CHICAGO -- Minnesota unveiled the new TCF Bank Stadium last fall and had little trouble selling out the place.
The school finished 11th nationally in percentage of stadium capacity filled at 101.6 percent (50,805 average attendance). Only Ohio State (102.9 percent capacity) and Michigan (102.6 percent capacity) ranked higher than Minnesota in the Big Ten.
It's safe to say Minnesota will have little trouble drawing big crowds again this season.
Although Tim Brewster's team has its doubters, Minnesota boasts one of the nation's most attractive and toughest home slates. The Gophers will host USC, Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa this season. Those four squads combined to go 42-10 in 2009, and all won bowl championships, with both Ohio State and Iowa prevailing in BCS games.
As Minnesota enters a pivotal season, the Gophers' ultimate fate likely will be decided on their home field.
Some coaches might shudder at Minnesota's home schedule this fall, but Brewster welcomes it.
"It's truly exciting to play the type of schedule we're going to play," he said during the Big Ten's spring meetings. "How about to be a Minnesota fan and you're going to see USC come to TCF Bank and Ohio State and Iowa and Penn State. We've got them in our backyard.
"It really motivates our football team."
Minnesota has mastered the win-enough-to-reach-a-minor-bowl-game formula, having done so in nine of the past 11 seasons. But for the Gophers to turn a corner, they need some signature wins, and this fall provides plenty of chances at home.
The Gophers last beat Iowa in 2006 and have dropped eight of their last nine to their archrival. Minnesota last beat Penn State in 2004, Ohio State in 2000 and USC in 1955 (last faced the Trojans in 1980).
"Our guys are jacked," Brewster said.
A few other Gophers nuggets:
Colleague Joe Schad reports that Minnesota will self-report a potential secondary violation involving the recruitment of heralded in-state prospect Seantrel Henderson. Henderson, an offensive tackle from St. Paul, ultimately signed with USC over Minnesota and many other schools.
Brewster expects linebacker Gary Tinsley to be in the mix for playing time this fall. Tinsley faced multiple charges following an April arrest, including fleeing police after allegedly driving a moped the wrong way down a one-way street. Tinsley wasn't suspended from the team and, according to Brewster, won't face felony charges from the incident.