The Ohio State football team meets up with the Minnesota Golden Gophers on November 18th in Ohio Stadium.
In our latest installment of Ohio State football schedule prep, we take a look at a mid-November matchup between the Buckeyes and PJ Fleck’s Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers had a very solid season in 2022, going 9-4 with a Pinstripe Bowl victory against Syracuse.
Hard to believe but this will be head coach PJ Fleck’s seventh season as the Gophers head coach. He will be breaking in a new starting quarterback in 2023 as Athan Kaliakmanis is set to take over the reins from the outgoing Tanner Morgan. The sophomore was a former four-star recruit and took some major snaps last season. Getting most of his time against Wisconsin, Kaliakmanis was 19-29 for 319 yards and two touchdowns, leading his team to a 23-16 road victory.
That game helped Fleck and his staff identify him as the right choice for the 2023 season and not peruse a major transfer quarterback. Kaliakmanis will have some new additions at receiver to throw to however as Elijah Spencer (Charlotte) and Corey Crooms Jr. (Western Michigan) both came in via the transfer portal this offseason.
Spencer posted 57 catches for 943 and nine touchdowns for Charlotte last season and figures to become the go-to target in the air for this Gopher offense. Crooms Jr. also had 57 catches for Fleck’s former school, Western Michigan, and had 814 yards receiving with five scores. I would expect Minnesota to try and test this Buckeye secondary in this game.
Fleck also went back to the well at Western Michigan and plucked himself a starting tailback, Sean Tyler, who rushed for 1,027 yards and seven touchdowns in the MAC Conference last season. We will have to see how well his game adapts to the Big Ten style of play.
Defensively, the Gophers only gave up 13.8 points per game last season, good enough to rank fourth nationally. Amongst the defensive lineman, the Gophers will look at senior Danny Striggow to make a leap in 2023. He led the team in sacks last season with 3.5 so the Gophers will hope to get more production in that category.
Linebacker Cody Lindenberg will be the heart and soul of the defense however as he led the team in solo tackles last season. He’s a very athletic and instinctual linebacker so the Buckeyes will need to know where he is at all times come November 18th.
Finally, senior safety Tyler Nubin is the best player in the Gopher secondary. He had 55 tackles and four interceptions in 2022 and is often compared to Antoine Winnefeld Jr. by Minnesota fans and media alike. He has a real shot at becoming a first-team All-Big Ten player in 2023.
Overall, this Minnesota team could make life difficult for the Buckeyes if they don’t show up ready to play. We saw it last November in a game against Maryland where the Buckeyes were not hitting on all cylinders and almost lost. This Golden Gopher squad is just as talented as that Maryland team, so Ryan Day and the Ohio State football team need to be focused.
PJ Fleck is a very good coach and knows what type of environment his team will be going up against in Ohio Stadium. I would expect Fleck to have this game circled on the Gophers’ schedule as their Super Bowl for the season. An upset in Columbus would make Fleck’s career and the Buckeyes need to be ready to play come November 18th.