#37 Minnesota Football 2021 Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Overall Rank: #37
#7 Big Ten
 Minnesota Logo
Minnesota had a tough 2020 season. The team was hit hard by Covid and missed a couple games after an uninspiring 2-3 start to the campaign. Once they returned to the field though, the Golden Gophers played well despite still missing quite a few players, beating Nebraska on the road 24-17 and losing at Wisconsin in overtime.
2020 Record: 3-4, 3-4
2020 Bowl: None
Coach: P.J. Fleck (26-19 at Minnesota, 56-41overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Sanford Jr
Defensive Coordinator: Joe Rossi
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, 1,076 yards
Passing: Tanner Morgan, QB, 1,374
Receiving: Chris Autman-Bell, WR, 430 yards
Tackles: Mariano Sori-Marin, LB, 54
Sacks: Boye Mafe, DL, 4.5
Interceptions: 5 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Cam Wiley, WR Daniel Jackson, OL Conner Olson, DB Tyler Nubin, DB Jordan Howden, DB Coney Durr
Key Losses: WR Rashod Bateman
In 2019 quarterback Tanner Morgan had an amazing season, throwing for 3,253 yards and 30 touchdowns with seven interceptions. In 2020 he averaged under 200 yards per game and threw just seven touchdowns with five interceptions. A couple of those games were without superstar Rashod Bateman who opted to not play after the first five games and was later selected in the First Round of the NFL Draft. That leaves some questions at wide receiver. Chris Autman-Bell is a great deep threat and Daniel Jackson did an admirable job stepping up after Bateman left. Even if the passing game does not get back to their 2019 form, Minnesota has a great running back with Mohamed Ibrahim. He rushed 201 times for 1,076 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Do not forget that was all in just seven games. In a longer season, Cam Wiley and Treyson Potts should get more touches and both proved to be effective in limited action last season.
Minnesota fell all the way to tenth in total defense last season. There were many games where the Gophers were not able to stop the run. Seven starters are back, but Minnesota will still make a lot of changes in order to improve the unit. A slew of transfers will need to fit into the system, but that gives defensive coordinator Joe Rossi some hope that the pieces will fit together and that the defense will look more like the unit did in 2019 and less like 2020.
The Bottom Line:
Minnesota opens the season with a Thursday night home game against Ohio State. That may not be a terrible time to get the Buckeyes, but the Gophers will need to have everything figured out immediately if they are going to start their season with a win. The Big Ten West seems to be up for grabs so games against Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin may prove to be the most important games for Minnesota this season.
Projected Bowl:  Pinstripe Bowl
2020 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 191.9 (42nd in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 199.1 (92, 8)
Total Offense: 391.0 (69, 5)
Scoring Offense: 27.3 (71, 6)
Rushing Defense: 207.1 (102, 12)
Pass Defense: 208.7 (36, 6)
Total Defense: 415.9 (72, 10)
Scoring Defense: 30.1 (70, 9)
Turnover Margin: 0.00 (60, 8)
Sacks: 1.14 (118, 13)
Sacks Allowed: 1.86 (43, 6)