The worst full season for the Minnesota Golden Gophers on the gridiron in six years has a silver lining. That’s because P.J. Fleck’s team reached a bowl game this year, despite going 5-7, thanks to a dearth of eligible teams and the Golden Gophers’ stellar APR. Now, the Golden Gophers will head to Detroit to play in the Quick Lanes Bowl on Dec. 26 against 7-5 Bowling Green of the MAC.
Ahead of that Boxing Day battle, MinnesotaBets.com – your source for Minnesota sports betting promo codes - broke down the 2023 campaign for Fleck’s bunch and previewed where UM might be headed in 2024 and beyond.
The Golden Gophers join transitioning FCS-to-FBS squads JMU and Jacksonville State as the biggest beneficiaries of this year’s lack of bowl-eligible teams. That’s because UM will get the opportunity to hold dozens of bowl practices and get extra work in that other teams that missed out on the sport’s postseason are barred from holding, which could prove beneficial next fall. It also allows Fleck and his staff to showcase the program to a national TV audience, which could bolster the school’s recruiting efforts in years to come.
That could prove an especially important point, as Minnesota currently has the 33rd-ranked class in the nation (per 247 Sports), ranking 10th out of 18 teams in the expanded Big Ten universe. Pulling off a win in Detroit in a game that oddsmakers from ESPN BET list UM as a 3.5-point favorite in could well help Fleck bolster that class, while also providing valuable game experience for this year’s roster. If there were an ESPN BET Minnesota, they would certainly have these odds featured.
It will be interesting to see if senior wideout Daniel Jackson can end his collegiate career with a 1,000-yard season, as the Kansas City native currently has 831 receiving yards on 57 catches this year. Jackson has been UM’s standout player offensively, with the Golden Gophers ranking near the bottom of the nation in most offensive stats this year.
All of that goes out the window come Dec. 26, when Minnesota will look to turn the tide on a struggle of a season by thwarting the Falcons of Bowling Green in the Motor City.
With a solid recruiting class in the works and both the team’s leading passer and rusher being underclassmen, it’s possible that 2024 could be a springboard year for the Golden Gophers. Much of that depends on whether sophomore quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis can build on what was an up-and-down year in the Twin Cities. Kaliakmanis ranked 80th nationally in QBR (55.1) and only threw for 1,838 yards and 14 touchdowns (with nine interceptions), which will need to get worked out if Minnesota is going to turn the tide next fall.
Taylor showed immense promise as a freshman, rushing for 591 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per carry this season. The Detroit native will have an opportunity to show off in his hometown later this month. One way or another, whichever players suit up for Fleck next fall will need to execute better, as Minnesota looks to gain ground in an expanding Big Ten Conference.
The Golden Gophers have a golden opportunity to take the first step, however small, when they play the Bowling Green Falcons in Detroit in this year’s Quick Lanes Bowl.
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