Schedule Heats up for Gophers

With a record of 1-1 the Gophers now start a schedule that is as a tough as any in the nation. In the next 10 games, Minnesota will face the top four ranked teams in the Big Ten as well as Pac-10 powerhouse, Southern Cal. This schedule features five top-25 opponents and is the toughest the Gophers have seen in years and considered one of the most difficult in all of college football.

Coming off an immensely disappointing loss to South Dakota, the Gophers will be looking for redemption this Saturday against the Trojans of USC. The Gophers cannot afford to go into conference play with a losing record. The road to recovery is not an easy one considering the talent level of USC.

Under the leadership of new coach Lane Kiffen, the Trojans are off to a 2-0 start with wins over Hawaii and Virginia. Although USC has not been dominant this season, they are always a dangerous team due to their talented roster year in and year out.

If the Gophers want to survive the Trojans' offensive attack, they must be able to stop quarterback Matt Barkley and the USC passing game. Barkley has started the season completing 65.5% of his passes for 459 yards and seven scores.

The difficult schedule that lies ahead starts with stopping the high-powered Trojan offense and coming away from Saturday's game with a victory.

One advantage the Gophers will have is they will be playing their hardest games in the comfort of TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota plays USC, Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa in the Twin Cities.

These four games could prove to be one of the turning points in the season. Minnesota can pull an upset on any of these teams, it could be a huge momentum swing in the season. Although the Gophers have not been stellar at TCF Bank Stadium, 4-8 since it opened last season, they stand a much better chance against these top ranked teams.

Playing away games at the Horseshoe, State College or Kinnick Stadium is no easy task for any team. The Gophers must use their home field advantage to hopefully get a win over one of these top programs.

The main focus for the Gophers should be to win a rivalry game. This year's senior have yet to win a rivalry game over Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn State or Michigan. The Gophers need to pull a huge upset and win one of their rivalry games in order to have a successful season.

In recent years, Minnesota has struggled in all of their rivalry games winning just four out of their last 20 games against their four rivals. When the Gophers face off against Wisconsin, Iowa and Penn State this season, there will be extra motivation that goes beyond winning a traveling trophy.

The seniors on this team have something to prove and could be motivating enough to have the Gophers come away with a win over one or more of their rivals.

Games against non-top 25 teams will not be easy for the Gophers as well. Both Northwestern and Michigan State have gotten off to great starts and are starting to receive votes in both the AP and USA Today polls.

Although the Gopher beat both teams last year, they are squads that have improved since last season. Northwestern had a shaky start to the season, beating Vanderbilt by a score of 23-21.

The Wildcats rebounded with a dominant victory over Illinois State, winning 37-3. The Spartans have been dominant in their two victories thus far, averaging 34 points per game.

Michigan States' rushing attack has been unstoppable, averaging 261 yards per game on the ground. Although neither Michigan State nor Northwestern is ranked, they will be difficult tests for a Gophers team that needs to pick up wins whenever it can.

As the season progresses, the Gophers' schedule will continue to get tougher. After the embarrassing loss to South Dakota, fans can hope for a revitalized and hungry Gopher team that should fight their way through this seemingly impossible schedule.

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