The Big Ten Conference released their 2014 football schedule this week. While this would receive nominal exposure in year’s past, this release includes addition of Rutgers and Maryland to the conference layout. While traditionalists may still want the Big Ten to have actually 10 teams, Minnesota fans won’t have to worry about playing the Scarlet Knights or Terrapins anytime soon in the regular season.
The conference expansion to 14 teams in 2014 means that the Big Ten will move away from their awkward Legends and Leaders Division setup and create what they should have done from the start and go geographical with East and West Divisions.
The Golden Gophers will obviously fall in the West Division alongside the likes of Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois, and Purdue. A pretty seamless transition for fans that can use a compass.
In the conference regular season, each division will play all six divisional opponents beginning in 2014 along with two schools from the opposite side of the bracket. This means that everyone will have two bye weeks on their 2014 and 2015 schedules to help with the transition process of conference growth.
The troubling thing for Gopher football fans is that on top of the addition of Texas Christian University in the 2014 non-conference season, the two team from the East Division that head coach Jerry Kill has to game plan for in two years are Michigan and Ohio State.
Let that sink in for a second — Michigan and Ohio State.
The toughest possible draw for the Gophers shouldn’t get Dinkytown residents to start sending their fandom elsewhere. It just means that Minnesota will have to “gopher up” and try to compete at a higher level.
Something that locals have been pining for — a competitive team that can compete with the likes of the Buckeyes, Horned Frogs and Wolverines.
Now, it’s not recommended for mental health reasons that you should expect the Gophers wipe the floor with Michigan, TCU and OSU. It just creates a bigger upset scenario that could catapult Minnesota to the next level athletically.
To put a positive spin on it — recruiting players that want a chance to be on national television to show America they deserve to compete with the big boys will be right in front of them. There will be plenty of pro scouts in attendance and it means that the Gophers will have a shot at winning the Little Brown Jug. Probably the best traveling trophy in college sports.
Now the Gophers only beat Michigan about once a decade for the jug, so why not grab it in 2014 and maybe have a chance to hold on to it for a couple years if Minnesota sees Michigan disappear from their upcoming schedule.
The 2013 schedule for Minnesota has been set for a while and the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels are the next scheduled opponent for Coach Kill and his team to take the field against. A bowl birth in consecutive seasons is expected for Kill and his staff this year — especially with sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson under center having just completed his second spring workout session. Taking a step back and not qualifying for the postseason would start some immediate hand wringing in Stadium Village.
Especially with a favorable non-conference schedule this year. Eight wins should be the benchmark minimum for the program for years to come. It would mean a level of excellence that the program has not seen since the 2003-04 season when the team still called the Metrodome home.
We are a decade removed now from that 10-3 season which should have have been even better if it weren’t for maybe the toughest loss for the program since their 1960 National Championship win — a 38-35 loss to an actually under-seeded Michigan.
There isn’t enough time or space on the Internet to break down that loss to the Wolverines. If you are not familiar with it, you can Google the heartbreak on your own time.
As for the future, though a tough schedule awaits, there are many positive signs of a turnaround happening at TCF Bank Stadium. Time will tell, but for now enjoy the offseason and summer break and get excited to come back in the fall and cheer on the Golden Gophers.
Here is a detailed breakdown of the 2014 Gopher Football Schedule:
|Thurs, Aug 28||Eastern Illinois||TCF Bank Stadium||TBA|
|Sat, Sep 06||Middle Tennessee State||TCF Bank Stadium||TBA|
|Sat, Sep 13||at TCU||Fort Worth, Texas||TBA|
|Sat, Sep 20||San Jose State||TCF Bank Stadium||TBA|
|Sat, Sep 27||at Michigan||Ann Arbor, Mich.||TBA|
|Sat, Oct 11||Northwestern||TCF Bank Stadium||TBA|
|Sat, Oct 18||Purdue||TCF Bank Stadium||TBA|
|Sat, Oct 25||at Illinois||Champaign, Ill.||TBA|
|Sat, Nov 08||Iowa||TCF Bank Stadium||TBA|
|Sat, Nov 15||Ohio State||TCF Bank Stadium||TBA|
|Sat, Nov 22||at Nebraska||Lincoln, Neb.||TBA|
|Sat, Nov 29||at Wisconsin||Madison, Wis.||TBA|