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August 16, 2013

12 Greatest Days of the Year

Weddings, birthday parties, reunions, spending time with the family...all rather unfortunate activities that seem to pop up every year on Saturday's in the Fall that conflict with the 12 greatest days of the year...Golden Gopher football gamedays. Lucky for you GI.com rates the greatest days of the year. So, if you are mentally weak and your significant other runs the house (see Matt O'Connell) use the following guide to adjust your days off.

No. 12
September 7
at New Mexico State
There are so many reasons why the New Mexico State game gets kicked to the curb. Yes, it is an important game and clearly one of the 12 Greatest Days of the Year, but there are just too many flaws. The strong possibility exists that this game will not be on television, it is a road game that should be over by halftime, New Mexico State is breaking in a brand new coaching staff, and the Aggies are so bad that they can't even find a conference to take them. Let's keep one thing clear, in no way am I encouraging anyone or signing off on any paperwork giving permission to miss this game. However, if it has been clearly identified that there is a game that needs to be missed, sneak some earbuds into your hat and listen to the game via radio.

No. 11
September 14
v. Western Illinois
Should be another snoozer but sometimes it can be fun to win a laugher at home and get a chance to see some second and third stringers get some playing time in the fourth quarter. Plus, it is an 11:00 game and I love me some morning football at TCF Bank Stadium. Watch the Gophers dominate the Leathernecks and then get home in time to watch Johnny Manziel put his signature on another upset victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide.

No. 10
September 21
v. San Jose State
Quite possibly the best nonconference opponent this year and a chance for Gopher fans to see a potential NFL quarterback in David Fales. However, it just cannot trump the season and home opener under the lights against UNLV. I fully expect Minnesota to be 4-0 as they enter Big Ten play, actually I fully expect them to be 5-0 when they enter the Big House to play Michigan on October 5th. This game reminds me a lot of the Syracuse home game of 2012 when the Orange came to town with a high profile offense with quarterback Ryan Nassib.

No. 9
November 2
at Indiana
The Gophers rarely play Indiana and according to future schedules will continue to rarely play Indiana in the new look Big Ten. If there is a Big Ten game that would have the potential to be boring and one that could be missed it would be the road trip to Bloomington. There is a strong chance the Hoosiers will be wearing one of their many hideous uniform combinations, an even better chance that there will be less that 20,000 fans in attendance and there is a chance the Gophers could be entering the contest in a three game losing streak. If you can look past the negatives the positive is clear, a strong chance to see a Golden Gopher Big Ten road victory.

No. 8
August 29
Should be a great night at TCF Bank Stadium and a night that many diehard Gopher fans have looked forward to since December 28, 2012 when the Gophers lost to Texas Tech in the Menieke Car Care Bowl in Houston, Texas. It would be a shame if the game wasn't played in front of a sellout crowd. The Gophers and Rebels opened the 2012 season off with a bang in the Vegas desert when the teams played three overtimes before the Gophers escaped with the victory. UNLV will be better, but so will the Gophers and the season will be kicked off in style with a home victory over the Rebels from the Mountain West.

No. 7
November 30
at Michigan State
The Gophers close out the season on the road against the Spartans in the last game with Michigan State as Legends Division rivals. I don't expect the Gophers or Spartans to be playing for anything other than bowl position as both teams will have at least seven victories entering the game and neither will be in contention to play the following week in Indianapolis against the Ohio State Buckeyes for the Big Ten title. A long time until the game is played and I expect many things to change between now and then, but I would expect this game to be dominated by the defenses. The weather should be less than ideal for pitch and catch, the Spartans have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten...and possibly one of the worst offenses, and I fully expect the Gophers to finally have a defense that Minnesota fans can be proud of in 2013.

