What Channel 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 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 figure out what to expect next year. We go from worst to first in this 2006 college football preview.

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

Tuck-Fargo One of the best rushing teams in the country could turn into an average rushing team. Minnesota has averaged at least 200 ypg on the ground in each of the past five years, including at least 257 ypg the past three years, but that will change this season. NFL running back Lawrence Maroney has reached 1,000 yards for the fourth time in four years. Fourth on that list is Gary Russell, who rushed for 1,130 yards as a backup last season, but he’s academically ineligible, so the Gophers suffer. The passing game takes center stage, but it’s the defense that needs to start picking things up, as it has increased points allowed in each of the past three seasons. Minnesota has been bowled out in each of the past four seasons, and it will take an all-out effort to turn that around in 2006.

Returning starters on offense – 6 The loss of a running back 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 huge. Two starters return on the line as does Matt Spieth, one of the best tight ends in the country, so if Amir Pinnick emerges as another Gopher threat, things could pick up again. Quarterback Brian Cupito will be in his third season as a starter, and since he has improved each of the past two years, he could be in for a big year. He completed 59 percent of his passes last year after completing 47 percent in 2004. He threw just 16 games over the past two seasons. His top three receivers are back, and if the line approaches the paltry three sacks it 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 nation, while the total defense ranked 90th in the nation. It allowed more than 34 ppg in Big Ten action with five teams scoring at least 35 points. The Gophers have had at least seven starters each of the past four years, but only six return this season, and there’s plenty of youth mixed in. The defensive line is very young and inexperienced with only one starter and he is a sophomore. Up to three sophomores or freshmen are expected to be in starting spots this season, so it will be up to the limited veterans to protect and improve in all areas. However, it is easier said than done.

The schedule The schedule is tough, but it’s nothing new to play in the Big Ten. The non-conference slate is a joke as always with games against Kent St., Temple and North Dakota St. help. The Gophers have to travel to California for the second game of the season, but that’s the only out-of-conference challenge. The Big Ten slate is difficult as usual with four losing road games at Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio St. and Michigan St. The only sure win at home is against Indiana, which is a better team and cannot be taken for granted. The next three games are against Michigan, Penn St. and Iowa. That equates to seven potential or at least potential losses, so some upsets will have to happen for the Gophers to go bowling. Illinois is off the schedule, bad break.

You can bet … Minnesota will have more rushing yards than rushing yards for the first time since 2000, as it will be up to Cupito to control the offense and thrive. He can certainly do it, but it depends on his defense being able to make some stops, something he didn’t do last season. The Gophers are 0-4 ATS over the past four seasons, and they’ll be right there when Michigan comes to town for the Big Ten home opener. To make matters worse, the Gophers lost to the Wolverines by three points at home last season, so Michigan will be looking for some payback. It was Minnesota’s first win in 16 years and could be the last for another 16 years.

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