August 1, 2005

Could Minnesota offense have historic year?

Not having driven in a NASCAR race, I don't own a flame retardant suit. Nor did I realize I'd need one for a meeting to discuss the preseason All-American team.

But things got heated fast. Let's just say we called each others' football acumen into question on occasion.

We spent nearly 2 hours arguing with each other. As the new guy in the office, it was kind of fun to watch conference biases spring up (don't worry, every major conference is represented) and insults fly like footballs in Steve Spurrier's offense.

Somehow, Minnesota became a main topic of conversation. The only way you don't understand what a rarity that is is if you're from Minneapolis or St. Paul or are Glen Mason's wife.

Still, we debated the Golden Gophers. Could they really have three players deserving of first-team All-American honors on the same side of the ball? Teams with that many All-Americans period, let alone on one side of the ball, are juggernauts. They don't simply win, they schedule executions. They demoralize your fan base, bruise your team and endanger your coach's future.

With all due respect to Minnesota, the majority of the Big Ten isn't exactly shaking in its snowshoes over the Gophs. The Sporting News picks Minnesota to finish sixth in the Big Ten. Hardly the stuff of juggernauts.

In the past 50 years, 11 teams have had three postseason All-Americans on the same side of the ball (see table below). The worst record of those teams was 9-3. Nine of them won at least 10 games. Two of them won national championships, and two more played for the national title.

The line of people who believe Minnesota is going to win 10 and play for the national title forms on the left.

Don't get us wrong: We have some love for the Golden Gophers, we're just not ready to drop to our knees and bust out a ring. We can't deny Laurence Maroney a spot on our All-American first team. He has gained more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons and doesn't have to share the ball this season with the departure of Marion Barber. Some in the office believe he may top 2,000.

You figure the way Minnesota runs the ball its line is opening the occasional hole. Maybe they're called Gopher holes. Whatever, they're generally huge. So we had to give some props to the offensive line.

Center Greg Eslinger, he gets the bouquet and tiara. Guard Mark Setterstrom, it's not like we jilted you at the altar. We happen to think our second team is pretty solid, too.

And Minnesota fans, just before you hit the send button on that e-mail, don't kill the messenger: I'm a Big Ten grad myself. But after doing the research for this column, I couldn't justify three Gophers on the first team. To me it would have indicated that I'd been spending too much time sipping from the Little Brown Jug.

Bob McClellan can be reached via email at

Year School (record) All-Americans
1974 Ohio State (10-2) Kurt Schumacher (T), Steve Myers (C), Archie Griffin (RB)
1975 Oklahoma* (11-1) Lee Roy Selmon (T), Dewey Selmon (MG), Jimbo Elrod (E)
1981 Michigan (9-3) Anthony Carter (WR), Ed Muransky (OL), Kurt Becker (OL)
1983 Nebraska+ (12-1) Irving Fryar (WR), Dean Steinkuhler (OL), Mike Rozier (RB)
1990 Notre Dame (9-3) Michael Stonebreaker (LB), Chris Zorich (DL), Todd Lyght (DB)
1995 Ohio State (11-2) Eddie George (RB), Orlando Pace (OT), Terry Glenn (WR)
1996 Florida* (12-1) Danny Wuerffel (QB), Reidel Anthony (WR), Ike Hilliard (WR)
1997 N. Carolina (11-1) Dre Bly (DB), Greg Ellis (DL), Brian Simmons (LB)
1999 Penn State (10-3) Brandon Short (LB), LaVar Arrington (LB), Courtney Brown (DL)
2001 Florida (10-2) Jabar Gaffney (WR), Mike Pearson (OL), Rex Grossman (QB)
2003 Oklahoma+ (12-2) Tommie Harris (DL), Teddy Lehman (LB), Derrick Strait (DB)
*-national champion; +-played for national championship

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