After improving to 5-3 with wins over Iowa and Michigan State, the Gophers lost their final 4 games of the season to Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, and Wiscansin to finish 5-7 on the season. A dissapointing finish considering they were 1 win away from a bowl birth with 4 games left. The good news is the Gophers are still going to be facing Bowling Green in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, MI. This year, a shortfall in "bowl-eligible" teams allowed the Gophers, alongside Football Bowl Subdivision newcomers James Madison and Jacksonville State, to clinch bowl game slots. Of the 82 needed, only 79 teams managed to achieve the required 6 wins for bowl eligibility.
The Gophers were awarded the bowl game thanks to their tremendous academic success. That is a testiment to PJ Fleck and the culture he has built in his time at the University of Minnesota. I say that because I have seen way too many people down on the Gophers this season and wanting to "Fire Fleck." Nobody wants to see their team have a down year, but don't listen to those trolls. What PJ Fleck has built in Minnesota has been the best we have seen since the 40's and 50's. The Gophers were incredibly young, battled some tough injuries, and the QB play by Athan never hit it's stride like so many people had hoped. The Gophers had also just come off of 3 full seasons of 11, 9, and 9 wins prior to this down season of 5-7. We aren't Alabam right now... I hate to break it to you, but we are going to have to continue to wait for the Gophers to win their 8th National Championship.
Quick update on Gophers Roster: QB Athan Kaliakmanis, QB Drew Viotto, and DC Joe Rossi will all be hitting the transfer portal/taking a new job at another school. The one that will hurt the most is losing Joe Rossi. He decided to take the DC job at Michigan State, as well as getting a pay raise. PJ Fleck and the staff have also been busy bringing in new players! QB Max Brosmer (New Hampshire), CB Ethan Robinson (Bucknell), EDGE Eddy Toussom, DT Jordan Guerad (FIU), and RB Trent Howland (Indiana). All of the rest of the starters from 2023 season (outside of the graduates and players going to the draft) have announced they will be returning! The biggest transfer is QB Max Brosmer who is arguably the highest rated transfer QB in all of college football. Hosmer led the FCS in passing yards with 3,459 along with 29 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He has thrown for over 6,600 yards and 66 touchdowns in just the last 2 seasons...this will be a MASSIVE upgrade at the QB position for our Gophers!
Quick Lane Bowl: The 5-7 Gophers will travel to Detroit, MI to face 7-5 Bowling Green on December 26th. The Gophers are currently 5.5 point favorites, but that could change based on which players will actually be playing for each team 2 weeks from now. The other positive is that the Gophers get to finally play a Bowl game again on an actual football field. Our last 2 Bowl games have been played on the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees fields and the games have been near impossible to watch as the players weren't able to stay on their feet due to the terrible field conditions in both games. I am going to make a prediction, but don't hold me to it since these bowl games can sometimes be weird with coaching changes and players transferring/entering the draft. I predict a 22-14 win for the Gophers considering how many Gophers have announced their return, but we may be starting a walk-on freshman at QB. We will see! I have confidence that PJ Fleck and the Gophers will be able to continue their undefeated Bowl game record this year! Go Gophers!