Minnesota football gophers, how awesome they are after the lack of a conference

Football Gopher has finished the non-conference portion of its schedule. We knew all three opponents would be pretty weak, and it turns out we were all right about that.

But we entered the season with Number of key questions on the general team. Now that we’ve entered the season with three games, have we seen enough to know how these questions were answered?

On the other hand, it’s really hard to say. Do we really know how good any individual player or unit is when opponents don’t give much testing? On the other hand, they are still up against top-tier athletes and if they do and dominate, does that actually answer the questions?

Hard to say, but let’s dig into the pre-season questions I asked and see what kind of answers we’ve found.

#1: How good is the offensive line?

This is the only question that may be difficult to answer due to the quality of the discount. Western Illinois’ defensive front was not talented enough to present a challenge, and the same could be said for New Mexico.

But honestly, I’m more optimistic about that streak than I was before the season started. It was well documented that the Gophers lost 4/5 of their starting offensive line last year. It was a very good offensive line. Replacing so much experience and talent is not easy.

But we really didn’t have a hard time in that streak for the first three weeks, in fact, they dominated. Especially in the match on the ground, these five starters were really good. The only comparison we have, and it’s not a perfect comparison, is looking at last year’s Colorado game with this one. In 2021, the Gopher’s fast attack lasted for 277 yards, averaging 5.2 per carry. This year, against the same program, they ran for 334 yards with an average of 6.4.

Not to say that this line is clearly better than last year. But there are plenty of indications that this line has at least raised their minimum expectations. We don’t know how good that streak is, especially when we get into the Big Ten. But we know it’s at least a solid unit that will continue to be a very good immobilizer.

the answer? They are at least an above average Big Ten offensive line. We don’t want them to be elite, we couldn’t afford them to be a really struggling unit.

#2: Who advances along the defensive line?

Overall, this was the biggest question in defense and defense in general was the second best defense in the Big Ten. But it’s hard to answer this particular question because I’m not sure I’d say anyone actually came forward. Except to say that they probably all have them.

As you might remember from the upgrade/downgrade post, there are a lot of names that are part of the rotation along the DL. So far everyone seems to be contributing. Has anyone really started to stand out? Not exactly, but they all play really well collectively.

Sacks are dealt with Danny Strego 2, Thomas Rush, Galen Logan-Reading, and Lorenza Surgers each with one sack.

The inside players do their job and allow the midfielders to make a lot of tackles through the first 3 matches. Mariano Suri-Marin and Cody Lindenberg lead the team in maneuvers.

Collectively, the Gophers shut down hasty enemy attacks.

the answer? The truth about the defensive line is that he is young and likely to be very good. For 2022, they were collectively okay. I don’t expect any players on that line to worry the Big Ten defense coordinators. But they do their jobs and perform plays as one unit.

#3: Would Special Teams Be Better?

So far, so good. Again, nothing stands out but there is no reason to believe that this unit will lose us any games.

Matthew Trickett was a perfect 20/20 in the PATs and 3/3 on field goals scoring 22, 34 and 46.

Dragan Kesich put kick-offs into the end zone for a touch in a 22/25 kick-off.

Mark Crawford has only been called to gamble 3 times throughout the year. Two of the three were installed inside the 20’s.

The return leg was mostly fair game hunting, and I’m OK with that.

the answer? All in all, they were fine.

#4: What will we get from Terell Smith?

This was answered very positively. Smith has been really good in the team’s first three games. He made an important game in all three matches.

Smith finished the single drive threatening New Mexico by intercepting the dive in the end zone. He had a tackle for the loss against Western Illinois. He started the Colorado game with a ribbon bag, which resulted in Gopher recovering inside the red.

Smith appears to be locked in this season and playing at an elite level.

The entire defensive field was very good, but Smith was the most asked question we had. It was great.

#5: Will Kirk Ciaroca be the difference in attack?

yes! yes! yes! This offense was fantastic during the first three games.

They build on what they do well and then use that to set up a very effective passing game.

I know, I know, the opponents weren’t very good. But the Gophers have the No. 2 team in the country in yards per game and are eighth in points per game. It’s not really about yards and points placed against bad teams. It is the balance, efficiency and execution of all offensive units.

Things may be more challenging now, with Chris Ottman missing Bell. But this offense has been so good so far, and I give a lot of credit to Ciarrocca.

the answer? It was exactly what this team needed. This question has been answered.

But now when things get fun. The Big Ten is here. The discount caliber will increase.

Here’s my point, I think most of our questions have been adequately answered and this is a good team. There’s more work to be done, and I think the Big Ten will be tougher than it seems over the past weekend.

I’m so excited to see how we play out on the road against the Big Ten. This would be a step forward in the opponent’s caliber, but I’m sitting here feeling somewhat confident in this gopher caliber.