RandBall: Pessimism? Nah. Now the best Gophers teams can compete in College Football Playoff

BleedGopher

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Per RandBall:

It's easy to be pessimistic about the near-term future of the Gophers football program.

After relative stability and success in 2019, 2021 and 2022, P.J. Fleck's Gophers slumped to a five-win regular season in 2023 -- including losses in their last four Big Ten games.

They enter 2024 with oddsmakers having set their over-under victory total at 4.5, owing to a daunting schedule and last year's disappointing finish. The Big Ten is adding four new schools that will make it harder for Minnesota to compete for a conference title. And the era of name, image and likeness plus the transfer portal makes it harder to build a program from the ground up -- a strength of Fleck.

But I'm asking you to set all that aside for a moment and take a look at the long view. For the first time in several decades, the Gophers have a realistic chance to be a contender on the national stage.


Go Gophers!!
 


Yup. It’s true. They’re going to have to be good, but that was always the case. And that was always going to be the challenge. They no longer have to be unbeaten to play for a championship. They likely don’t even have to be big ten champs. A 10-2 big ten team who misses the big ten championship game is going to be in the playoff more times than not.
 

Certainly a reasonable take to have this optimism. The playoff expansion is the only thing that keeps alive the hope of national relevance for the bottom 2/3 “new Big Ten” teams. Would be actually much better to be ranked #12 (even if that is 3rd place in B1G) and in a playoff game instead of the Citrus Bowl.
 

I am confused.... is this optimism from some of our local sports media?

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It is a little disappointing it is basically "playoffs" and not anything ABOUT the gopher team or program so much.
 


Get the playoff up to 14-16, sure, every 5-10 years we can get a bottom 3-4 seed and hit the road in the first round.

But hey, we made it!
 

A 10-2 big ten team who misses the big ten championship game is going to be in the playoff more times than not.
True.

Going to be much tougher to go 10-2 with the new Big Ten schedule than the old West.

Especially if they do this stupid ass thing of insisting on playing a P5 home/home in non-conf so that a few handfuls of wealthy fans can have a “fun” trip they can take in September. :rolleyes::rolleyes:

Here’s a fun trip idea: a meaningful postseason game!!!
 

That was a refreshing read, though I think he is too quick to dismiss the possibility of us winning a conference title. I am so sick of the lazy take that, just because it is hard, there is some magical ceiling of success we can't possibly break through.

Washington remains my example. There is no reason we can't achieve what washington did this year. Washington is in an urban environment, with major pro sports competition, and is in the same conference as USC and Oregon. Sure, they had some Nebraska type success more than a decade before today's players were born, but that is about as relevant to today as our Bierman days are. During the four Brewster years, a low point in our program, Washington won fewer games than we did (and that was right after they won a combined total of 3 games in the prior two seasons). No one is going to convince me that, with the right coach, we cant achieve what Washington did this year.
 

With leadership & desire from the U's President, fans & business community. Gopher football can be a destination for players to find their success on-off the field. College football playoffs should be a goal obtained every season. The question remains do we have the President, fans & business community willing to make that happen? A successful football program takes more than 60 minutes on a fall afternoon. Failing to plan for success is planning to fail. We have the HC what else is missing? "Crop rotation would have prevented the Irish potato famine." King George III
 



That was a refreshing read, though I think he is too quick to dismiss the possibility of us winning a conference title. I am so sick of the lazy take that, just because it is hard, there is some magical ceiling of success we can't possibly break through.

Washington remains my example. There is no reason we can't achieve what washington did this year. Washington is in an urban environment, with major pro sports competition, and is in the same conference as USC and Oregon.
Correct. And Washington has been 4-8 in the last 5 years. You just need lightning in a bottle
Sure, they had some Nebraska type success more than a decade before today's players were born, but that is about as relevant to today as our Bierman days are. During the four Brewster years, a low point in our program, Washington won fewer games than we did (and that was right after they won a combined total of 3 games in the prior two seasons). No one is going to convince me that, with the right coach, we cant achieve what Washington did this year.
 


Yup. It’s true. They’re going to have to be good, but that was always the case. And that was always going to be the challenge. They no longer have to be unbeaten to play for a championship. They likely don’t even have to be big ten champs. A 10-2 big ten team who misses the big ten championship game is going to be in the playoff more times than not.
I don't know...I can see a 10-2 gopher team getting left out behind another 10-2 Big Ten team who doesn't get into the Big Ten Championship, a 10-2 SEC team not in the SEC championship, or even a 9-3 SEC team. You think we're getting in if we have the same record as Michigan, Oregon, Penn St, Wisconsin, Iowa, or a team like Auburn, LSU, Texas, Florida, with a slightly worse record?
 

