#19 Minnesota Football 2020 Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Overall Rank: #19
#5 Big Ten
 Minnesota Logo
Minnesota took the college football world by storm in 2019 as they won 11 games, including a 31-26 win over Penn State and a 31-24 win over Auburn to cap off a great season. Head coach P.J. Fleck has quickly implemented his “Row the Boat” culture within the program and has Golden Gopher fans excited about their program at an unprecedented level right now. The next step is winning the Big Ten West and getting to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game.
2019 Record: 11-2, 7-2
2019 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. Auburn (31-24 W)
Coach: P.J. Fleck (23-15 at Minnesota, 53-37 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Sanford Jr.
Defensive Coordinator: Joseph Rossi
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, 605 yards
Passing:  Tanner Morgan, QB, 3,253 yards
Receiving: Rashod Bateman, WR, 1,219 yards
Tackles: Jordan Howden, DB, 57
Sacks: Braelen Oliver, LB,
Interceptions: Two players tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: WR Chris Autman-Bell, WR Demetrius Douglas, DB Coney Durr, DB Phillip Howard, DL Boye Mafe, DL Esezi Otomewo, OL Sam Schlueter, OL Blaise Andries, OL Conner Olson, OL Curtis Dunlap Jr., OL Daniel Faalele, S Benjamin St. Juste, LB Mariano Sori-Marin
Key Losses: LB Carter Coughlin, DB Antoine Winfield Jr., DB Chris Williamson, DB Kiondre Thomas, DL Sam Renner, WR Tyler Johnson, RB Rodney Smith, LB Thomas Barber
This unit will be pretty strong once again in 2020 as Minnesota will bring back quarterback Tanner Morgan this season. Morgan completed 66 percent of his passes last season while throwing for 3,253 yards, 30 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. The signature performance of the 2019 season for Morgan was against Penn State when he completed 18 of 20 passes for 339 yards and threw three touchdown passes. Mohamed Ibrahim will take over as the number one running back and will need to help replace some of the lost production of Rodney Smith. Rashod Bateman will lead the wide receiver room as he caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards and eleven touchdowns. Chris Autman-Bell is back along with Demetrius Douglas to give plenty of options for Morgan to work with. There is also plenty of returning experience along the offensive line which should allow the offense to hit the ground running this fall.
The Golden Gophers will have some reloading to do as they lost a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball. Minnesota had a top ten pass defense last season as they only allowed 184.2 yards per game through the air in 2019. Jordan Howden, Coney Durr, and Phillip Howard will be back to lead the secondary in 2020. This trio will have the task of replacing the lost production of Antoine Winfield Jr. who intercepted seven passes last season and led the Golden Gophers in tackles with 88. Braelen Oliver and Boye Mafe collected three sacks in 2019 and will be counted on heavily to create more havoc in the backfield this fall. Minnesota was only able to generate 62 tackles for loss in 2019 and will look to get a boost from defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway, who transferred to the Golden Gophers from Notre Dame.  
The Bottom Line:
Florida Atlantic and Tennessee Tech will visit TCF Bank Stadium in the first two weeks of the season and that should buy Minnesota a little bit of time to sort some things out on defense. Iowa will open up the Big Ten schedule on Friday night in week three and will be a big tone setting type of game for the Golden Gophers. BYU will finish off the month of September and the four-game home stand on September 26. The month of October will be a gauntlet as Minnesota will play four of their five games on the road with tough trips to Wisconsin and Michigan State and a visit from Michigan. If the Golden Gophers can survive that month with a 3-2 or better record they will be in great shape. Two home games with Purdue and Northwestern, along with a trip to Nebraska on Black Friday, will wrap up the regular season schedule as all three of those games are winnable. The biggest thing for Coach Fleck and Minnesota in 2020 is to prove that 2019 wasn’t a fluke. And, despite all of the losses on defense, the Golden Gophers should win around eight to nine games and hang around the top 20-25 rankings all year long.
Projected Bowl: Las Vegas Bowl
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 178.7 (46th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 253.3 (47, 4)
Total Offense: 432.0 (42, 4)
Scoring Offense: 34.1 (21, 3)
Rushing Defense: 122.4 (23, 7)
Pass Defense: 184.2 (9, 2)
Total Defense: 306.6 (10, 3)
Scoring Defense: 22.5 (37, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (40, 5)
Sacks: 2.15 (64, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 2.31 (85, 8)
Madness 2020 NFL Draft Rankings:
#57 Rashod Bateman