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Minnesota Football: A Look Ahead - TDG Staff Season Preview

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The TDG staff addresses season expectations, must-win games, and their most anticipated home matchups

NCAA Football: Purdue at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

One week from tonight, the P.J. Fleck era of Gopher Football begins at TCF Bank Stadium in a primetime matchup with the Buffalo Bulls.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some football.

While you try to contain your excitement, the Daily Gopher staff is here to take a look at the season that lies ahead for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and their fans.

1. What are your expectations for this season, both in broad (competitiveness) and specific (record) terms?

GoAUpher: Like seemingly everyone else, I expect the Gophers to be competitive in most games. I also expect we'll lose at least one game we shouldn't and win one we aren't expected to win. I'll go with 6-6 as my record prediction, but the schedule is easy enough on paper where I won't be shocked if we win more.

gopherguy05: The team will be competitive in all games as long as the health of the team is good. All bets are off with a few key injuries. I see 7-5 being pretty close to accurate.

mowe0018: Being competitive and close in every game, similar to last year. In addition to being competitive, not losing to any team that has an obvious talent disadvantage when compared to us. The coaching transition is no excuse to lose to the likes of Purdue (who also underwent a coaching transition) or an Illinois team who we thumped on the road last year and has not discernibly improved yet.

Ustreet: I expect to watch an offense that doesn't make me gag and will actually put points on the board. I expect that skill positions that catch will make a leap and skill positions that throw will see a step back. I expect to see a lot of freshman and sophomores. Every year, I say the team will win every game, so this year is no different. If I were a betting man, I suspect that they go under the over/under.

dvits14: I think they come out of the gate a little slow the first few games as they learn the new systems and break in a new QB, but they start to play much better the latter half of the season. I have them down for seven wins.

wildcat00: I was convinced we would be fairly competitive but the 2-QB thing has made me revisit that a bit. I still think we're probably about 7-5, and no worse than third in the Big Ten West.

IowaGopher: Three of the Gophers’ last four head coaches have recorded three wins or less in their first season at the helm, with Tracy Claeys being the lone exception. The program is certainly not in rebuild mode, but the first year under a new head coach is almost always a wild card. I expect them to at least be competitive in every game, but could see them landing anywhere between five and eight wins. I would certainly be disappointed if this team isn’t bowling again this year.

2. Of the four road games on their conference schedule, if you could handpick one victory, who would be the opponent?

GoAUpher: Iowa, because their fans would be SO UPSET about losing to Fleck.

gopherguy05: Iowa. Bring home Floyd. Teach Lil Ferentz not to run his mouth.

mowe0018: Iowa, obvi.

Ustreet: Iowa.

dvits14: Michigan, as that would be Fleck’s official notice to the rest of the B1G that he’s not afraid of the “Big Boys”.

wildcat00: WHO HATES IOWA?! Bring home the bacon already!

IowaGopher: Iowa seems to be the consensus choice, and while I’ll never argue with returning the Floyd of Rosedale to Minneapolis, I am going with Michigan. For one, I’ll be at the Big House, but also, a win over Michigan this season would be the kind of statement win that long eluded the previous coaching regime.

3. Is there a must-win game on the conference schedule?

GoAUpher: Depends on the context of the question. In terms of Year 1, I agree with Ustreet that there are no must win games in Year 1. In terms of "if we want to have a decent to pretty good season," then I would say Maryland or Michigan State.

gopherguy05: If you want to go 7-5, then it’s probably Michigan State at home. But that is assuming you beat Maryland first.

mowe0018: Nothing is truly a "must-win" this season. But losing at home to Maryland or Illinois would not portend great things for this era in my honest assessment.

Ustreet: No. There are no must-win games in Year 1 ever.

dvits14: Wisconsin. They have to get that monkey off their back, especially after giving a couple of the games away the past couple years.

wildcat00: I think Maryland at The Bank. Win that and it opens up the possibilities a lot. Lose that and the rest of the season might be in jeopardy.

IowaGopher: I’d rather not lose to the likes of Purdue and Illinois, and probably also Maryland. You can talk all you want about there not being “must-win” games in a coach’s first season, but I don’t know if I could stomach a winless conference record. Especially after a nine-win season.

4. Which home game are you most looking forward to?

GoAUpher: Wisconsin, because we're winning this year, dammit.

gopherguy05: Because I hate myself, it has to be Wisconsin.

mowe0018: Wisconsin. The reasons should be as plain as the head on Goldy's shoulders.

Ustreet: Wisconsin because this year will either be a repeat of 1993 or 2003.

dvits14: Going off the board with this one, but I’m really looking forward to the Buffalo game. I can’t wait to finally see a semblance of what the team will actually look like under Fleck compared to what we’ve known the past seven years.

wildcat00: Nebraska. CHAIR CHAIR CHAI...DAMMIT!

IowaGopher: I’m with dvits14. I can’t wait for the Thursday night opener against Buffalo. I’ve read enough practice reports and listened to more than enough interviews. I want to see what Fleck’s Gopher squad can do on the field.

Feel free to share your own take on each question!