No. 98? You gotta be kidding!?!
Enough is enough. It's time for a former University of Minnesota attendee to show pride in the Maroon and Gold football program.
The surprise is that the task has fallen to me.
The Sporting News was created in 1886 as a weekly newspaper to cover baseball. It has survived 124 years later to produce a comprehensive sports website on a daily basis. The current projects at sportingnews.com include a countdown of the top 100 teams in the NCAA's clumsily titled Football Bowl Subdivision.
The countdown started recently with a look at New Mexico State, No. 100 and a team that will provide the Gophers' opposition in the 2011 home opener.
This was followed by a report on Syracuse, No. 99 and the outfit the Gophers defeated in overtime in the 2009 opener.
You couldn't look at the Orange at No. 99 without wondering what it must be like to be the fan of a program with that legacy — the alma mater of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Gerhard Schwedes — and now to be looking upward at Central Florida (47), Temple (63), Idaho (76), Florida International (84) and its neighbors from Buffalo (95) in a national projection.
I found it difficult to imagine the angst if we in Minnesota were to find our lone top-division football team rated as more of an also-ran than UCF, Temple, Idaho, FIU and Buffalo, along with numerous other tradition-empty programs.
And then TSN's Matt Hayes wrote a review of No. 98 and it turned out to be the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the program of Bruce Smith, Paul Giel, Bob McNamara and Kent Kitzmann.
It was immediately after Memorial Day in 2007 when the new coaches, Tim Brewster and Tubby Smith, were the star attractions of a Gophers promotional caravan. In Hutchinson, Brewster was asked if he was overhyping the situation with his Rose Bowl shouts.
Brewster turned to Smith and said, "What do they want me to say, Tubby? That we're going to be .500?' "
Entering his fourth season, an assurance of .500 from Coach Brew would be quite a contrast to the Sporting News' analysis of the Gophers that included the following:
• 2010 projected record: 2-10 (1-7 in the Big Ten).
• Why we know we're right: ... The Gophers have struggled over the second half of the last two seasons, winning one of nine games in November and December. And now the schedule is front-loaded, including a big nonconference home game against USC and a dangerous season opener -- that's right, we're saying it -- at Middle Tennessee State.
• Why we might be wrong: [Quarterback Adam] Weber may break out of his funk ... The offensive line should be better. That should give Weber more protection and the running game more ability to take pressure off the shaky passing game.
• Our confidence level in this pick: High.
• Coach's job security: Shaky.
Hey, that's it, Hayes? You expect us to sit on our hands here on the prairie and not to protest your confident stance that our favorite rodents are headed for two victories overall, one in the Big Ten, and that our coach will be terminated before he fulfills his sacred promise to lead Gopher Nation to Pasadena?
I didn't spend all of that time and energy on campus trying to find ways to avoid parking tickets only to see Minnesota's grand football tradition besmirched in this manner. And then to find archrival Wisconsin ranked No. 8 -- 90 spots ahead of our maroon warriors -- makes this an unspeakable indignity.
So, if it's up to this zealous U of M dropout to say that you are full of cheddar with these projections, so be it, and also to offer a more worthy forecast for the autumn to come:
Decisive victories over the MTSU Blue Raiders and South Dakota, a narrow victory over Northern Illinois and a narrow loss to Southern Cal to finish 3-1 in nonconference games.
Home victories over Northwestern, Penn State and Iowa and losses to Ohio State and at Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State and Illinois to finish 3-5 in the Big Ten.
There it is, Mr. Sporting News Expert: A 6-6 finish that jumps Coach Brew's fourth squad comfortably into the nation's top 70 and a return to the Insight Bowl, an end-of-year tradition that never gets old for Gopher Nation.
We're loud, we're proud and we ain't going 2-10.