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published Monday, November 21st - 6:59pm

This e-mail arrived on Sunday afternoon, soon after the Vikings had lost 27-21 to Oakland in the Metrodome. This put the record at 2-8, a 10-game start achieved only once previously in franchise history.

And that came 50 years ago, in the Vikings' first season as an NFL expansion team.

The e-mail asked the question: "What would the record be for the Vikings if Jerry Kill was the coach?''

The inference taken from this and previous feedback was that the Vikings would have a better mark if a coach with the ability of Kill was running the operation, rather than Leslie Frazier.

My response to the e-mailer, based on observation of Kill's first season as the Gophers' coach, and Frazier's first full season as the Vikings' coach, was concise: "2-8.''

There's a possibility that Kill will be able to get the Gophers back to the level of competence experienced with Glen Mason. He might be able to do that without the gut-wrenching losses that badly cut into Mason's level of success.

There's also a possibility that Frazier, once he has broken in a rookie quarterback, will have his team rewarded with a big-time receiver and a left tackle with prime choices in the 2012 draft, and can put the Vikings on the winning side of some of these late-game losses.

Whatever the outcome for these two coaches, what amazes is the popular wisdom among Minnesota fans that they have seen something in Kill's first season that offers optimism for the future.

As far as coaching is concerned, there has been nothing witnessed from Kill and his staff that trumps what occurred last season - first from Tim Brewster, fired after a 1-6 start, and then from Jeff Horton, 2-3 as an interim.

What we have from the Gophers in 2010 and 2011 are virtually identical seasons, and that's based on the idea that these Gophers will be able to defeat Illinois in the season finale on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

The Illini come in here deflated by five consecutive losses and with a coach, Ron Zook, likely to be fired. If the 2011 Gophers can't get a second Big Ten victory in that circumstance, then Kill's first season will lose its status as a ''flop'' and be downgraded to a "disaster.''

Just for giggles, here's a rating of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, by opponents.

NON-CONFERENCE/

*Southern Cal: The 2010 Gophers played USC at home in the third game, were in the game for a while and lost 32-20. The 2011 Gophers opened at Southern Cal, held USC scoreless in the second half and lost 19-17. The Trojans' offense looked lousy that day, but quarterback Matt Barkley has kept getting better and on Saturday led an upset over Oregon. Advantage: 2011 Gophers.

*Victories: The 2010 Gophers opened with a 24-17 victory at Middle Tennessee State. The 2011 Gophers beat Miami (Ohio) 29-23 at TCF Bank. Miami, the defending MAC champion, has dropped off to 4-7 this season. No advantage.

*Losses to Dakota teams: The 2010 Gophers lost the home opener 41-38 to South Dakota. It was a shocking defeat that greased the skids for Brewster's mid-season firing. The 2011 Gophers were outclassed 37-24 by North Dakota State. The Bison are 10-1, so it was worse beating than the South Dakota loss against a better team. Advantage: None ... equally embarrassing.

*Other non-conference losses: The 2010 Gophers lost at home 34-23 to Northern Illinois. The 2011 Gophers lost 28-21 to New Mexico State, a team that had lost 18 of its previous 20 games. Advantage: Coach Kill himself would have to give the advantage in quality of defeat to the 2010 Gophers, since he was the NIU coach.

COMMON BIG TEN OPPONENTS/

*Purdue: The 28-17 loss at Purdue in 2010 wound up getting Brewster fired, but it wasn't nearly as ridiculous as a 45-17 loss that came after trailing 45-3 this season. Advantage: 2010 Gophers.

*Iowa: A 27-24 upset over a mediocre Iowa team in the 2010 season finale at TCF Stadium, and a 22-21 upset over a mediocre Iowa team in the middle of the Big Ten schedule. Advantage: None ... equally high points of lost seasons.

*Wisconsin: A 41-23 loss in Madison that left Brewster whining about a two-point conversion in 2010, a 42-13 loss at TCF Bank that left Kill trying to concoct some reasons his team was competitive in 2011. Advantage: Despite the record, I like this Wisconsin club more with Russ Wilson at quarterback, so we'll classify the Badger blowouts as equals.

*Northwestern: A 29-28 loss in the 2010 Big Ten opener at TCF Bank, a 28-13 loss in Evanston, Ill. last Saturday. Advantage: There's no such thing as a satisfactory loss to the Wildcats, but there was some drama involved in the failure in 2010.

*Michigan State: A 31-8 mismatch in East Lansing in 2010, a narrow 31-24 loss on the road in 2011. Advantage: 2011 Gophers.

SIMILAR BIG TEN OPPONENTS:

*Ohio State/ Michigan: The 2010 Gophers were clobbered 52-10 at home against the potent Buckeyes. The 2011 Gophers lost 58-0 at Michigan. Advantage: The loss at Michigan was the worst ever for the Gophers in the Big Ten ... and against a team not as good as Ohio State a year ago.

*PENN STATE/ NEBRASKA: The 2010 Gophers lost 33-21 at home to Penn State; the 2011 Gophers lost 41-13 at home to Nebraska. Advantage: The Lions of '10 and the Huskers of '11 were nothing special, but last season's Gophers kept it respectable on merit, and this season's Gophers had to rely on Nebraska's kindness.

ONE THAT REMAINS/

*ILLINOIS: The Illini were fresh from a 67-65, three-overtime loss to Michigan when the 2010 Gophers went to Illinois and came away with a 38-34 victory. This Illinois team is comatose offensively, so even a big victory will earn Kill's first team nothing more than a dead heat with last year's Gophers when it comes to this foe.

Bottom line: Kill is a likable fellow, but we don't yet have a hint as to what he's going to offer as a Big Ten coach.