History – Founded in 1851, the original campus overlooked the Saint Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River (yes, the Mississippi divides the Twin Cities), but it was later moved about a mile to its current location. During the Civil War, the school shut down following a financial crisis and didn't reopen until 1867. It was upgraded from a preparatory school to a college in 1869. There was no graduating class until 1873 when two students received their diplomas (and you just know the valedictorian never let his classmate forget who was the "dumb one" in the class of '73).
Location – The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Yes, there is a campus in each city, kind of like North Campus and Central Campus in Ann Arbor (they even have their version of the Bursley Bus connecting the two). That’s two straight weeks that Michigan is playing a dual-city school. Though the winters in Minnesota last about 11 ½ months, the Twin Cities are actually a fun place. There’s a legacy of great music – Prince, The Replacements, Husker Du, Tapes N Tapes - and I once heard from a girl I once talked to that it’s a great place to shop. Mary Tyler Moore lived there, too. And of course, since this is Know Your Foe, we have to mention lakes. Notre Dame has two on campus, so does Wisconsin. But Minnesota kicks both of their asses – they have 10,000 lakes
Nickname – Golden Gophers. This is the second time in three weeks that Michigan will be taking on an opponent with a versatile mascot. Goldy the Gopher is also quite athletic as evidenced by the photo below. Although, with such a fine dental school on campus, don't you think he’d get those teeth fixed by now?
Colors/Logo/Cheers –Maroon and Gold. But take a look at those uniforms – is that really gold? I’d call it yellow. They used to be gold but, since their uniforms look so much like USC, perhaps they should consider going back to the more metallic color. For a while they were changing their helmets every few years, but they’ve stuck with their current version since ’99, though new coach Tim Brewster had the tiny M enlarged this year. Obviously, opposing offenses haven’t been mesmerized by the larger letter, as the Gophers have the worst defense in the country.
They use Goldy the Gopher a lot as a logo but - on their helmets - they have that funky M with those weird serifs on them. They’ve used some version of it on their headgear since at least 1968. They haven’t given in to the temptation to modernize it and have it move forward like Wisconsin and Purdue. Of course those teams have been to a few Rose Bowls since 1962.
Fight Song - The Minnesota Rouser is a very underrated fight song, though the title sounds like a porno movie – from 1955. Along the lines of the porn theme, it was originally known as Minnesota, Hats Off To Thee, and was written by a church choir director. Know Your Foe practically guarantees you've heard it and you might have even hummed it to yourself without even knowing whose fight song it was.
Academics – The University of Minnesota has the second largest student body in the US, with 51,175 students, behind only Arizona State. What is it with these huge maroon and gold schools? U.S. News and World Report ranks Minnesota 71st. That is tied with Virginia Tech, the University of Delaware, and Sparty. Minnesota is tied for 9th in the Big Ten, ahead of only Indiana. The pride of the University is the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute which ranks among the top 15 professional schools of public affairs at public universities in the country. You see his name a lot in this Know Your Foe. That’s because you see his name a lot in Minnesota. He’s bigger than Paul Bunyan there.
Stadium/Fans - One of the worst stadiums in college football (with only the Orange Bowl being worse because you're likely to get stabbed getting to your car after the game there) is The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The Metrodome is off campus, it’s sterile and it used to have that horrible turf. Despite it being a dome, the stadium doesn’t help generate much noise and enthusiasm for Gophers games. Sure, it's loud when the Vikings are winning, or when the Twins are in the playoffs, but not for Gopher football. It’s the only venue that’s hosted a Super Bowl, a Final Four (with Michigan losing in the finals, 1992), and a World Series. But as far as college football goes, it’s mostly known for hosting some horrifying collapses by the home team– to Michigan in 2003, and to Wisconsin in 2005. As a matter of fact, the most memorable clip from the Gophers playing in the Metrodome is probably from 2002 when Iowa fans tore down the goalposts after clinching a co-Big Ten title. That has to be the most embarrassing moment for the University, other than when Brenda Walsh left after only a couple weeks of being there in season four of Beverly Hills 90210.
Athletics – If it weren't for hockey - and their football team from over 50 years ago - the sports tradition at Minnesota would be pretty lame. The basketball team has been to only one Final Four (and they had to cheat to get there). But Williams Arena is one of the more unique places to play with those sunken benches. How no one gets hurt diving for a ball, I don’t know. Plus it forced former head coach Clem Haskins to sit on a bar stool, which was kind of cool.
UPDATE: Due to Benny's shoddy reportage, I'm morally compelled to issue this addition to Minnesota's athletic greatness courtesy of MLS, former Michigan wrestling captain:
The Gopher wrestling team has won 3 national titles in the past 7 years, and finished 2nd another four times over the past 10 years. They have won six Big 10 Tournament Championships in the past 9 years, including the Big 10 Championship in 1999, when they snapped Iowa's 25 year reign over the conference.
Two years ago, they were ranked No. 1 and fell to No. 3 Michigan 19-15 before a standing room only crowd at Cliff Keen Arena - the best match in the 18-year history of the arena. The Michigan victory allowed the Wolverines to claim their third consecutive regular season Big 10 Championship.
Famous alums – I have to say I was more impressed with this list than I thought I'd be. From B-list TV actors (Loni Anderson, John Astin, Peter Graves, and Kate Mulgrew) to Robert Gore, the inventor of Gore-Tex (of course) to two vice presidents (and presidential election losers) Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. But doesn't that sum up the Gophers? Good but not great. They get to a certain level but not to the top. Just like their football team.
The Game – The big question is who will play for Michigan. Injuries to Hart and Henne put the lineup in question, and maybe the margin of victory. But not the winner. Michigan will win and if Hart and Henne play it’ll be over before halftime. MICHIGAN 41, Minnesota 13.