Welcome to The Ciskie Blog's 2008 College Football Preview. As usual, you can expect a rundown of every Division I-A (or "Football Bowl Subdivision", if you prefer) conference, as well as a brief look at the independents. Some of the information used to compile these previews came from various football preview publications that I took the time to review this summer. I give a full endorsement to Phil Steele's College Football Preview (the national edition, as well as his various regional magazines). I also have looked at Sporting News, Athlon Sports, and Blue Ribbon (via ESPN Insider). Information was also gathered from local newspapers and school websites. Please use the comments section or e-mail for feedback, questions, and any corrections you feel need to be noted.
Last year: 1-11 overall, 0-8 Big Ten (11th)
Postseason: Yeah, right
In good shape
Quarterback. I really like Adam Weber. He worked behind a pretty good offensive line, yes, but for a redshirt freshman QB to start every game on a terrible team and only get sacked 13 times says something. Weber took good care of himself, and he used his mobility well. The problem for Weber was his high number of interceptions (19), which is totally correctable with experience and coaching. Not only did Weber chuck 24 touchdowns and throw for nearly 2,900 yards, but he also led the team with over 600 rushing yards. 3,500 total yards for a freshman in the Big Ten? Yeah, he's good. He's also lucky, because he gets to throw to unheralded receiver Eric Decker, who caught 67 balls last year and will get more this year now that Ernie Wheelwright has moved on.
Defense. The Gophers were flat-out embarrassing on defense a year ago, allowing nearly 230 rush yards and over 500 total yards per game. The 37 points per game allowed represented a double-digit increase from 2006. Coach Tim Brewster welcomes a new defensive coordinator in former Duke head coach Ted Roof. The hope is that he'll find a way to clean things up, with help from a handful of JUCOs Brewster brought in. The Gophers lose three of their top four tacklers, including S Dominique Barber and two LBs (John Shevlin and Mike Sherels). Brewster is trying to inject some speed into his linebackers, but will the speed be enough to overcome a lack of starting experience at the position?
The hole Brewster (right) dug in his first season is massive, but he has help. Weber is a very good talent, as is Decker. Finding a running game is key there, because Weber can't afford to take the pounding that comes along with continuing to be his team's leading rusher. Roof has a huge project with the defense, but Brewster did bring in a tremendous recruiting class and he has tremendous hopes for the unit.
The schedule isn't very forgiving (the Gophers miss out on Penn State and Michigan State, but get to play Ohio State, Illinois, and Wisconsin all on the road. Yippee!), but it's likely Minnesota will find a way to win a league game or two this time around. Overall, something around four or five wins would constitute improvement, though it might not be enough to keep the vultures from circling. Minnesota moves into a new on-campus football stadium in 2009, and can ill afford for Brewster's big-talk act to keep producing losing seasons. After all, if they wanted the football program to suck, they would have kept Glen Mason around.