July 8, 2010

An early look at the Big Ten: Minnesota

The Minnesota Golden Gophers

Location: Minneapolis, Minn.
Distance from Lincoln: 432 miles

Best way to get there: It's about a seven-hour drive from Lincoln, but it's all interstate and isn't too tough of a trip. If you prefer to fly, Delta airlines offers several direct flights from Omaha to Minneapolis each day.

Offensive scheme: Pro Set
Defensive scheme: 4-3

Rivals.com past recruiting rankings: No. 51 (2010), No. 39 (2009), No. 17 (2008) and No. 57 (2007).

The Gophers have six commitments for 2011, including three three-stars and one two-star recruit.

Minnesota's history against Nebraska

As far as Big Ten opponents go, Minnesota has some of the longest running history with Nebraska as anyone. The Gophers own a 29-20-2 all-time advantage over the Huskers, but the bulk of their success came before a coach named Bob Devaney ever set foot in Lincoln.

The first meeting between the two came in 1900, when UM beat NU 20-12 in Lincoln. From there, Minnesota would go on to post a 28-6-2 record, capped off with another 26-14 win on the road in 1960.

That, however, would be the Gophers' last taste of success against Nebraska. Since then, the Huskers have won the past 14 meetings, with most coming in blowout fashion. Highlighted by an 84-13 win in 1983, the Huskers have won the past 10 games by an average score of 54-6.

Why this game could be a potential rivalry

The longstanding tradition Nebraska and Minnesota have and their relative geographic proximity make this a seemingly natural rivalry.

Though the programs have certainly gone in two completely different directions over the last few decades, this still has the makings to be a good, friendly rivalry, seeing how Gophers already have bad-blooded series' with archrival Wisconsin and Iowa.

Assuming the games will be a bit more competitive than 84-13 this time around, this could be good game for both fan bases, and it will be one of the easier road trips for Husker fans as well.

Stars to watch for in 2011

Minnesota is expected to start gearing to more of a power running game with the promotion of running backs coach Thomas Hammock to co-offensive coordinator and the loss of star receiver Eric Decker to the NFL.

As a result, junior backs Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge should have plenty of experience under their belts by the time they meet Nebraska as seniors in 2011.

The Gophers will also likely be breaking in a new starting quarterback by that point, so the running game will be relied upon as heavily as ever.

Minnesota's backfield should be even deeper by then as well, as incoming freshmen Lamonte Edwards and Devon Wright provide two powerful backs that can help shoulder the load.

On defense, defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey was named a team captain this year as a junior, and he'll likely be the undisputed leader of the uni in '11. Cornerback Michael Carter is arguably UM's best defensive back, and he will boast plenty of experience after seeing significant action as a true freshman and then starting this season.

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