I don't know...I can see a 10-2 gopher team getting left out behind another 10-2 Big Ten team who doesn't get into the Big Ten Championship, a 10-2 SEC team not in the SEC championship, or even a 9-3 SEC team. You think we're getting in if we have the same record as Michigan, Oregon, Penn St, Wisconsin, Iowa, or a team like Auburn, LSU, Texas, Florida, with a slightly worse record?
Looking back the past two years, there would have been one 10-2 P5 team left out of a 12 team format each year (Oklahoma this past year and Washington two years ago). I would expect most 10-2 P5 (do we call it P4 now?) will get in. And would think most years it wouldn't be a Big Ten team being left out in that scenario due to the strength of schedule. But if it came down to say a Minnesota and a Clemson or someone like that, they may go with the more traditional powerhouse because the committee is extremely biased.
 



Something else to consider (maybe it's wishful thinking) is that with the additions to the conference, that could help with recruiting. Top players want to play for the best. If they don't get that offer, then they generally want to play against the best as much as possible. Fleck and coaches can now say we'll play the likes of Michigan, Ohio St, Oregon, Washington, USC, Penn St at least several times every year. That clearly puts the Big Ten and SEC above the others.
 

Something else to consider (maybe it's wishful thinking) is that with the additions to the conference, that could help with recruiting. Top players want to play for the best. If they don't get that offer, then they generally want to play against the best as much as possible. That clearly puts the Big Ten and SEC above the others.
That will happen. Winners are attracted to winners. The SEC & B1G will gain more teams of their choosing strengthening the two conferences & weakening the others. Not everything runs like a Deere.
 

I don't know...I can see a 10-2 gopher team getting left out behind another 10-2 Big Ten team who doesn't get into the Big Ten Championship, a 10-2 SEC team not in the SEC championship, or even a 9-3 SEC team. You think we're getting in if we have the same record as Michigan, Oregon, Penn St, Wisconsin, Iowa, or a team like Auburn, LSU, Texas, Florida, with a slightly worse record?
Entering conference championship week in 2023 there were 14 power 5 teams with 10+ wins

Entering conference championship week in 2022 there were 10 power 5 teams with 10+ wins

Entering conference championship week in 2021 there were 14 power 5 teams with 10+ wins

Entering 2019 there were 14 power 5 teams with 10+ wins



There aren’t 5 power conference anymore. There are 4. I would predict due to more cross-scheduling there is less mathematical likelihood of many 10+ win teams because when teams play someone has to lose.
Plus of the new power 4 there is really a power 2.

The big ten and SEC 10 win teams are going to get the benefit of the doubt over 10 win Big 12 and ACC teams most of the time. Plus the top G5 team always has an auto bid.

A 10 win team won’t get a bid every year but a 10 win big ten team is going to get a bid >50% of the time.
A 9 win big ten team is going to get a bid >0% of the time

If the gopher beat Iowa and have same record, Iowa won’t go before them. If gophers have 10 wins and lost to Iowa next year it means they beat at least 4 of Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, USC, Penn State.
 

Looking back the past two years, there would have been one 10-2 P5 team left out of a 12 team format each year (Oklahoma this past year and Washington two years ago). I would expect most 10-2 P5 (do we call it P4 now?) will get in. And would think most years it wouldn't be a Big Ten team being left out in that scenario due to the strength of schedule. But if it came down to say a Minnesota and a Clemson or someone like that, they may go with the more traditional powerhouse because the committee is extremely biased.
And the big ten gets more benefit of doubt moving forward AND there aren’t 5 power 5s anymore. Only 4. And 2 are clearly better than the other two.


2024 gophers at 10-2 have wins against at least 4 of
USC, Iowa, Penn state, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina

There will be years where schedule isn’t as tough and 10-2 might have them on the fringe (like 2025) but 10-2 will get any big ten team in over half the time
 

Last year Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Missouri, LSU combined for 11 losses in the regular season

Next year just based on the schedule they’re already guaranteed at least 10 and that’s assuming everyone on that list sweeps everyone not on that list.


Last year Washington, Oregon, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn state, and Iowa combined for 6 regular season losses.
Next year they are guaranteed at least 8, and that assumes everyone on that list sweeps everyone not on that list.

There simply mathematically can’t be as many 0 and 1 loss teams as their used to be due to consolidation of conferences.
 

Last year Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Missouri, LSU combined for 11 losses in the regular season

Next year just based on the schedule they’re already guaranteed at least 10 and that’s assuming everyone on that list sweeps everyone not on that list.


Last year Washington, Oregon, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn state, and Iowa combined for 6 regular season losses.
Next year they are guaranteed at least 8, and that assumes everyone on that list sweeps everyone not on that list.

There simply mathematically can’t be as many 0 and 1 loss teams as their used to be due to consolidation of conferences.

Plus if any combo of 2 meet in their Conference Championship game, that's yet another loss.
 

But this brings me back to another question though...does a 10-2 gopher team (and not just MN let's say a 10-2 Maryland, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, etc.) get in over a 9-3 Alabama in a down year for them?
 

But this brings me back to another question though...does a 10-2 gopher team (and not just MN let's say a 10-2 Maryland, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, etc.) get in over a 9-3 Alabama in a down year for them?
Depends on schedule really. Most of the time, yes. But not every time.

In 2025 the gophers have a really soft schedule. So in 2025 the gophers lose to Oregon and Ohio state then the possibility exists of not really having a quality win at 10-2

If the gophers go 9-3 in 2024 I think the possibility exists of jumping a 10-2 ACC or Big 12 team because of how tough the schedule is. So it cuts both ways.

