Here we find the first installment of a series of Q&A pieces I'll be publishing in cahoots with the ever-knowledgeable JDMill of The Daily Gopher. We started off with three relatively basic questions for each other in this edition, and as we move closer to the bowl game we'll start to dive a bit deeper. So, let's get this shebang rolling, shall we?
One of the popular narratives regarding Minnesota is how much Jerry Kill has done for the program, but I'm not sure many Missouri fans understand just what that entails. How has Kill elevated the Gridiron Gophers, and where do you see it going from here?
To understand what Jerry Kill has done at Minnesota you first have to understand what Tim Brewster did to the program. I won't go into a ton of detail except to say that while Brewster probably recruited better players than typically come to Minnesota, he didn't know what to do with them when they got to Minnesota. When Kill and his staff showed up the players weren't well conditioned, they were undisciplined, they weren't going to class and it was just generally a mess. Kill and his staff has done this before at Southern & Northern Illinois and the plan was the same here. Ignore star ratings. Recruit tough kids who love football who fit the scheme, and when they get on campus coach them up, make them stronger and hold them accountable. The mantra has been "Brick by Brick" and the program has made amazing strides under Kill and his staff.
As far as where it's going, it's an interesting time for us. In the West you've got Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska, a round-table which we have dubbed The Quadrangle of Hate, and the division is rounded out by Northwestern, Illinois & Purdue. With Iowa underachieving, and with Wisconsin & Nebraska bringing in new coaches, it's fair to say that Minnesota is the only program in the West that is on a sustained upward trajectory, but weird things happen with rivalries in the B1G, and both Nebraska and Wisconsin made hires they are excited about, so who knows for sure. My expectation is for the Gophers to finish in the top half of the division every year, and to at least be in the discussion for the division title once November rolls around.
One of the things that was drilled into our heads at SEC orientation was the belief that the B1G was an inferior conference in all measurable ways. Tell us why that's just fool's talk.
There's really no disputing the belief that the SEC is a better conference than the B1G right now. The SEC has a team in the National Championship conversation every year and the B1G has struggled to get into that position. The SEC arguably has better coaches than the B1G and the Southeast is certainly more fertile recruiting grounds than the frozen tundra of the Midwest when it comes to skill position players.
The difficulty for the B1G is that, generally, we breed big, physical kids who are hard nosed football players, but we have to go outside of our backyard to recruit the kind of speed that is needed to compete against the SEC at the skill positions. Minnesota is a great example of this. The majority of our offensive linemen are from right here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but our RB's, WR's and DB's generally come from the South. Kill and his staff have done a great job of identifying undervalued talent around the country, but there's always a barrier with geography.
Because of the type and level of recruits that we generally have access to, the B1G tends to play a different style of football. Minnesota, Wisconsin & Iowa all play run-heavy, clock-eating, field-position football. Ohio State, because of Urban Meyer, is the exception right now. Ohio State has been able to bring in a lot of speed, and that is why they are in the CFB Playoff.
At this point, it pains me to say it, but I have to concede that the SEC is a better conference than the B1G when it comes to football.
In a season where the B1G produced all-universe running backs Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman, it's easy to overlook Minnesota's stud ball-carrier David Cobb. What does he bring to the table that should keep Tiger fans up at night?
The thing about David Cobb is that he produced numbers despite being nothing like those running backs you mentioned (and Ameer Abdullah). Those guys are just flat out fast and if they get to the second level, they gone.
He isn't the fastest back in the B1G and he isn't the most physical back in the B1G, but I will say without any hesitation that David Cobb has the best vision of any RB in the country. He isn't going to outrun people and he isn't going to run them over, but he has an uncanny ability to find the right hole, find it early, get through it quickly and just generally make defenders miss. He's done it against some of the better run defenses in the country. 183 yards vs 15th ranked Michigan. 118 yards vs 17th ranked Wisconsin. 145 yards vs 33rd ranked Ohio State.
And he's done it against those teams while each and every one of them keyed on him. Everybody in the country knows that Minnesota's passing offense is, um... not good. Everybody knows that we're just going to try to run you over. Almost everybody we play stacks 8 or 9 guys in the box and keys on Cobb. The coaches don't shy away from it. They give him the ball 25 times/game, he averages 5+ yards/carry and he somehow seems to get better as the game goes on.