Welcome back to the start of the 2023 football season, Gopher Nation! There aren't many things better than the start of football season. Every fan still has hope for their favorite college and professional teams and everybody playing Fantasy Football has just finished drafting the winning team for the upcoming season. Football is also the greatest sport ever, what's not to love?!
The Gophers are coming into 2023 in PJ Fleck's 7th season as head coach. He has led the Gophers to 9+ wins in each of the last 3 full seasons and are now 4-0 in Bowl games. Quite the accomplishment to what they had been for the last 4+ decades. Minnesota is coming off a 2022 campaign where it finished with a 9-4 record overall, capping it off with a 28-20 win over Syracuse in the Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl. 2023 will finally see a new full time starting QB named Athan Kaliakmanis. He started a number of games last season after Tanner Morgan battled injuries much of last season after the Michigan State game. Even though Tanner Morgan will go down as one of the best QBs in Gopher history, it is nice to finally see a new face at QB and one that is the highest rated QB the Gophers have ever recruited. The Offensive Line will see a mix of familiar faces and some new faces, but all that have been in the program over the past few years. The backfield will see 2 new players with the departure of the legendary Mo Ibrahim. Senior Transfer Sean Tyler and Freshman Darius Taylor are expected to be the lead RBs this season, followed by Zach Evans and Bryce Williams. I expect the running game to be electric! The WRs will return Daniel Jackson, Chris Autman-Bell, and Le'meke Brockington, as well as the nation's top TE in Brevyn Spann-Ford. They also added 2 stud transfers in Corey Crooms Jr and Elijah Spencer. The passing game will have plenty of weapons, but will only go as far as Athan Kaliakmanis will take them. I think the passing attack is going to turn some heads. The defense returns most of the players from a 2022 defense that finished top 10 in the nation under DC Joe Rossi. Led by returning senior Safety, Tyler Nubin, this defense is going to be ferocious again. The Gophers have a very tough 2023 schedule, but don't expect this Minnesota team to roll over to anybody. They will make it tough on all of their opponents this season.
Nebraska is the first opponent on the schedule! What a way to start the season with a rival trophy game on the line. The winner will take home the $5 Bits Of Broken Chair Trophy! Nebraska enters the 2023 season with it's first year under new Head Coach, Matt Rhule. Rhule has previously coached at Temple, Baylor, and most recently for the Carolina Panthers. He has proven to be able to turn around college programs after a year or 2, but don't expect to see a dominant turn around by Nebraska in year 1. He does bring with him a dual threat QB in Jeff Sims who has over 1,000 rushing yards in his career at Georgia Tech. There isn't much else to say about this Nebraska team other than they may have better Linebackers and Offensive Lineman than the Gophers. Rossi and the Gophers defense will be focusing on keeping Sims contained in the pocket and they should be keeping the trophy in Minneapolis.
My prediction is that the Minnesota Gophers will have a very balanced and electric offensive attack, showing off some new weapons in the passing and running game. They will also contain Jeff Sims on defense and Nebraska will have trouble moving the ball consistently until maybe late in the game. I predict a 31-17 victory for the Gophers, starting the season out 1-0! I am optimistic about this Gopher team, I think it will be one of the best teams we have seen in the PJ Fleck era. I predict the Gophers to finish 9-3, with losses to Ohio State, Michigan, and Iowa. This should put them in the hunt for the Big Ten West title come season end! Whatever happens, I can't wait for the season to start! Go Gophers! Let me know your predictions in the comments below, on Twitter, or on Facebook. I would love to hear from you and thanks for reading, as always! <3