With imbalanced schedules, the possibility exists of a 9-3 gopher team next year jumping a 10-2 big ten team.
For instance, if Washington takes a step back oregons schedule is pretty soft.

Here is Oregon schedule and how I would rank the difficulty:
Ohio State
@ Michigan
Washington
@ Wisconsin
Maryland
Boise State
@ Oregon State (who is going to be bad I think)
UCLA (who I think is going to be awful)
No other teams over .500 last year on schedule

Minnesota:
@ Michigan
Penn State
USC
@ Wisconsin
Iowa
North Carolina
@ Rutgers
Maryland
@ UCLA

If Minnesota goes 6-3 against those 9 and Oregon goes 6-2 against those 8 but beats neither of Ohio state and Michigan…Minnesota had the better resume unless Washington is a 9+ win team (and I don’t think they will be)


The perception is teams like Minnesota get slighted over helmet schools. But that perception was largely created from imbalanced schedules. Minnesota is no longer in a situation where they are automatically downgraded for being big ten west. Now a bunch of schools are downgrade for being ACC or Big 12.

To answer your question of 10-2 Minnesota vs 9-3 Bama who gets left out in 2024?
Probably 11-1 Florida State or 10-2 Kansas to be honest.
 

Washington remains my example. There is no reason we can't achieve what washington did this year.
Washington wouldn’t have won the Big Ten this year.

It’s going to be incredibly hard to do that. As if it wasn’t already.

Until/unless there is NFL level parity installed, salary/NIL caps, limited player movement/contracts, and an incoming talent draft …. there is really no reason to expect programs like Washington, Minn, Iowa, Wisc to ever get to the very tip top.

They can still be very good and make the playoff.
 

That was a refreshing read, though I think he is too quick to dismiss the possibility of us winning a conference title. I am so sick of the lazy take that, just because it is hard, there is some magical ceiling of success we can't possibly break through.

Washington remains my example. There is no reason we can't achieve what washington did this year. Washington is in an urban environment, with major pro sports competition, and is in the same conference as USC and Oregon. Sure, they had some Nebraska type success more than a decade before today's players were born, but that is about as relevant to today as our Bierman days are. During the four Brewster years, a low point in our program, Washington won fewer games than we did (and that was right after they won a combined total of 3 games in the prior two seasons). No one is going to convince me that, with the right coach, we cant achieve what Washington did this year.
I think the difference between Washington and Minnesota is the Huskies have both a more favorable press and, more importantly, more generous boosters. Last season at least two Huskies had Adidas NIL deals, and others had very good NIL income. Did any Gopher have a nationally known company sponsor them? And if they signed a top recruit, could they get similar NIL for them?
 

But this brings me back to another question though...does a 10-2 gopher team (and not just MN let's say a 10-2 Maryland, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, etc.) get in over a 9-3 Alabama in a down year for them?
All those Alabama wins were against teams with a quality Alabama loss!
 

People are stating their excuses why Gopher football can not compete in the college football playoffs. It would be nice to read Solutions Not Excuses! Confucius Say: By the time a man realizes that his father was right, he has a son who thinks he’s wrong.
 

Gophers in the CFP, not in my life time nor yours. Sorry, just not in the cards. Too many variables against us. Lack of NIL money, cold climate, very little Help from the university Administration, jut to many factors against us.
 

Henry Ford: "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right." He is mistakenly credited for the assembly line. As Bill Walsh is mistakenly credited with inventing the West Coast Offense.
 

Gophers in the CFP, not in my life time nor yours. Sorry, just not in the cards. Too many variables against us. Lack of NIL money, cold climate, very little Help from the university Administration, jut to many factors against us.
I don't know your life expectancy, but I tend to disagree. I may be overly optimistic, but I think that the playoff is going to go from 12 to 16 and then probably 24 or more. As overall revenues increase some form of compensation agreement will be reached with the players and NIL (or booster payouts) will fade as the primary income generator for most. Eventually, the powers that be will see that the best way to keep growing the pie will be to create more parity among the teams (following the NFL model where they have found that keeping a larger percentage of the teams in playoff contention increases the revenue pool for everybody). In that framework, the Minnesotas of the world may not be annual contenders, but they will find themselves in the running from time to time.
 

with the 12-team playoff, the odds are pretty high that the top-ranked G5 conference champ is probably going to be rated lower in the CFP ratings. in '23 Liberty was #23. so realistically, the Gophers would have to be 11th or higher in the CFP to get a playoff spot.

and I will note that in 2019, the 10-2 Gophers - prior to the Bowl Game - were 18th in the final CFP ratings. (Wisconsin was 8th with a 10-3 record......)

so Randball is saying that every 5 to 10 years, the Gophers should be expected to have a season that is (on paper) better than their best season since winning a National Championship in 1960.

that's a tall order.

Now, there is already talk of expanding the playoffs to 14 or 16 teams, which would improve the odds of qualifying, but it's still going to take a really good season - probably at least 10 wins.
 





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