It's certainly been a historical run for the Gopher program.
Last week, the talking point on the Gophers was how they hadn't won 8 games in a row since 1949 (!!!). This week, it's 9 straight and their first 7-0 start to a season since the 1960 National Championship team.
Head Coach P.J. Fleck, during his weekly appearance on the Sports Huddle with Sid Hartman, Mike Max and Dave Mona, talked about how the team tries to block out the noise and concentrate one game at at time (shout-out to Wisconsin).
"I did tell our team, you know, everybody talks on these outside walls about trap games and different things like that," said Fleck. "Well, we, we talked to our players that those don't exist. They only exist if you let them happen. And so right before we went out, you know, I've talked about our four walls and I said, you know, when you have things from the outside come inside your walls and affect you, things like that (Wisconsin loss) happen. And it's college football. I mean, it can happen to anybody on any given Saturday. That's why you gotta be always at your best. Take one game at a time and look to be 1-0 in each season that you have."
That will have to be the case again this Saturday as the Gophers host 3-3 Maryland, and Minnesota has already opened as a 15.5 point favorites.
Maryland started the season with big wins over Howard and Syracuse, but has struggled since, only beating Rutgers. Saturday, the Terps fell to Indiana. But, Maryland has beaten the Gophers the last two seasons, winning 31-24 in 2017 and 42-13 last year in an ugly loss on the road for the Gophs.
It looked bad Saturday. It seemed better Sunday. Now it looks like really good news on Monday as Fleck said Martin is now a "game-time decision" for Maryland. There's no specific ansswer yet on the leg injury, but the fact that he's not heading for immediate surgery looks like a big win.
The Gophers can't afford injuries to major contributors to continue the dream season and Martin is a major contributer. The good news is there is a bye week between Maryland and the showdown with Penn State if Martin needs more time.
O’Brien, a four-time survivor of rare bone cancer osteosarcoma, walked into Fleck's office and told him "I'm going to play for you." Saturday, he got into the game, holding on extra points in the 4th quarter.
Now, Casey O'Brien has been named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week! It was the ultimate in feel-good stories.
Amen to that.
How About Some Love for #1?
Yes, it seems like Rodney Smith (#1) has been around forever. He's a 6th year senior thanks to some injuries and redshirts. Boy is he back and healthy. The Gophers have depth at RB (Brooks and Ibrahim have been great in stretches over their careers) but Smith is the leader.
Saturday, Smith ran for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns. It's his fourth consecutive game with 100+ yards. That makes Smith and Laurence Maroney the only players in school history with multiple streaks of four or more games with 100 yards (according to ESPN).
Smith is shifty, hard to tackle and surprisingly fast. His success is setting up easy throws for Tanner Morgan and the talented wide receivers. That's why Minnesota is scoring points at an historic rate for this program: over 28 points in every game, something they haven't done since 1905.
Smith is a huge reason why along with Morgan's emergence and the offensive line's improvement.
As noted above, the Gophers have struggled with Maryland the last two seasons. The Gophers are definitely better this season. But this is not a game to overlook. Fleck says they are not going to overlook the Terps.
"Our focus is all Maryland, just like last week when we said focus on Rutgers, our season doesn't go any past next Saturday and we've got a lot of work to do. They are a dangerous football team because they're a team that can score 77 points and they've proven that and they've got explosive play makers everywhere. We've already started to watch them. And they're very talented," said Fleck.
While they may be talented according to the Head Coach, that has not translated to success in Big Ten games for Maryland. They hung huge numbers on Howard and Syracuse to start the year (79 and 63 respectively). Then they somehow lost to Temple, got blown off the field by Penn State and Purdue, and Indiana hung on to win last week (Maryland's only Big Ten win was over Rutgers 48-7 but we know all about how bad Rutgers is).
This is a very winnable game for Minnesota, but if they don't play well, don't be surprised if Maryland scares the gold pants off them. Maryland has the athletes to steal this game.
The Path to the Rose Bowl is there!
Since the Head Coach won't look past Maryland, we will.
That's a LOT of what ifs of course, but there is a clear path to the first Rose Bowl since 1961 for Minnesota. And there hasn't been anything close to a "clear path" to the Rose Bowl since 1967. Long ways to go, but it's fun to speculate!