What Tv Station Is The Minnesota Gophers Football Game On #52 Minnesota Golden Gophers Preview

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#52 Minnesota Golden Gophers Preview

Spring practices are in the books and fall camps will be here before you know it so that means getting an early jump on the 2006 NCAA football season. Knowing the teams now will save you time in August and Matt Fargo is here to help you get a grasp of what to expect this upcoming year. We go from worst to first in this 2006 College Football Preview.

#52 – Minnesota Golden Gophers 7-5 SU; 7-5 ATS

Fargo’s Take One of the best rushing teams in the country could turn into a very average rushing team. Minnesota has averaged at least 200 ypg on the ground in each of the last five years including at least 257 ypg over the last three but that will change this season. Laurence Maroney is playing in the NFL, the fourth back in four years to eclipse 1,000 yards. The fourth on that list is Gary Russell, who rushed for 1,130 yards last season as a backup but he is academically ineligible so the Gophers are hurting. The passing game will take center stage but it’s the defense that needs to start picking things up as it has increased its points allowed in each of the last three seasons. Minnesota has gone bowling in each of the last four seasons and it will take an all-around effort to make it back in 2006.

Returning Starters on Offense – 6 The loss of the backs is hard to overcome but the offensive line had a lot to do with that success and the departure of four-year starting center Greg Eslinger is enormous. Two starters on the line do return as does Matt Speath, one of the best blocking tight ends in the country so if Amir Pinnix can emerge as another Gopher threat, things could be good once again. Quarterback Bryan Cupito will be in his third season as the starter and since he has improved in each of the last two years, he could be in for a huge year. He completed over 59 percent of his passes last year after a 47 percent completion rate in 2004. He has also tossed just 16 interceptions over the last two seasons. His top three receivers are back and if the line can come close to the minuscule three sacks allowed last year, the offense could thrive once again.

Returning Starters on Defense – 6 This is the side of the ball that will determine Minnesota’s postseason fate. The defense allowed an inexcusable 29 ppg last year, 80th in the country while the total defense finished 90th in the nation. It allowed over 34 ppg in Big Ten action with five teams scoring at least 35 points. The Gophers have had at least seven starters returning the last four years but only six are back this season with a lot of youngsters mixed in there. The defensive line is extremely young and inexperienced with only one starter back and he is a sophomore. As many as three sophomores or freshmen are expected to be in starting slots this season so it will be up to the limited veterans to take the defense over and improve in all areas. That is easier said than done however.

Schedule The schedule is extremely difficult but that is nothing new playing in the Big Ten. The non-conference slate is a joke as always with games against Kent St., Temple and North Dakota St. helping. The Gophers do have to travel to California in the second game of the season but that is the only out of conference challenge. The Big Ten slate is difficult as usual with four losable road games at Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio St. and Michigan St. The only sure win home game is against Indiana, which is an improved team and can’t be taken for granted. The other three games are against Michigan, Penn St. and Iowa. That equates to seven likely or at least possible losses so some upsets need to occur for the Gophers to go bowling. Illinois is off the schedule, a bad break.

You can bet on… Minnesota will have more passing yards than rushing yards for the first time since 2000 as it will be up to Cupito to gain control of the offense and flourish. He can definitely do it but it’s up to his defense to be able to make some stops, something it didn’t do last season. The Gophers are 0-4 ATS the last four seasons as a home underdog and they will be in that spot when Michigan comes to town for their Big Ten home opener. Making it even worse is that the Gophers handed the Wolverines a three-point home loss last season so Michigan will be coming in looking for some payback. It was the first victory for Minnesota in 16 years and could be the last for another 16.

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