Much like Lovie Smith at Illinois, Scott Frost at Nebraska and Jeff Brohm, at Purdue, PJ Fleck was brought in to make Minnesota competitive again. In 2018, Minnesota did that by winning in the Axe Game against Wisconsin and the Quick Lane bowl against Georgia Tech.
By The Numbers
Coach: PJ Fleck – Year: 3, Record: 12-13, Bowl Wins: 1
2018 Record: 7-6 (3-6 Big Ten)
Key Player: WR Tyler Johnson
2018 Offensive Production: Rushing Offense – 64th, Passing Offense – 90th, 28.9 ppg – 65th
2018 Defensive Production: Rushing Defense – 78th, Passing Defense – 51st 26.5 ppg allowed – 59th
Turnover Margin: -0.31, 21 Gained, 25 Lost
Sacks: 1.77 Sacks per game
Long Scrimmage Plays >20 yards: 53, 93rd
Opponent Long Scrimmage Plays >20 yards: 56, 47th
Minnesota returns most of their 2018 offense including all B1G receiver Tyler Johnson. Johnson was one of the best receivers in the P5 and should do it again with QB Tanner Johnson. Minnesota will also have Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks back after ACL tears to create a dynamic committee of backs with 2018 Freshman stand out Mohamed Ibrahim. The offensive line has a couple holes and lacks the depth it had in 2018. Regardless, Minnesota should have a experienced, healthy offense ready to compete in the B1G West.
Minnesota abruptly fired its defensive coordinator in 2018 after a brutal loss to Illinois. Minnesota then went on to ruin the Badger’s season under interim DC Joe Rossi. That game earned Rossi the full time job. Minnesota’s new defense will have holes to plug after the departures of Safety Jacob Huff and DL Blake Cashman. However, ND grad transfer Micah Dew-Treadway and senior linebackers Kamal Martin and Thomas Barber should be able to take over and anchor the defense.
The B1G west is very strong this year and Minnesota will still have a chance to build on the 2018 campaign and compete for the B1G West title. However, Minnesota will need to stay healthy to win games late in the season. In back to back weeks, Minnesota will play Penn State, Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin. That is 4 teams that will be ranked in November and 3 premier teams in the B1G West. Minnesota will play close games this year, but they are not the only team in the division that has gotten better across the board. Another 6-6 season seems likely.