Minnesota fell a game short of winning the Big Ten West Division title last year, but it was still a memorable season. The Golden Gophers opened the season by giving Ohio State a tough test and ended the regular season with a win over Wisconsin.
As impressive as the 9-4 season was, it could have been even more better if not for a four-point loss to Bowling Green, an eight-point loss to Illinois and a five-point defeat at the hands of Iowa. The loss to Illinois, a team with just three other conference wins, ultimately cost the Golden Gophers at least a share of the division title.
Minnesota has gone 23-10 over the last three seasons with a pair of bowl victories. Quite a few of the key contributors from both sides of the ball are back. According to the 247sports.com database, Minnesota lost more than 20 players via transfer. That has led to the college football odds having the Golden Gophers being undervalued heading into the 2022 season.
Minnesota’s non-conference schedule doesn’t include too many tough tests. The season begins with games against New Mexico State, Western Illinois and Colorado. The conference schedule doesn’t include matchups with either defending Big Ten champion Michigan or current favorite Ohio State.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
- 2021 record: 9-4
- 2021 conference record: 6-3
- Head coach: P.J. Fleck
Running back Trey Potts had three straight 100-yard games in 2021, with the Golden Gophers winning two of those contests. However, his season ended after five contests. He should return to the lead role in the backfield, especially with Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving transferring to Kansas and Oregon.
Quarterback Tanner Morgan is back for his sixth season at Minnesota. He is looking to regain his form from his sophomore season, when he passed for 3,253 yards with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Over the last two seasons, he had 17 touchdowns and 14 interceptions with 3,408 yards.
The play by the receivers hadn’t reached the level when current NFL pass catchers Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman were catching passes from Morgan.
Leading receiver Chris Autman-Bell (36 catches, 506 yards). Michael Brown-Stephens, Dylan Wright, Brevyn Spann-Ford and Daniel Jackson, who had between 18-25 catches in 2021, also return. That could help Morgan put up some big numbers during the 2022 season.
The Golden Gophers lost 6-foot-8, 380-pound tackle Daniel Faalele to the NFL. Three other offensive line starters have also moved on, with the only returning starter on the line being John Michael Schmitz.
Only one Center in the Big Ten last season had 80+ grades as both a run blocker and pass protector:
John Michael Schmitz 💪 pic.twitter.com/2GrvhbhBpL
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 3, 2022
The Golden Gophers did help their offensive line by landing Quinn Carroll from Notre Dame and Chuck Filiaga from Michigan.
Mariano Sori-Marin, Tyler Nubin and Jordan Howden are back to lead the defense. Leading tackler Jack Gibbens and sacks leader Boye Mafe are among the defensive stars who need to be replaced. Thomas Rush returns after having 5½ sacks a season ago.
The Golden Gophers do get kicker Matthew Trickett back after he made 17 field goals in 2021.
2022 Minnesota Outlook
The expectations are a little bit on the low side for Minnesota with an expected regular-season win total of 7½ after coming off a nine-win campaign. The schedule is set up for the Golden Gophers to top that mark despite the Las Vegas odds listing Minnesota at +15000 to win the national title.
Perhaps losing multiple players to the NFL has something to do with Minnesota flying under the radar, The conference opener at Michigan State should give a glimpse on what type of team the Golden Gophers will have.
After committing just 13 turnovers in 2021, ball security will once again be a major point of emphasis. The Golden Gophers led the conference in time of possession, having the ball two minutes more than any other team in the Big Ten. They also led the conference with just 35 plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more.
Western Kentucky transfer Shannon Bishop should make an immediate impact as a cornerback and on special teams. He is coming off a season when he had 43 tackles and three interceptions. He also averaged 24.6 yards per kickoff return. Fellow cornerback Ryan Stapp comes in from Abilene Christian.
Minnesota is 14-1 in non-conference games over the last five seasons and will look to build on that record. It will start with Minnesota being a 38-point favorite against New Mexico State. Something to consider for those who bet online: Minnesota is 0-4-1 against the spread in the last five regular-season games when favored by at least 10 points.
The bye week will follow conference games against Michigan State and Purdue, so that could be a good time for the Golden Gophers to regroup.
2022 Minnesota Schedule
Sept. 1 vs New Mexico State
Sept. 10 vs Western Illinois
Sept. 17 vs Colorado
Sept. 24 at Michigan State
Oct. 1 vs Purdue
Oct. 15 at Illinois
Oct. 22 at Penn State
Oct. 29 vs Rutgers
Nov. 5 at Nebraska
Nov. 12 vs Northwestern
Nov. 19 vs Iowa
Nov. 26 at Wisconsin