<
>

Best case-worst case rewind: Minnesota

Our look back at the best case-worst case series continues with ... Minnesota.

In case you missed it: Minnesota's best case-worst case.

Best-case synopsis: The Golden Gophers recapture their dominant rushing attack, while the defense continues to force takeaways at a high rate. ... Minnesota surges to a 6-0 start that includes a dramatic victory against Cal. ... The Gophers win both of their trophy games, against Wisconsin and Iowa. ... They advance to the Outback Bowl and beat Georgia for their first New Year's Day bowl win since 1962. ... Wide receiver Eric Decker wins the Biletnikoff Award.

Worst-case synopsis: The scheme changes on offense slow production and the run game stalls. ... The defense can't stop the run or generate much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. ... Minnesota stumbles to a 1-4 start as the heat begins to rise on third-year head coach Tim Brewster. ... The team goes 4-8 and misses a bowl for the second time in three seasons and recruiting begins to suffer. ... Brewster shuffles his coaching staff yet again.

You can't handle the truth: (quotes from the original post) "Despite returning more experience than any Big Ten team, Minnesota struggles with the scheme changes." ... "Despite the emotions of the stadium opener and a tricky opponent (Air Force), Minnesota keeps its composure and improves to 2-0." ... "Wisconsin retains [Paul Bunyan's] axe as [John] Clay and Zach Brown combine for 310 rush yards." ... "[The Gophers] end the season on a down note against Iowa, which posts another shutout against its archrival." ... "Athletic director Joel Maturi decides to give Brewster one more year, but it's clear that a winning record must be posted. The team's recruiting takes a step back." ... "Minnesota splits against Michigan State and Illinois."

Lies, lies, lies: "Junior quarterback Adam Weber stays healthy, limits interceptions and operates the new scheme flawlessly with help from backup MarQueis Gray." ... "The Gophers then head to Iowa City and avenge a 55-0 loss as Decker has a big day at Kinnick Stadium. The loss drops Iowa to 6-6." ... "Decker wins the Biletnikoff Award, cornerback Traye Simmons is a finalist for the Thorpe Award and head coach Tim Brewster receives a lengthy contract extension." ... "Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best leads Cal into the Twin Cities on Sept. 19, but Minnesota running backs Duane Bennett, DeLeon Eskridge and Kevin Whaley end up stealing the show, piling up 285 rush yards against the Bears." ... "Northwestern hands Minnesota another brutal loss, this time by blocking a 25-yard field goal attempt as time expires to prevail, 24-23."

Reality check: Minnesota won two more games than the worst-case scenario, and at 6-6 will return to the Insight Bowl. But the changes on offense seemed to decrease production, and Weber saw his interceptions total soar and his completion percentage drop. Gray didn't play as much as some envisioned. An injury to Decker on Oct. 24 at Ohio State really hurt the offense, which finished last in the Big Ten in scoring (21.6 ppg). The Gophers' defense was a bright spot, especially at linebacker with Lee Campbell, Nate Triplett and Simoni Lawrence. Minnesota secured some pretty decent wins, but Brewster's drought in trophy games continued as Iowa shut out the Gophers for the second straight year.