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    [2022] Big Ten Season Preview: Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    NEWS NETWORK

     

    Welcome back to the second edition of the Big Ten Season Preview Series! After covering the reigning Champ last time around, this time we'll turn our gaze for about 160 degrees and look nearly towards the other end of the spectrum. In contrast to Purdue the Minnesota Golden Gophers probably also did their share of drinking, but it originated in a wholly different motivation.

     

    Coming off one of the programs' worse seasons - going 4-8 (3-6 in conference play), and looking at a three season slippery slope since they last won the B1G West in 2019 - if there was drinking, it was out of frustration.

     

    It's already a trend, let's have a hard look if this could even become a theme in the Land Of 10.000 Lakes!

     

     

    2000px-Minnesota_Golden_Gophers_logo.svg


    THE :bigten: DISAPPOINTMENT

    ...that was the 2021 season. There were no realistic hopes of hitting a homerun season at this time last year in Minneapolis, but surely no one expected to miss the postseason for the first time since 2016. Success is standard of living here.

     

    So, what gave in? The offense probably wasn't the problem. We'll get to that later. Special teams were not great but measured middle of the pack overall, with P Devin McGinnis ranking among the top specialists as a Sophomore while his counterpart K Greg Reilly, also true SO, managed to balance that with a bottom 3 FG percentage.

     

    That leaves the Defense. And here we see a classic case of inexperience trumping talent.

     

    NOT ENOUGH :bigten: BOYS
    The defensive side of the ball had two big problems: Too many underclassmen (7/11 starters) and then the Seniors they trusted with leading their Kindergarten mostly failed in setting an example. Consequently, all three defensive players declaring for the NFLHC failed to get drafted.

     

    The one bright spot among upperclassmen was ILB Stephen Stauffer, the only defender besides (SO) OLB Anthony Steen able to appear on more than 4 stat sheets. Generally, the defense was stingy on big plays or turnovers. No single player recorded more than 5 sacks, 7 combined TFLs, 2 INTs or 4 broken up pass plays combined.

     

    :bigten: FUTURES?
    What was a major factor in leading to woe last season for the Gophers last year could well be their strength going forward. Losing no big contributor to the Pros outside of Stauffer and equipped with an incredibly talented corps that was baptized by fire last year, look for the Minny D to be a whole different animal in 2022.

     

    On Offense, QB Robbie Koehler did a solid job (58,9%, 29/10) with the nearly 38 throws per game he was slinging - topped in-conference only by Northwestern - but according to pundits is likely still losing his starting gig to JuCo Transfer Robert Lynch who seems to have won over coach @lucas95 in practice sessions. He'll be throwing to designated star receiver Allen Lara-Cruz III who was outplayed by a hair by his #2 last year, Dillon "Unicorn" Little. They combined for nearly 2000 yards and 20 TDs on only 3 dropped passes.

    The O-line last year was solid but a bit motley with players lining up out of position at times. Minnesotas star center Tate Gilbert went to get drafted by the Bears, but even without him, the line looks more sorted and at least as talented in 2022 - same with the defensive line, by the way.

     

    :bigten: EXPECTATIONS!
    If the offensive backfield, there's big responsibilities resting on young shoulders. (FR) RB Tredaveon Jennings comes with high praise but will have to elevate Minnys anemic running game from day 1 - and not many observers trust true freshman FB Angelo Layton to really be able to help with that.

     

    But, 2022 will be a reconciliation season for frustrated fans of the Golden Gophers. Not a title season- probably - but a bowl game should at least be on the Minny menu. And, looking at the talent they redshirted, there might be a real trend reversal on the horizon in Minneapolis.

     

     

    Minnesota Depth Chart for 2022

    Schedule:

    Spoiler

    Washington
    Bye
    New Mexico State
    at Florida
    Bye
    Illinois
    Maryland
    at Northwestern
    Bye
    at Iowa
    at Purdue
    Penn State
    at Rutgers
    Bye
    Nebraska
    Wisconsin

     

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    Solidly on pace to do this for 2,5 teams before the season starts :ninja:

     

    I hope I'll have more time for this before the season starts though, maybe I'll even get most of the teams done!

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