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Gophers 10th in first Big 10 power rankings of 2014

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Even after the Minnesota Gopher football team finished 8-5 last season and played in the Texas Bowl, it appears many college football experts aren't looking for the Gophers to make a big improvement this year.

ESPN puts Minnesota 10th in its first Big Ten Conference rankings of the season.

On paper, the Gophers look several steps behind the top teams in the league across the board. What's their strength, running the football? Still, coach Jerry Kill and his staff get the benefit of the doubt because of their remarkable progress a year ago.

With the additions of Maryland and Rutgers, there are now 14 teams in the conference. The power rankings put the Gophers ahead of only Purdue, Indiana, Illinois and Rutgers.

2014 preseason Big Ten Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State
  2. Michigan State
  3. Nebraska
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Iowa
  6. Michigan
  7. Northwestern
  8. Penn State
  9. Maryland
  10. Minnesota
  11. Indiana
  12. Illinois
  13. Rutgers
  14. Purdue

Other preseason rankings don't have the Gophers ranking much better.

CBS had six of their experts predict how the major NCAA Division I conferences would finish. None of them picked the Gophers to finish any higher than third in the Big Ten West.

Three of them have Minnesota finishing fourth in the West, while two others have the Gophers finishing sixth.

That could be because of Minnesota's difficult schedule. The Gophers play conference games on the road at Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin, while hosting both Iowa and Ohio State.

Gophers coach Jerry Kill seemed to kick up the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry a bit when he said during the Big Ten media days that it was a game his team had to win. Minnesota hasn't beaten the Badgers since winning Paul Bunyan's axe in 2003.

One reason the Gophers aren't seeing a lot of respect in the preseason rankings is because the college football community doesn't believe they have a lot of top end stars remaining. The Bleacher Report does not include a single Gophers player in the top 15 players in the conference.

Not even David Cobb, who gained more than 1,200 yards on the ground last year and led a Gophers running attack that ran for more than 2,500 yards, made the list.

Minnesota opens its season on Aug. 28 against Eastern Illinois at TCF Bank Stadium.

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