Ohio State football Buck'Eyeing' the Big Ten: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Will Missing Ohio State in the 2024 regular season rove 'Golden' for the gophers?
Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck
Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck / Aaron J. Thornton/GettyImages

With the expansion of four new teams into The Big Ten, the conference developed a new scheduling strategy of rotating opponents, beginning with the 2024 season. Also new to The Big Ten is the elimination of divisions, with the end result that the top two teams within the conference at the end of the regular season will play in The Big Ten Championship Game.

It is with that thought in mind that prompted me to start this series to look at the other teams within The Big Ten that Ohio State will not be facing in the 2024 regular season. I am going to be reviewing these teams within The Big Ten in alphabetical order, giving my thoughts on their possible season outlook, as well as the odds that the team could wind up in The Big Ten Championship Game.

1. Illinois Fighting Illini

2. Maryland Terrapins

3. Minnesota Golden Gophers (2023 record: 6-7)

The Golden Gophers, under head coach P.J. Fleck, sputtered down the stretch in 2023, going winless in the crucial month of November. It was only after a determination that there were not enough bowl-eligible teams that Minnesota qualified for The 2023 Quick Lane Bowl after the Golden Gophers' Academic Progress Rate enabled them to play Bowling Green.

Minnesota won 30-24, giving P.J. Fleck his sixth bowl win since Fleck took over the program prior to the 2017 season. With the exceptions of 2017 and the COVID-ravaged season of 2020, Fleck has taken Minnesota to a bowl game every season. Will 2024 be another bowl season for Minnesota?

Next Scheduled Regular Season Game Against Ohio State: 2025, when Ohio State will be hosting the Golden Gophers. The date of the game has not yet been announced.

Key Personnel Losses From 2023: Safety Tyler Nubin was a second-round selection by the New York Giants in the 2024 NFL Draft. Losing a player of Nubin's caliber and experience will hurt the Golden Gophers' secondary. A new name to keep an eye and ear out for is incoming freshman safety Koi Perich. Perich was the Golden Gophers' highest-rated player in their 2024 recruiting class and was recruited by Ohio State, only to stick with his commitment to Minnesota.

Another key loss was at the quarterback position, as last year's starting quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis entered the transfer portal, and is projected to be starting for Rutgers this season. Minnesota will be playing at Rutgers on November 9th, so that will be a reunion that will bear watching.

No matter how the transfer of Kaliakmanis plays out, Minnesota has turned to another transfer portal quarterback in Max Brosmer. Brosmer led the FCS in passing in 2023 and has gained the respect of his teammates by virtue of him being named a team captain for this upcoming season.

2024 Schedule Outlook: Minnesota starts off the 2024 season with a Thursday night home game versus North Carolina. The Tar Heels easily handled Minnesota in 2023, defeating the Golden Gophers 31-13 in Chapel Hill, NC.

Minnesota will host Rhode Island and Nevada, so it is possible that the Golden Gophers are sitting at 2-1 in their non-conference record before Big Ten conference plays versus Iowa on September 21st. Minnesota won at Iowa in 2023, winning against the Hawkeyes 12-10 after a controversial fair catch signal was called against Iowa's Cooper DeJean, moments after DeJean had seemingly scored what could have been the winning touchdown on a punt return. This game will loom large for both longtime Big Ten rivals.

Besides the September 21st grudge match versus Iowa, Minnesota has to go on the road to Michigan on September 28th, host USC on October 5th, then travel to UCLA on October 12th. Michigan crushed Minnesota 52-10 in 2023, so the Golden Gophers will not be lacking any type of motivation against the Wolverines. The question will be if Minnesota will have the personnel to go toe to toe against Michigan to exact any type of revenge.

That four game stretch, in my estimation, could be the main pitfall area for the Golden Gophers in 2024. If Minnesota drops all four games, the latter portion of the season will be dicey for the Golden Gophers to get into bowl game contention.

2024 Schedule Outlook: As I wrote above, Minnesota's schedule has just enough challenges that another bowl bid seems worse than 50/50. Add in all of the games I cited, plus other Big Ten opponents in November at Illinois (November 2nd), the aforementioned game at Rutgers (November 9th), Penn State (November 23rd), and at Wisconsin (November 29th for a Black Friday game on CBS), and you will see why I am skeptical about seeing the Golden Gophers in a bowl game this upcoming season. Illinois and Wisconsin both defeated Minnesota in 2023, and this year's games are on the road. It's not looking too promising.


Look for the fourth part of the series next week, as we look at how the 2024 season may shape up for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. As always, let me know what you think, and thanks for reading.