Sometime tonight, in the non-existent bowels of a non-existent stadium in the non-existent burg of Des Moines, Iowa, the Kansas State Wildcats will not play the Minnesota Golden Gophers. But facts just get in the way of a good time here at BotC, where we steadfastly insist that the Cats and Gophers are going to face off at the 14,557-seat Drake Stadium.
And you can’t have a non-conference game without a Q&A, so here we present answers to vitally important questions courtesy of a true gentleman, Chris of The Daily Gopher.
Jon: Before we get to serious business here, I think the most important topic we need to discuss has to do with our old nemesis. Describe your feelings when you realized Nebraska isn't even capable of beating a MAC team anymore.
Chris: I would like to direct your attention to this nifty blog post I wrote because I think it was pretty neat and is relevant to your interests.
Did you give in to my blatant click pandering yet kindly BotC reader? Yes? Ok, then I would like to continue to answer this question with GIFs.
Jon: You guys have had some coaching issues. Some might argue it was a self-fulfilling prophecy resulting from a self-inflicted wound when Minnesota decided that they'd just had enough of Glen Mason and decided to replace him with That Guy Who Shall Not Be Named For The Sake Of Your Sanity. How confident are you that Minnesota now, finally, has the right guy?
Chris: Quick detail about Glen Mason that people outside don't really know. The dude was a complete ass to the fanbase and state on a more than semi-regular basis. He’d lose to our rivals most of the time and then call the trophies he never had in his possession "trinkets" in press conferences. He'd pine, openly, in public, for other jobs. He'd talk about how he should have gone to Georgia. He talked about the program needing a rebuild... in year 10. He insulted the student section. The high school coaches in the state hated him. His recruiting of the state stunk.
None of that excuses the idiotic manner in which he was fired (don't fire your coach after the bowl game, duh) or the moron they hired after him (Charlie Strong was the other finalist but oh, hey, that Tim Brewster guy had a great mustache once). For me personally, it was a good learning experience about the risks of firing a guy who isn't "the guy" but who is guaranteeing you mediocrity as a floor.
Which is actually a timely segue to P.J. Fleck. Why? Because Tracy Claeys wasn't "the guy" and I think most people knew it. The question was whether we should wait around to find out what his floor was first and whether we could land a good coach if we fired him quick. Mark Coyle, our AD, decided he didn't want to find out after the mess in December and here we are. Is P.J. Fleck the guy? I don't know. But I feel as confident as I have in a long time that he has what it takes to be "the guy" and that the U is prepared to do what it takes to make sure he can get there.
Jon: It's early going, but what have you noticed so far about Fleck? I think everyone kind of knows what kind of dude he is, but a lot of people didn't really get a chance to figure out what kind of *coach* he was at Western Michigan. Anything sticking out so far?
Chris: Anyone writing him off as a used car salesman is way off base. There is a clean plan and a lot of thought behind the sloganeering. Now, whether that will matter in terms of W's and L's is TBD. But this isn't Tim Brewster blustering around with no idea of what he wants to do. Fleck has a plan and he's going to execute it. And from everything I can see, the steps in the plan make sense. For me, Fleck has been a huge breath of fresh air. I find his style to be fun and entertaining, which is why I watch college football in the first place.
Jon: What's the offensive setup like now, and who are the guys to keep an eye on?
Chris: We haven't seen the full offense yet, but the general goal is to be a run first spread team that utilizes the run/pass option to break down opposing defenses. Had I been able to play one of you in NCAA '14, I would have thrown that out in favor of the Air Raid.
As for who to watch? Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks at RB and Tyler Johnson at WR have all had great years.
Jon: Likewise, what's up with the Gopher defense?
Chris: Fleck's desired look is based out of the 4-3, but the current team is heavy on LB talent and light on proven front 4 guys so this year's team is running a 3-4 look where one of the LBs comes down as a rush end on a lot of downs. They're an extremely aggressive attacking defense that is always flying around the ball. Frankly, it's a lot of fun!
Again, had I been able to play NCAA '14 version you'd have seen a steady diet of Cover 3 while I miss sacks with my DE. Antoine Winfield Jr. has been a stud at DB. Jacob Huff is another DB making an impact and Jonathan Celestin has been killing it at LB.
Jon: Break down the rest of the season. Where do you legitimately see Minnesota in the B1G West when it's all said and done?
Chris: 6-6 was my preseason prediction. I can talk myself into 8-4 after the non-con, but I'm still waiting for some Year 1 issues to crop up. Honest opinion is we finish 3rd or 4th in the West and are in a good place to build for the coming years when the season is done.
Jon: Finally, who's going to win this clash of titans?
Chris: If I was playing, you guys. If the computer is playing... probably still you guys.
Huge thanks to Chris for indulging us in this nonsense over a game which isn’t even real. You can follow him on Twitter at @goAUpher, and you should also read this piece on the $5 Broken Bits of Chair trophy -- and the charity fundraiser to which the movement to make the trophy official is now forever bound.