MINNEAPOLIS - It’s the middle of May and spring football has wrapped up for college football programs across the country.
Teams are now off until they report for summer workouts, and fall camp in August. The University of Minnesota football team is entering the 2022 season with high expectations. The 2021 season ended with a 23-13 win over rival Wisconsin at Huntington Bank Stadium, then an 18-6 win over West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl to finish 9-4.
In two of the last three seasons, PJ Fleck has led the Gophers to at least nine wins. That’s something that doesn’t happen very often at Minnesota. But if you ask the betting experts in Las Vegas, they’re not high on the Gophers for the 2022 season. According to Vegas Insider, the over/under for Minnesota’s win total next season is 6.5.
On the surface, that seems low. But Vegas has a method to its madness when it comes to gambling. Here are factors that could lead one who wagers in either direction.
WHY THE GOPHERS WILL WIN 7 OR MORE GAMES
- The Encore 4 – Four of the Gophers’ top offensive players are back for one more season, gaining an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Tanner Morgan, Mo Ibrahim, John Michael Schmitz and Chris Autman-Bell are all back for Minnesota. Morgan set all kinds of passing records in 2019. His offensive coordinator that year, Kirk Ciarrocca, is back. Ibrahim as the Big Ten Running Back of the Year in 2020, and is back after leg injury against Ohio State ended his season after just one game. Autman-Bell led the Gophers in receiving last year, despite missing three of the first four games with an injury.
- Best secondary under Fleck? Minnesota might feature its best secondary in 2022, in Fleck’s sixth season. The group will be led by safeties Jordan Howden, and Tyler Nubin. They’ve added transfers Beanie Bishop and Ryan Stapp and defensive back, and return Justin Walley and Terrell Smith.
- The schedule: Right out of the gate, the Gophers get three straight home games against New Mexico State, Western Illinois and Colorado. Those should be three wins. We’ll know a lot more about Minnesota after it heads to Michigan State to open the Big Ten slate. The league home games are also against Purdue, Rutgers, Northwestern and Iowa. Defend your home field alone, and you’re at seven wins. That said, the Gophers had inexplicable home losses last year to Bowling Green and Illinois.
WHY THE GOPHERS WILL WIN 6 OR FEWER GAMES
- Revamped offensive line: The Gophers lost four starters from an offensive line that played together for most of the last three seasons. Only Schmitz is back at center, and the returning players got snaps during the 2020 season. They’ll need transfers Quinn Carroll and Chuck Filiaga to step up.
- Questions on the defensive line: Thomas Rush and Trill Carter are the proven veterans back on the defensive line. After that, it’s a lot of names that haven’t seen a ton of game action. They’ll need players like Gage Keys, Jah Joyner, Austin Booker and transfers Lorenza Surgers and Darnell Jefferies to step up.
- The schedule: As evidenced by Bowling Green and Illinois last year, no game on the schedule is a guarantee. Not even New Mexico State, with former Gophers’ coach Jerry Kill coming back to town. Minnesota’s Big Ten road slate includes Michigan State, Illinois, Penn State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. The Spartans and Nittany Lions will be tough, Scott Frost is on the hot seat and a rivalry game that could have Big Ten West implications at Camp Randall will be a huge challenge.
OTHER BIG TEN WEST OVER/UNDER WIN TOTALS
- Wisconsin - 8.5
- Iowa - 7.5
- Illinois - 4.5
- Northwestern - 4.5
- Purdue not listed
All this being said, 6.5 wins for the Gophers still feels low. Minnesota is a program that feels like it’s on the verge of winning a Big Ten West title, playing in Indianapolis and getting a New Year’s Day bowl game. The Gophers have not played in a Rose Bowl since 1962.