Let's talk Minnesota
Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune welcomes us into the Gopher hole...
"Well, they're being worn down more than giving up. Injuries are starting to subtract key players, making bad situations worse. But they're trying to fight back, just not always in the most productive ways. Defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey, a team captain, is suspended this week for having a meltdown with the coaching staff after last Saturday's humiliation against Ohio State."
* How would you diagnose what went wrong for Tim Brewster's program?
"The defense was much much worse than anyone expected, and the offense wasn't close to being productive enough to cover it. They had 10 new defensive starters this year, and though they spoke bravely about how their superior talent would offset the lack of experience, it was just talk. The front line gets no pressure on the quarterback, the secondary leaves huge gaps in coverage, and the linebackers are asked to make every tackle. It's ugly."
* If you had to guess, who will Joel Maturi hire this time? Or do you at least have a short list? Please tell me there's a chance we'll get Mike Leach and his pirate fetish in the Big Ten.
"Mike Leach's chances are less than zero -- he managed to insult and offend Minnesota leadership during the week leading up to the Insight Bowl in 2006, and there's no way they want anything to do with such a loose pirate cannon. They're still whittling the list of candidates, and their fantasies include coaches like Jim Harbaugh or Gary Patterson. But I'd make Kevin Sumlin of Houston, a former Gopher assistant, the current front-runner. Not that Maturi is dropping many hints, or even knows himself."
* With the linemen missing on both sides this week, do the Gophers have reserves who can compete in a game like this?
"That's the biggest challenge of this game, and I can't say I'm confident. They were thin anyway, and the injuries and suspensions have cut depth to zilch. They're preparing tight ends to fill in along the offensive line, and Ryan Wynn is backing up all five positions. The defensive line is just as thin, but they hadn't been making much of an impact anyway."
* How has Adam Weber handled this unfortunate finish to a strong career? Do you see any way he could come up with some magic and pull the upset Saturday?
"Weber's demeanor is incredible, because this has been a nightmare year for him already, and now with Brewster gone, he's taking most of the heat from fans. But he's cooperative and cordial with the media, and never blames anyone else for the team's troubles, even though it's hardly all his fault. An upset? Of a ranked team? On the road? It would be a great story, and it's possible they could take an early lead. But they just don't have the defense to stop the MSU offense, so I can't imagine any miracles. Then again, if you saw them coming, they wouldn't be miracles, would they?"
No, they wouldn't. Thanks, Phil, although you've put a damper on my morning with the news on Leach. I hope Mr. Maturi will set aside his pride and think long and hard about the attention, offense and winning he can bring to his program, along with eternal appreciation from a bored Big Ten media contingent.
On to MSU, here are the weekly points and counters, I'll link Talkin' Spartans when we get the latest version, and per Denny Schwarze after Thursday's practice, Mike Tressel says Keshawn Martin has looked good in practice this week. Would I still sit him until Purdue? Unless he's absolutely 100 percent, yes.