is too good to let the Wildcats run lose and the Gophers continue a nice win streak following a loss in the opener to TCU.

at Purdue:
Andy — W
Dave — W

Could this be the end of the Darrell Hazell era at Purdue? Yes, it’s early in the 2015 season but it could also be the tipping point as well. Look for the Gophers defense to once again overpower the opponent and Minnesota’s overall smash-mouth style wearing down the Boilermakers defense. Last season’s matchup was a complete barn burner, with the Gophers winning 39-38, I just don’t see that kind of matchup happening this time around — especially with Purdue’s running game in flux.

vs. Nebraska:
Andy — W
Dave — L

This is my swing game. If the Gophers want to continue to win eight-plus games this a must win, and last season they got the job done on the road. Can they do it at home against a team not coached by Bo Pelini? That is the big factor in this matchup for me, but I still see Minnesota being able to compete. With top player David Santos gone from Nebraska’s defense things don’t look so scary anymore. Look for another close game, but the home team gets the job done.

vs. Michigan:
Andy — L
Dave — W

It was nice for the Gopher fanbase to see the team hoist the Little Brown Jug for once. However, the Wolverines aren’t going to take this game lightly and history suggests no matter how good or bad these teams are, Michigan doesn’t allow the Jug to stay in Minnesota’s possession for very long. The Gophers haven’t held the Jug for longer than one season since the early 1960’s where it won three in a row. Expect things to go back to normal, as Harbaugh’s crew starts to get things going in the right direction by this point of the season.

at Ohio State:
Andy — L
Dave — L

Man was last season’s game incredible. OSU thought they had it in the bad, only to see a furious comeback attempt be snuffed out in the final two minutes. That’s not going to happen this season, especially with this game being in Columbus. It would easy to say that Minnesota doesn’t have a chance, and that’s exactly what I’m saying. Urban Meyer isn’t going to let his team forget what almost happened last year. OSU rolls big in this one.

at Iowa:
Andy — W
Dave — L

Always a bitter swing game in both teams’ season, Floyd of Rosedale has swung the way of the Gophers twice in the Kill era. What hasn’t happened is Kill’s team winning it on the road, a feat that hasn’t happened for Minnesota since 1999 actually. This season that all changes in a big way, as the Gophers take some frustration out on Iowa. There’s just nothing about this Iowa team that shows me they are better nearly anywhere on the field (on paper) right now.

vs. Illinois:
Andy — W
Dave — W

Tim Beckman could be gone or packing up his office in anticipation of being gone by this point of the season. His Illini could also be fighting for a bowl game appearance again too. Either way, Minnesota looks to keep pressure on other top teams by winning this game. I just happen to think the smash-mouth and physical play of the Gophers wins this one.

vs. Wisconsin:
Andy — L
Dave — L

At some point Paul Bunyan’s Axe will reside in the trophy case of the Gophers, but it won’t be after the 2015 meeting. While I like the Gophers’ progress, both in general and in this bitter feud, I just don’t like it enough to predict a win over Wisconsin just yet. Corey Clement is a game-changing back that makes this game very difficult for Minnesota to win. Wisconsin’s defense is also going to be really good, and that combination gives UW a 12-year winning streak in this series.

 

Minnesota’s 2015 Final Record/Big Ten Finish

Andy: 8-4 (5-3) — 2nd in West
Dave: 7-5 (4-4) — Tied for 3rd in West

Our Predicted 2015 Big Ten Standings: 

West:
1.
2. Minnesota Gophers (Andy)
3. Iowa Hawkeyes (Dave)/
4. Iowa Hawkeyes (Andy)/ Minnesota Gophers (Dave)
5.
6. Northwestern (Andy/Dave)
7.

East:

1.
2.
3.
4. Michigan Wolverines (Andy/Dave)
5.
6.
7. Rutgers (Andy/Dave)

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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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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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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