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ESPN GameDay Odds Heavy for Gophers


Next Sunday ESPN could announce its prestigious college football GameDay show will originate in Minneapolis on Saturday, October 24 for the Minnesota-Michigan game at TCF Bank Stadium. Sources report the game is under consideration by ESPN.

The odds of Minnesota hosting the show went up when ESPN announced yesterday its crew will be in Tuscaloosa for the Alabama-Georgia game this Saturday. The Alabama game at Tennessee October 24 looks like less competition for the Gophers now that the Volunteers lost to Georgia last weekend—and ESPN will not feature Alabama two weeks in succession.

October 23-24 is the opening weekend for Big Ten football and the conference’s prestige and large TV following will weigh positively on the ESPN decision. The Nebraska-Ohio State game in Columbus October 24 is no longer a rival for the Gophers hosting ESPN because Fox announced its kickoff show will be at Ohio Stadium that day.

A long-shot under consideration for October 24 could be the Cincinnati-SMU game in Dallas. In the latest AP national poll the Bearcats are ranked No. 8 and the Mustangs No. 17. But Minnesota and Michigan are also ranked, with the Gophers at No. 24 and Wolverines at No. 19, and an important American Athletic Conference game doesn’t have the same glitter as a Big Ten offering. On the Big Ten’s opening weekend, this is the conference’s only matchup of top 25 teams.

That’s a compelling factor and so, too, is the historic rivalry between the two programs. Michigan and Minnesota have been playing for possession of the Little Brown Jug since 1909. Considered the most famous of college football rivalry trophies, the Little Brown Jug is a made-for-TV optic with a fascinating storyline. The Gophers haven’t taken possession of the Jug in Minneapolis since 1977, adding extra meaning to the October 24 game.

Right now it looks like the Minnesota-Michigan matchup could be the biggest of the day not only in the Big Ten but across the country. This morning came the announcement the game will land on national TV with ABC offering a prime time 6:30 p.m. kickoff. The game has major ratings appeal starting with the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Detroit TV markets that are among the largest in the country. Expect big ratings numbers in Minnesota and Michigan, and the game will pull solid ratings throughout the nation—particularly in the Midwest.

The three-hour GameDay show, that dates back to 1993, has both the time and interest to take multiple angles on stories. It seems likely that if show producers come here they will report on how the Gophers have confronted the social justice issue since the tragic death of George Floyd. Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck has been outspoken about the need to listen, understand and discuss things since Floyd’s death earlier this year.

GameDay came to Minneapolis for the first time ever in 2019 for the Minnesota-Wisconsin game. Fleck coveted the opportunity to host the show and by all accounts it was a successful partnership between ESPN and the University of Minnesota. Not only does hosting the show add to fan interest in the state, but it also is a valued recruiting tool for Minnesota’s national recruiting.

Worth Noting

In some scheduling alterations, the Big Ten announced today the Gophers will play three Friday games—October 30 at Maryland, and host Iowa and Purdue November 13 and 20 respectively. Those games had been scheduled for Saturdays.

Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer meets with the media via Zoom at 4:30 p.m. today. The last time the Vikings started a season 1-4 was in 2011 under Leslie Frazier and they went on to a 3-13 finish.

Billy Robertson

Minnesota native and former Olympic middle distance runner Carrie Tollefson is the latest guest on “Behind the Game,” with co-hosts Patrick Klinger and Bill Robertson. Growing up in small town Dawson, she became one of the state’s great success stories among female athletes. The show is available for viewing on YouTube and on Twin Cities cable TV channels.

If preps Kenny Pohto and Treyton Thompson keep their verbal commitments to join the 2021 Gophers freshman class it looks like they will be part of a roster with six players 6-foot-9 or taller a year from now. Pohto, from Sweden by way of Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, and Thompson, a native of Alexandria, Minnesota could join present bigs Sam Freeman, Isaiah Ihnen, Martice Mitchell and Liam Robbins.

That kind of height and wing span presents multiple potential advantages for the coaching staff including use of zone defenses where Minnesota bigs would be difficult to shoot over and could clog passing lanes.

As for the coming 2020-2021 season, coach Richard Pitino’s team won’t find much love from media prognosticators who see Minnesota finishing far down in the Big Ten standings. Frustrating for Gophers fans, too, is that border rivals Iowa and Wisconsin are projected at the top of the league and receiving high national rankings.

Wisconsin, as usual carrying a roster with Minnesota natives, has an All-American favorite in forward Nate Reuvers from Lakeville North.

The Lakers have now won 17 world championships, including five in Minneapolis, and are tied with the Boston Celtics for most ever. The Minneapolis Lakers won championships in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1955 before moving to Los Angeles for the 1960-61 season.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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