The Minnesota Golden Gophers look to build off of a 9-4 2021 season and turn it into a Big Ten Championship appearance in 2022.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers are entering their sixth season with P.J. Fleck as head coach. They have made it to a bowl game three times during his tenure, and they have won each time. This past season, they went 9-4 on the year and won the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.

But in 2022, the program has more lofty goals, such as making it to the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time in program history. They have never had the chance to do so, but will have to get past what could be a tough West division.

Without further ado, here are the Minnesota Golden Gophers at No. 37 in the FanSided Preseason Top 50 College Football Rankings.

Minnesota football 2021 season in review

Minnesota was looking to rebound from the 2020 season, which was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They finished with a 3-4 record and did not participate in a bowl game.

To start off 2021, Minnesota faced off against the Ohio State Buckeyes. They built up a lead as large as 21-17, but they ultimately lost 45-31. Despite this, Minnesota played their way to a 6-2 record but then lost back-to-back games to Illinois and Iowa. The Golden Gophers did win Paul Bunyan’s Axe in the regular-season finale, defeating Wisconsin.

Minnesota clinched a spot in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, and they picked up the 18-6 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Previewing Minnesota Golden Gophers offense for 2022 season

  • Returning Starters: QB Tanner Morgan, RB Mohamed Ibrahim, WR Dylan Wright, WR Chris Autumn-Bell, WR Daniel Jackson, TE Brevyn Span-Ford, OL Aireontae Ersery, OL Axel Ruschmeyer, OL John Michael Schmitz
  • Newcomers: OL Chuck Filiaga (Michigan), OL Quinn Carroll (Notre Dame)
  • Impact Player: Mohamed Ibrahim

The majority of the offense from last season will be returning for 2022. Perhaps the biggest return was of running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in their opening game against Ohio State. Prior to that, he recorded 163 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on 30 carries in that game. Getting him back is huge, considering he logged over 1,000 rushing yards in two seasons.

Also returning is wide receiver Chris Autumn-Bell, who tallied a team-high six touchdown receptions last season.

There are some new faces on the offensive line, both of whom come from big schools. Chuck Filiaga transferred over from Michigan, as did Quinn Carroll from Notre Dame.

Previewing Minnesota Golden Gophers defense for 2022 season

  • Returning Starters: DE Jalen Logan-Redding, NT Trill Carter, DT Deven Eastern, DE Thomas Rush, LB Braelen Oliver, LB Mariano Sori-Marin, LB Donald Willis, CB Justin Walley, S Tyler Nubin, S Jordan Howden
  • Newcomers: CB Ryan Stapp (Abilene Christian), NB Beanie Bishop (Western Kentucky)
  • Impact Player: Tyler Nubin

Returning for Minnesota is defensive end Thomas Rush, who logged 5.5 sacks and 31 total tackles, and safety Tyler Nubin, who recorded a team-high three interceptions and 49 total tackles.

There are some new faces on the defense, including Ryan Stapp of Abilene Christian, and Beanie Bishop of Western Kentucky. Bishop logged 33 total tackles, four defended passes, and three interceptions last season.

Minnesota football player awards watch for 2022 season

Mohamed Ibrahim, Maxwell

The Maxwell award is given to the most outstanding college football player of the year. Ibrahim was named to the watch list. Ibrahim posted 3,003 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns in four years with the Golden Gophers.

John Michael Schmitz, Lombardi/Rimington/Outland

John Michael Schmitz is a standout on the offensive line, and being placed on the watch list for the Outland Trophy, and Lombardi and Rimington awards prove just that. During his college career, Schmitz was named to the All Big Ten Second Team (2021, coaches), All Big Ten Third Team (2021, media), and the Academic All-Big Ten (2018-21).

Mariano Sori-Marin, Butkus

Last year, Mariano Sori-Marin recorded 85 total tackles, three defended passes, and two forced fumbles. He is now on the watch list for the Butkus award for the best linebacker in college football.

Minnesota football biggest game on 2022 schedule

There are plenty of formidable foes on the schedule for the Golden Gophers in 2022. When it comes to the biggest game, it has to be against Wisconsin to end the season. Not only is Paul Bunyan’s Axe on the line, but it could decide whether the Golden Gophers make it to the Big Ten Championship or not, depending on how the rest of the season goes.

Minnesota football best-case scenario

It would be a tremendous success if the Golden Gophers can defeat one of the Michigan State Spartans and Iowa Hawkeyes. If they do so, they can walk into the regular-season finale with a chance to win the West division.

Minnesota football worst-case scenario

Minnesota can not afford to lose to all of the top teams in the division. Of course, that is Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Nebraska. There are going to be some losses for the Golden Gophers in this group, but to lose all four would be devastating.

Minnesota football 2022 season prediction

The Golden Gophers will be bowl eligible for the 2022 season, but a Big Ten Championship may not be in the cards.

Even though there are winnable games on their schedule such as Rutgers, Western Illinois, and New Mexico State, they will have to play some pretty tough teams. Not only will they have to play their division rivals, but also have to play Michigan State and Penn State. Not to mention that they play Iowa, who they have not defeated since 2014.

Despite this, they will finish the season with a good enough record to put them in bowl game consideration. But it won’t be good enough to become Big Ten champions.

2022 record: 8-4

Minnesota football 2022 bowl game prediction projects that Minnesota will make the Pinstripe Bowl, where they will face the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Coming up: No. 37 UCLA Bruins

Other articles in this series:

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