Gopher Football: Bold Predictions for 2013

Dec 28, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson (9) warms up before a game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Car Care Bowl at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The college football season kicks off in less than a week.  Next Thursday afternoon the parking lots around the University of Minnesota campus will be filled with barbeque smoke, music, bean bag toss, and people decked head to toe in Maroon and Gold.

So with the season upon us, why not throw out some bold predictions for the 2013 Golden Gophers in year three of the Jerry Kill regime.  GoAUpher over at The Daily Gopher offered up five bold predictions for the Gophers himself.

I decided to crank things up a bit, so I turned my predictions knob up to seven. A word of caution, these all err on the side of optimism. Some, you may even say, on the side of homerism, but here they are…

1. The Gophers will beat Wisconsin: The Gophers haven’t hoisted the axe since Rhys Lloyd booted a game winning field goal as time expired to lift the Gophers to 37-34 win over the Badgers at the Metrodome in 2003.  Just watch and get goosebumps.  This year, the Badgers have a new coach, they lost record-setting running back Montee Ball, and have a young inexperienced secondary.  The game is also at TCF Bank Stadium this season and the Gophers have closed the talent gap on the rival Badgers significantly.  Ryan Santoso does his best Rhys Lloyd impression by booting a field goal in overtime to bring the axe back to Minneapolis for the first time in 10 years.

2. Theiren Cockran will record double-digit sacks: The defensive end has all the tools to be special at 6-foot-6 and 237 pounds.  Cockran is still raw and growing into his immense frame.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he tips the scales at around 260 lbs. by the time he leaves Dinkytown.  Anyone that watched the spring game this year knows what jaw dropping size, strength, and speed he possesses. He nearly took Philip Nelson’s head off on an ill-advised hit that was heard all the way in Delano.  With Ra’Shede Hageman commanding double teams in the interior, look for that to free up Cockran off the edge and for him to have a big season sacking the quarterback.

3. The Gophers offense will average over 200 rushing yards per game: Minnesota hasn’t averaged over 200 yards rushing per game since 2005.  That is a long time!  However, that will all come to an abrupt end this year as the combination of Berkley Edwards, Donnell Kirkwood, Rodrick Williams, and the quarterbacks steamroll their way to around 220 yards per game behind one of the most underrated offensive lines in the conference.  The Gophers new offense — The Maryland-I, will also help their cause.  The new implemented offensive formation puts an emphasis on the power running attack.

4. Philip Nelson will start all 12 games at quarterback: Finally stability at quarterback.  No controversies, no clamoring for the backup, and dare I say it… consistency.  I’m not saying Nelson is going to turn into Johnny Football this year.  What I am saying is he will be the leader this team needs and provide steady, efficient quarterback play.  Mitch Leidner is a solid backup quarterback, but everyone knows that Limegrover and Kill recruited Nelson to be the guy to lead this team.  Nelson has a quick release from the pocket and can run well.  He just needs a little experience to develop accuracy.  He gets that this year.

5. Minnesota will finish in the Top 10 nationally in pass efficiency defense: I have a man crush on the Minnesota secondary.  It’s as deep and talented a group as I can remember since following the Gophers in the late 1980’s.  The Gophers have six cornerbacks that can legitimately play in Jeremy Baltazar, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Marcus Jones, Eric Murray, Martez Shabazz, and Derrick Wells as well as two experienced safeties in Cedric Thompson and Brock Vereen.  Add to that a fierce pass rush from Hageman and Cockran and it’s going to be extremely difficult for opposing offenses to throw on the Gopher defense effectively.

6. Linebacker will become a position of strength: Before the season started, this position frightened me.  I didn’t know what to expect from the linebackers outside of Aaron Hill who provides solid leadership and experience.  I knew that De’Vondre Campbell and Damien Wilson came highly regarded from the JUCO ranks, but JUCO’s are anything but guarantees and if they don’t work out, it can cost your program valuable scholarships and depth.  However, all indications are Campbell and Wilson are ballers.  Some say Campbell looks like former quarterback MarQueis Gray out there at 6-foot-5 and with flowing dreadlocks.

7. K.J. Maye will lead the team with… 34 receptions: There is not a No. 1 receiver on this team.  I don’t even know if there is a No. 2.  What the Gophers do have is a lot of depth.  No real superstars, but Derrick Engel, Isaac Fruechte, Jamel Harbison, possibly Andre McDonald, Drew Wolitarsky, and the aforementioned Maye are all capable of putting up 15-40 catches in my opinion.  Nelson and Maye have been developing some solid chemistry in camp, so I’ll go with Maye as the leading receiver.

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