Minnesota Gopher coach Tim Brewster has been on the hot seat all season long, having lost two games to allegedly inferior opponents prior to the start of the Big Ten conference schedule.
Looking ahead, there appear to be only two or three games where the Gophers (1-3) appear to have a legitimate chance to pick up a victory, and the first is this weekend against Northwestern during the U’s homecoming contest at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Wildcats are favored to beat the Gophers, and their style of offense (their quarterback has completed more than 80% of his passes this season) seems to be a bad match for a Gophers defense that has been among the worst statistically in the country through the season’s first four games.
If Brewster has any hope of keeping his job at the end of this season, he must find a way to pick up a victory against Northwestern. Those in the know say it will take 7 wins this season for the fourth-year coach to keep his job. That isn’t going to happen, even with a victory on Saturday. More realistically, if the Gophers can go 4-4 the rest of the way, Brewster would have a chance to keep his job. That would still leave Minnesota with a losing record at 5-7, but Brewster and the U of M athletic department might see the 4-4 record as momentum worth another season.
But where could the four victories come from over the next 8 weeks? Well, here are the opportunities.
* Northwestern: It’s homecoming, and the Wildcats do not have overwhelming athletic talent. However, Pat Fitzgerald gets the most out of his players. Even still, I expect the Gophers to give one last gasp at turning this season around, and this could be a more competitive game than some think.
* Purdue: The Gophers travel to Purdue on Oct. 16th to face a Boilermaker squad that is without its starting quarterback for the rest of the season. This probably is the best chance of a Big Ten victory for the Gophers.
* Illinois: The Gophers beat Illinois on the road two years ago, and they’ll get a chance to repeat that feat in November.
In reality, those are the only three legitimate chances at victories for the Gophers. Could a fourth victory happen? It’s not likely. It would take an upset of Penn State at home, Wisconsin on the road or Iowa at home in the season finale. The most winnable game out of that trio surprisingly might be Penn State at home, given the fact the Nittany Lions start a freshman at quarterback and if Minnesota has picked up a couple of Big Ten victories prior to that game, it’s possible the momentum could lead to an upset. But while it’s possible, a more likely outcome is a 31-14 Penn State victory.
The Big Ten conference schedule offers a chance at a new start for Brewster’s squad. It’s also likely his LAST chance at a new start.