ESPN.com college football writers are pessimistic about Gophers
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Take this for what it's worth, considering we're still a couple weeks away from non-conference games, but ESPN.com's panel of college football writers doesn't think too highly of the Gophers' chances to make noise in the Big 10 this season.
In preseason power rankings posted Monday, the ESPN.com crew had Ohio State ranked No. 1 in the conference, as expected. Urban Meyer's Buckeyes won 24 consecutive games before losing in the Big 10 Championship Game and the Orange Bowl, but they have, unquestionably, the best talent in the conference.
Behind Ohio State is Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Iowa.
ESPN.com has the Gophers ranked 10th, ahead of only Indiana, Illinois, Rutgers and Purdue.
"On paper, the Gophers look several steps behind the top teams in the league across the board. What's their strength, running the football? Still, coach Jerry Kill and his staff get the benefit of the doubt because of their remarkable progress a year ago."
No mention of the defense? Yes, losing Brock Vereen and Ra'Shede Hageman to the NFL is a big blow, but this was a Gophers team that ranked 24th in the country in scoring defense last season. There could be a drop-off, but defense still appears to be a strength.
The two keys for the Gophers appear to be the passing attack and the schedule. Can Mitch Leidner find a way to complete more than 55% of his throws? And can the Gophers weather a November schedule that includes games against Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin?
The Gophers certainly don't deserve to be mentioned among those top five teams above, but 10th? Seems harsh.