As is typical for a game week, we got in touch with our opponent's blog to get some insight into the Frogs' opponent for this week. You all should know The Daily Gopher well by now, after our fun interactions last season and the haiku battle we clearly won yesterday. A big shoutout to mowe0018 for answering our questions this week. You can read my answers to their questions here.
The loss of David Cobb and Maxx Williams from last year's team means the offense will look quite different for the Gophers in 2015. Who is expected to step into those roles for Minnesota?
For Cobb's successor, look towards senior Rodney "Nugget" Williams to carry a majority of the running back load. He's a big back who was originally above Cobb on the depth chart two years ago before Cobb capitalized on ill-timed injuries and disciplinary issues. While he might not have that elusiveness David used to break the Minnesota single-season record for rushing yards, he is a powerful back with good speed who has been in the system for four years.
Most Gopher fans respect what David Cobb did but believe the drop off in talent isn't as severe as outsiders might think. Maxx(xxxxxxx) is another story. Very rarely does a tight end obliterate, jump over, and evade defenders like Maxx Williams did in his two years with the Gophers. He is truly irreplaceable but the prevailing thought among educated Gopher fans is that an overall upgrade at the wide receiver position maybe be able to offset the loss of Maxx at TE. Talented but inexperienced guys like freshmen Melvin Holland, Jr, Desmond Gant, Isaiah Gentry, and local highly rated prospect and converted running back Jeff Jones (yep, they're all freshman) along with a healthy and experienced Drew Wolitarsky and jet sweep savant KJ Maye give the receiving corps way more depth and athleticism than it's ever had during the Kill tenure.
The prevailing thought is that while TE won't be nearly as strong, the receiving corps can take a step forward to provide Mitch Leidner with enough options to keep the offense balanced enough. Gopher fans are hoping one of the freshman becomes a true difference maker sooner rather than later.
Mitch Leidner has been praised for his improvements this season, and is expected to be a bigger passing threat. What has he done this year to improve on that, and how do you think that plays out against TCU?
It's crazy to think that Mitch Leidner is a redshirt junior. It feels as if we've debated about him for a decade. I don't know if there have been any specific adjustments in mechanics that he has worked on in the off season, but I do know that his performance in the Citrus Bowl was certainly a promising sign (21-31 for 258 yards and a touchdown against a tough Missouri defense). Word in camp has been mixed, though Jerry Kill was recently quoted as saying the last two weeks are the best Leidner has ever looked. The key for Leidner in the TCU game is to avoid turnovers, especially early in the game, and not give TCU advantageous field position. Let Pete Mortell punt the Horned Frogs deep in their own territory, especially if on 3rd and long there's nothing doing. Avoid sacks and avoid stupid fumbles. If Leidner can just limit MAJOR mistakes, he'll have done his job.
Minnesota's passing defense was one of the best in the secondary last season (12th, I believe). What do you think they're capable of doing against a TCU offense in its second year of what could be considered a "renaissance?"
Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray are two great, yet very different corners. Murray is basically Revis-lite for Minnesota, taking away an entire side of the field from opposing offenses. BBC is often involved in creating turnovers and more often puts up the attention-grabbing stats. Antonio Johnson and Jaylen Myrick will be
patrolling as safeties this year. Both have garnered a lot of experience and have plenty of speed. They matchup well with just about any receiving core in the country. However, we acknowledge that TCU is loaded with talent at WR. They are capable of making eye-popping plays, even against quality secondaries. I'd be talking with my heart instead of my head if I said I thought the secondary would shut down TCU's receiving corps. I think guys like Doctson and Listenbee will definitely get their stats. I'm just hoping Murray, BBC and company can also force a few INTs.
There's been a lot of chatter from Minnesota's defensive coordinator about how they'll be able to keep things close and win this game in the fourth quarter. Do you think that's a legitimate claim, or is it simply the hype machine rolling out?
Defensive coordinate Tracey Claeys was probably more trying to lay out a blueprint to victory as oppose to making any sweeping prediction. In order for the Gophers to have any sort of chance at beating TCU, they have to keep the game close early on. Well, duh! you might say. Part of it might have been posturing but I truly believe he was more referring to the recipe of an upset as oppose to making a proclamation. Defensively, they'll certainly have to eliminate Boykin's ability to extend plays or at least neutralize it. It would help if the revamped defensive line made things uncomfortable for the Heisman hopeful early on in order to plant a seed of doubt.
5. Does Minnesota have what it takes to win the Big 10 this year?
6. Give our visiting fans an idea of what they can expect from the Gopher crowd this Thursday. Where are the best spots to land pre-and-post-game?
I'd expect most fans to be extremely friendly and welcoming. I'm not originally from Minnesota, so I'm not tooting my own horn when I say this, but the Minnesota Nice stories are all 100% based in fact. Since it is a night game on a Thursday, the overall experience might be a little different than usual but there are plenty of places to see. I asked around The Daily Gopher for some feed back and here's what I got:
Ustreet - "If it's nice they should walk around the lakes. If they're hipsters they should go to Uptown."
DarkKnight5 - "If you're staying on the east side or in St. Paul: West 7th St. Take in the pre-Minnesota Wild hockey pre-game experience, beginning your crawl at Mancini's Char House....Move toward downtown St. Paul, stopping at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub... Now that you're starting to get nice and buzzy, cross the street to go to Patrick McGovern's. Further down the block you have an option: either go to Eagle Street Grille or the Liffey Irish Pub...At this point...you're not just three blocks from the best dining in St. Paul. Pazzaluna and Meritage will cover your European food cravings, and Sakura has decent sushi...Great Waters Brewing Company should cover your Fancy-American dining craving, and they obviously brew beer there, so win-win."
mowe0018 - "I assume a popular spot is Surly Brewing Co. which is only a few blocks away from the bank. Stub and Herbs is a campus institution and usually has a good selection of beverages."
GoAUpher - "Close to the stadium... Sally's is the old standby in a new building. Won't have the dingy charm of the old version, but still has great location and solid food/drink choices... Stub & Herbs has the best beer selection. Drink good beer? Go to Stubs... Big 10 has excellent subs and a great throwback feel. Get there before the bulldozers turn it into another set of high end apartments. West Bank: If you're coming from Minneapolis, consider stopping off at the West Bank (19th St) LRT station and walking up to 7 Corners...Here you'll find: Republic. Amazing tap list, great food. No TV's and a bit of a higher end thing going on, but they'll treat you right... Town Hall Brewery. Great local brewery that was around well before the craft beer boom."
Final notes: The Twins play an afternoon game on Thursday that would be a fun pre-football activity. Target Field is spectacular. Also, the State Fair runs all weekend and is generally good for a few hours of
7. Finally, what's your score prediction for the matchup?
I really believe that Minnesota's defense will be better prepared for TCU's speed this year. Even though TCU's offense will likely be better this year than last year, the first game of the season isn't always the best showcase for any team. At the end of the day though, TCU is just too talented to lose this game, even with it being played under the lights in the Bank. I think Kill's crew will have a better go at it this time around though and won't lay a massive egg in the first quarter. Therefore, I see the Horned Frogs grinding one out for a 24-13 victory.