The Gophers have not played in the Rose Bowl in more than half a century. Yes, their last appearance in the “Grandaddy of them all” was in 1962, when they defeated UCLA 21-3.
Since then, the game has been the pie-in-the-sky benchmark for a return to prominence for Minnesota — the game fans dared to dream about. One coach, Joe Salem, even (infamously in retrospect) posed with a rose in his mouth for a billboard. The Gophers never even managed to finish above .500 in conference play under ol’ Smoky Joe. That was more than 30 years ago.
Lou Holtz conjured images of Pasadena. Glen Mason’s best teams ultimately were woulda coulda shoulda teases that accomplished plenty but couldn’t make a really serious dent in Rose Bowl talk. Tim Brewster had a patch of Rose Bowl grass. No, really.
And here we are today. It would be getting way ahead of ourselves to talk about the Rose Bowl, even in a normal year for the game. The Gophers under Jerry Kill are 3-0 in the Big Ten for the first time in nearly a quarter-century, and the next two games on their schedule (at Illinois, home vs. Iowa) are certainly winnable. Their final three (Ohio State, at Nebraska, at Wisconsin) are more than daunting.
But still, at 3-0, this is the kind of start that would allow most fans to have at least a realistic dream of the Rose Bowl in most years. Indeed, we’ve heard chatter from plenty of them already about that very bowl game.
However, a lot has changed about the game — and getting to the game — in recent years. Unlike many of the seasons in the great Rose Bowl drought, getting there can be complicated.
This season, in particular, it would require being one of the top four teams in college football. That’s because under the new four-game playoff system, the Rose Bowl hosts one of the national semifinals every three years. And this happens to be one of those years.
The Gophers are still in the running for the playoff (think of that, for a moment), but even a Minnesota team that fell short of the playoff but wound up winning the Big Ten would get bounced to a different bowl this season.
Everyone within the program — fans included — would gladly accept that outcome because it would still be the best year for the program since the 1960s. But there would still be some unfortunate irony if the Gophers finally had a season worthy of the Rose Bowl, only to find out they picked the wrong year to be great.
Again: nice problem to have, should it happen — and a long way to go before it becomes a reality. Just remember it will take a lot more to smell roses this season than in past years.
Each week, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.
96 — win probability, in percentage, for the Vikings before fourth and 20 on Sunday.
The Vikings had a victory within their grasp on Sunday when the Bills got the football with just over three minutes left. And you can’t ask for a much better opportunity to seize it than the one they got after a pair of sacks pushed the Bills back to fourth and 20. At that point, the Vikings had a win probability of 96 percent, according to advancedfootballanalytics.com, and the Bills had just a 12 percent chance of converting for a first down. But they did, and the Vikings’ win probability plummeted to 68 percent. The odds were still in their favor, but they couldn’t recover from that play.
22 — total quarterback pressures for left defensive end Brian Robison this season.
Right defensive end Everson Griffen is getting a lot of attention for his play, and rightfully so. After recording three sacks against the Bills, he now has seven on the season, tied for second in the NFL behind only Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller, who has eight. But believe it or not, Robison has been more disruptive based on the numbers from Pro Football Focus. Robison has only one half of a sack this season, but he has generated 22 total pressures, which ranks 11th in the NFL. Griffen, meanwhile, is tied for 19th with 19, though his pressures have been much more impactful.
65 — yards after contact per carry for running back Jerick McKinnon against the Bills.
Last week, head coach Mike Zimmer challenged the Vikings running backs to get him an average of three yards after contact per carry against the Bills. His rookie running back obliged and then some. According to Pro Football Focus, 65 of McKinnon’s 103 rushing yards came after a Bills defender put a hand on him. That’s an average of 3.4 yards after contact per carry. McKinnon also forced four missed tackles against the Bills. He had that many on the season entering the game.
one — pressures allowed by offensive linemen Joe Berger and Mike Harris in relief.
Thirteen plays into the 17-16 loss to the Bills, the Vikings lost a pair of starting offensive linemen on the same running play. Center John Sullivan suffered a concussion and right guard Vlad Ducasse hurt his knee, forcing Berger and Harris into action. Against a formidable Bills front, and with Harris playing a position he hadn’t played since peewee, that duo combined to allow just one pressure, according to Pro Football Focus. McKinnon also had success running behind those two.
two — sacks of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater that came in 2.5 seconds or fewer.
The Vikings offensive line has been under the microscope after three straight games with at least five sacks allowed. But one statistic suggests that the issues in pass protection aren’t all on the big guys. According to Pro Football Focus, only two of the sacks Bridgewater has taken this season came within 2.5 seconds of the snap. The other 13 came after 2.5 seconds, which is tied for the seventh most in the league (keep in mind that Bridgewater has only played three and a half games). So maybe there is something to the rookie holding the ball a split second too long in the pocket.