No. 6
October 19
at Northwestern
Want to make a Big Ten road trip and not have to worry about fighting for or paying a high price for tickets? If so head to Northwestern and the home of the Wildcats, also home to the only D2 stadium in the Big Ten. There is no question that the Wildcats are flying high and heading in the right direction under the best college football coach in the Big Ten in Pat Fitzgerald. However, it is still yet to be determined if anyone outside of the NU alumni will actually care and adopt the Wildcats as their team. For the Gophers to continue to make progress under Jerry Kill they need to set their sights on Northwestern (as well as Iowa and Purdue) and jump them in the Big Ten hierarchy. As far as 2013 goes, the Gophers and Wildcats always seem to play entertaining games and if the Gopher linebackers can figure out how to tackle Kain Colter and Venric Mark the Gophers will have a chance at the upset in Evanston.

No. 5
November 9
v. Penn State
If you have to sit out a conference home game this is the one to miss. There is no chance you can miss one of the Big 3 rivalry home games, even though selling those tickets would put the most cash back in your wallet. Penn State is a tricky team to figure out and one that will be watched closely this year. They were fully expected to drop significantly in the standings immediately under Bill O'Brien, but that didn't happen in 2012 despite the major penalties and player departures that Penn State was forced to deal with just weeks before the start of the season. This year the Lions are expecting to break in a brand new starting quarterback and he appears to be a good one in 5-star recruit Christian Hackenberg. This game also has the potential to be close and one that could lead to a energetic and rock'n atmosphere late in the contest. I expect a close game and one to be decided late in the fourth quarter or even into overtime.

No. 4
October 12
at Michigan
This might not be the best chance for a road Big Ten victory but Gopher fans will be sky high and on the edge of their seats come kickoff time. The Gophers (5-0, 1-0) will be over two touchdown underdogs but they won't feel it and will be looking for Jerry Kill's first signature win at Minnesota. Michigan (4-0, 0-0) will be hosting their Big Ten opener in 2013 and will seem irritated by the pesky Gophers. Expect a close game through three quarters but Michigan will be too good and too deep for the Gophers and will eventually escape with a 17-point victory to retain the Little Brown Jug. The Gophers will head back to the Twin Cities exhausted and ready for their much needed bye week before their trip to Evanston two weeks later.

No. 3
October 26
v. Nebraska
Gophers fans might not be in the best of moods following the Nebraska game. There is a strong chance the young, but talented Gopher defense could get exposed by one of the better, if not the best offenses in the Big Ten. There is a strong chance that a loss to the Cornhuskers could be their third loss in a row (at Michigan, at Northwestern, v. Nebraska). There is a strong chance that the game could be played in front of over 15,000 Cornhusker fans. However, there is also a strong chance that the completely brutal Cornhusker defense allows Minnesota's strong offensive line and running game to dominate time of possession, keep the defense fresh and ready to make a big play when needed, and put enough points on the scoreboard to keep things interesting. Could this be the "signature win" Jerry Kill was talking about at Media Day when he mentioned the need for one, and the need for one at home?

No. 2
November 23
v. Wisconsin
I'm sorry but I grew up in southern Minnesota and for the first 25 years of my life the rivalry with the Iowawegians was No. 1 on my priority list and for that reason the Badger game comes in at No. 2. Minnesota has yet to beat the Badgers at TCF Bank Stadium but that is poised to change in 2013. The Badgers will be experiencing a lot of changes in 2013 with Gary Andersen taking over for Gopher fan favorite Bret Bielema and I expect a 7-5 or 8-4 season for Bucky this year. I know Jerry Kill will never admit this but I would bet November 23rd is already circled on his calender and he is well aware of what a victory over the Badgers will mean to his program at the U.

No. 1
September 28
v. Iowa
The Gophers should...The Gophers better be...The Gophers will be 4-0 when the Hawkeyes come to TCF Bank Stadium for the Big Ten opener in 2013. Minnesota has never lost to Iowa at TCF Bank Stadium and that should remain constant for many years to come. With a 4-0 team and Iowa in town I would fully expect a sold out stadium and over 90% wearing maroon and gold. Jerry Kill is a college football guy and a college football coach who is well aware of the importance of beating your rivals, especially at home. I fully expect Kill to have his squad fired up for this game and for the Gophers to regain Floyd of Rosedale. If not, season expectations could change as consecutive games with Michigan, Northwestern and Nebraska loom in October.

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