Gopher fever: Reasons for the turnaround – and Gator Bowl bound?

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Before the start of the 2013 Gopher football season, no smart bettor would have ever wagered where the University of Minnesota is today, namely 8-2, with a nice streak of mid-season victories, sitting only behind Michigan State in the Legends Division of the Big Ten.

Moreover, they've climbed in the latest USA Today Coaches poll at number 23, and are sitting at number 25 in the BCS Poll.

For longtime observers who haven't felt good about the program for, oh, say, decades, this is quite a turnaround. How?

The Star Tribune's Joe Christensen list five reasons for the solid improvement, including special teams and an opportunistic defense.

He also adds quarterback Philip Nelson's consistent play, and the surprise of Maxx Williams as a receiving threat, but perhaps the most compelling is David Cobb's emergence as a big-time rusher in the absence of the injured Donnell Kirkwood.

To wit: "Cobb ranks fifth in the Big Ten, averaging 94.2 yards per game. He averages 5.4 yards per carry and has rushed for at least 138 yards in the past three games."

In another post, Christensen throws out some stats he thinks are important as well, comparing this season to last.

Probably the most key one is that the Gophers were -2 on turnovers this time last year, and are +6 at this point this season.

That translates to fewer points given up, and more scored – which, of course, translates to wins.

Meanwhile, the Pioneer Press says the Gophers might get a Gator Bowl bid if things keep on rolling.

Gator Bowl President Rick Catlett said the Gator Bowl has four Big Ten teams that it believes will be available for it to select at the end of the regular season – Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan.

ESPN.com, CBS Sports.com and SI.com are all projecting a Gopher Gator Bowl.

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