2019 Minnesota Golden Gophers College Football Odds and Expert Betting Picks
2018 Record: 7-6
2019 Las Vegas Season Win Total: 7.5
2019 Season Win Total Picks NCAA Football: 'Over'
P.J. Fleck is still rowing. The cocksure young coach is now entering his third year at the helm in Minnesota, and it is time to see some dividends. The Gophers won seven games last year, including a regular-season finale upset at Wisconsin and then a bowl blowout of Georgia Tech. They are looking to build off that momentum into this season.
Fleck has his most stable roster yet, and the Gophers appear as ready as they can be to compete at the top of the Big Ten. Minnesota has 17 total returning starters. Ten of those returnees are sophomores, though, so this is still a relatively young squad. But overall, thanks to 10 three-year starters, this is Fleck's most experienced group.
Both the offense and defense were completely mediocre last season. One of those units will need to step up into the top half of the league rankings if the Gophers want to take the next step.
Just about everyone of note is back from last year's offense. Minnesota was just No. 86 in total offense and No. 90 throwing the ball. Quarterback Tanner Morgan, by virtue to an injury to his competition, is The Guy for the Gophers. The sophomore needs to be better, though.
Morgan will have plenty of help. Minnesota has its top five rushers back, including Mo Ibrahim and vet Rodney Smith. Top receiver Tyler Johnson is a stud, and the Gophers have their top five receivers back as well. Throw in four returning offensive line starters - including 400-pound tackle Dan Faalele - and al the pieces are in place for a major leap from this attack.
There are five three-year starters on defense, and eight of their top 11 tacklers are back this season. Minnesota's defense was either really good or really bad last season. They allowed 15 or fewer points in six of their games but gave up 40 or more four times.
The Gophers should be able to bag three easy wins in the nonconference. And they have a bye week before the league opener at Purdue. Home games against Illinois and Maryland are better than 50-50 propositions, and a road game at Rutgers should be a win. If those all break that way, that's six victories right there.
So can Minnesota pull two upsets while avoiding any of their own? I think they will. This team looks like it is on the up-and-up. It's going to be close. And the need to show more consistency than they did last year. But they avoid the top three teams from the East, they get Penn State and Nebraska at home, and they have enough winnable road games to really be a player in the Big Ten West. I'll go 'over'.
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