Gophers football: After 8-4 finish, where will Minnesota go bowling?

The University of Minnesota football team has Paul Bunyan’s Axe back in Minneapolis for the second straight year, finishing the season with a 23-16 win over the Badgers last Saturday.

The Gophers finish the regular season 8-4, and while it was a good season for PJ Fleck and company, there was still meat on the bone for the third time in four years. Back in 2019, the Gophers were a win over Wisconsin away from claiming a Big Ten West title. Last year, losses to Illinois and Iowa proved costly in the quest to get to Indianapolis.

This year? Losses to Purdue and Iowa will leave the Gophers wondering what might have been. Both games were tied 10-10 in the fourth quarter, and the Gophers found a way to lose them both. Win them, and they’re the Big Ten West champions and headed to Indianapolis. The loss to Iowa especially stung for Fleck, talking with reporters after Saturday’s win over the Badgers, his second straight and third in the series.

"I still remember people, Heather and I every time they’d see us, just beat Wisconsin and you can stay forever. Just beat Wisconsin and you can stay forever. Well we’ve beaten Wisconsin twice and you all wanted me fired last week. That’s how that goes," Fleck said.

The Gophers are 3-0 under Fleck in bowl games, so where might Minnesota be headed? We’ll find out Sunday, after various conference title games this weekend.

It appears they’ve likely avoided a post-Christmas trip to Detroit for the Quick Lane Bowl. Most projections have the Gophers going to either the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, set for Dec. 30 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The other popular possibility is the ReliaQuest Bowl, formerly the Outback Bowl, set for Jan. 2 in Tampa, Fla.

Also keep an eye on the Pinstripe Bowl, played Dec. 29 at Yankee Stadium in New York.


The Gophers had 11 players honored on Tuesday as the Big Ten unveiled all-conference honors for defense and special teams. Senior safety Tyler Nubin was named Second Team All-Big Ten. He finished third on the defense with 55 tackles, and had a team-high four interceptions. He missed the win at Wisconsin with a broken wrist, suffered against Iowa.

Linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin was named Third Team All-Big Ten. He led the Gophers with 78 tackles, 38 solo tackles and tied for the team lead with 4.5 tackles for loss. He had one sack and broke up three passes.

Earning honorable mention honors for Minnesota’s defense were linebacker Cody Lindenberg, defensive linemen Danny Striggow, Trill Carter, Kyler Baugh and Thomas Rush, defensive back Terell Smith and safety Jordan Howden.

The Gophers’ defense finished No. 6 in the country in yards allowed (279.5), and No. 5 in scoring (13.3 points allowed).

Kicker Matthew Trickett, and kick returner Quentin Redding also earned Honorable Mention honors. Trickett was 15-of-18 on field goals this season, and 42-of-42 on extra points.