Breaking news: ESPN drastically underrates Golden Gophers talent pool. More at 11.
The ubiquitous Network has issued its
well-researched compulsory pre-season All Big Ten team. This type of thing is easy to rip on due to its very nature: speculative prediction of future results based on past performance and assumptions about unknown and unforeseeable factors. Because it’s easy to rip on, I’m going to rip on it.
Minnesota does not feature a single player on the list, and the players on the Gophers’ roster apparently don’t even merit an "also-ran" mention on this list, a distinction shared by only Illinois and Purdue. That’s right, Maryland and Rutgers (RUTGERS!) both have players who merited mention, but our Gophers did not.
Meanwhile, Michigan State has seven players on this list due simply to the fact that they play for Michigan State. For instance, QB Connor Cook is on the list (in place of Braxton Miller’s injured shoulder), despite the fact that his career completion percentage is below 59%. An even better example is DB Trae Waynes after having only 50 tackles last year.
Well, this is just ridiculous. So here are the four (or five) Gophers missed by the Network’s writers, in ascending order of the insanity of their exclusion from this list.
The Network’s list on defense is boring for one main reason: Michigan State’s defense was (and will be) awesome. MSU has the pleasure of seven patsy games on their schedule, but they’re also going to play at Oregon and have both Michigan and Ohio State on the schedule, so the defense should be tested. We’ll see how Trae Waynes and Kurtis Drummond hold up in those games, but they could put up some gaudy stats in the others.
My main argument for Murray is his potential. He had more tackles last year than Waynes, and 10 pass break ups. He also has tremendous upside. If he slightly increases those two numbers and adds an INT or two, he stats will be equal to Waynes, if not noticeably better. I’ll let PuckettWept make the more detailed argument.
Cedric Thompson and Derek Wells could also find themselves in contention in this arena as well. And let us not forget Antonio Thompson (I bet he’ll show up on btn.com’s pre-season watch list).
Look, I get it. We’re all very excited to have our first 1,000 yard rusher in years returning and we all think he’ll have even more yards and touchdowns than last year because of our improving front five. I even think he has the potential to earn REAL all-conference honors at the end of the season. However, it’s hard to argue too much with the Network’s selection of Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah over Cobb. I won’t let that stop me from trying.
Look at Wisconsin’s schedule. Here’s week’s two through nine: Western Illinois, Bowling Green, South Florida, Northwestern, Illinois [raise your hand you feel like I make it to a team with a good defense] Maryland AND Rutgers, [not seeing any hands in the air] and Purdue. If Gordon doesn’t rush for 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns in those eight games, his name should be excluded from post-season voting for awards. It’s possible that he could rush for less than 100 yards in four games (against LSU, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota) and still finish north of 2,000 yards for the year, so you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not overly impressed by that number.
Nebraska has a similarly soft schedule outside of a couple conference games, with teams like Florida (Atlantic), McNeese (Do-what-now?) State, Fresno State, Miami, Illinois, Northwestern, Rutgers, and Purdue. So again, Abdullah could put up crazy stats against bad defenses and I’m supposed to be impressed? No thank you.
Cobb will rush against TCU, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, so he’s looking at six quality opponents as opposed to four each for Abdullah and Gordon. If he puts up 1,500 yards against that schedule, does the Network seriously believe he doesn’t deserve consideration? I guess we’ll just have to hope voters factor that into their decision.
He is a sophomore freak athlete. He had five touchdowns and 25 receptions as a true freshman, and all indications are that he’s getting better. Tighteous Endeus Maximus will play in the NFL someday, and he reminds me a lot of Viking TE Kyle Rudolph. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doubled his receptions and TD’s from a year ago. If that happens, he’s more than a strong candidate for first team all-conference.
So who did the Network choose? They chose Michigan’s Devin Funchess… a wide receiver who might occasionally line up as a tight end. How do they explaining choosing a wide receiver as a tight end? Like this [emphasis mine]:
"TE: Devin Funchess, Michigan: Funchess might play wide receiver almost exclusively, in which case this should be viewed as a third wide receiver spot on the team. The matchup nightmare looks poised for a big season."
That’s how it’s done. Just acknowledge that he’s not a tight end, then call him a "matchup nightare" and stick with it. Why bother researching real tight ends in the conference? I mean, that’s looking at, like, thirteen other rosters. No thank you.
If they can do it, I can do it. So I’m choosing Maxx. Guess what? I’m not looking at any other rosters either. Hey, ESPN, I’m waiting for my paycheck.
The Network chose Michigan State’s Mike Sadler as their all-conference punter, because MSU was woefully underrepresented on their list... or something. Sadler had 76 punts last year, with a total yardage of more than 3,000. Eleven (ELEVEN!) of those came against Western Michigan (LOL), a game in which his average was 38.5 yards. That works out to 423 yards, or more than 10% of his total for the year. Look, he’s not a bad punter, but it’s not like he’s Ray Guy or something.
Mortell’s average punt in his first year of competition was 43.3 yards. Sadler’s was 42.5 yards. So you know, that’s like one of the two things that matter with punting, and Mortell was better.
The second aspect of punting that matters is field position. I would argue that nobody was better at pinning opponents inside their own 20 yard line last year than Mortell, and we have the gifs to prove it. How many Mike Sadler gifs are out there on the internet? That’s what I though.
In all seriousness, Mortell at least deserves mention at this position. Instead, the Network lazily chose Michigan State’s punter. After all, he was on the roster right next to the Michigan State kicker who they also chose to put on their list. ESPN is nothing if not thorough.
The Big Finish
It’s cool, ESPN. I love being the underdog in this conference. Nobody will see us coming. Good. It’s going to make this fall that much sweeter. And honestly, if ESPN gushes about us the way they gush about other teams and players, I might just vomit.
DarkKnight5 is a contributor for The Daily Gopher specializing in Golden Gopher hockey coverage. You can follow him on Twitter!
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