Minnesota Golden Gophers College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
Minnesota Golden Gophers Biggest Key: Offense
It’s okay to start pushing the ball deep again. The running game is going to be terrific with Mohamed Ibrahim working behind the big veteran line, but the passing attack has to start being more 2019-like.
That’s far, far easier said than done without Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman from two years ago, but last season the passing game dropped from over 15 yards per catch to 13.
The passing game sputtered in the loss to Iowa and failed to get to 200 yards in five of the seven games after hitting the mark nine times in 2019. The total doesn’t matter as much as the play.
As long as the Gophers get back to being closer to ten yards per pass attempt – they were at 7.6 last year – the offense should open up.
Minnesota Golden Gophers Biggest Key: Defense
Uhhhhhh, the pass rush? Minnesota was 115th in the nation with just eight sacks and and was dead last in tackles for loss per game with a mere 2.57.
How miserable was that? It’s all-timer bad – they’re the fewest generated per game by any team in college football over the last ten years, with only 2018 Navy and 2020 Air Force and Akron also going under the three tackle for loss mark.
Even more strange was how solid the 2019 version was with 62 tackles for loss on the year and a not-awful 2.15 sacks per game.
The parts are there, but now the production has to follow.
Minnesota Golden Gophers Key Player To A Successful Season
WR Chris Autman-Bell, Sr.
Can he possibly go from being a terrific part of the passing game to a true No. 1 who can take over a game?
The 6-1, 215-pounder has been overshadowed by Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman, but he’s made his mark with 50 catches and six scores over the last two years.
Last year he averaged close to 20 yards per grab and put up two 100-yard games, but this year he needs to push for well past 50 catches as the main man in the corps.
Minnesota Golden Gophers Key Game To The 2021 Season
at Purdue, Oct. 9
It would be a massive deal if the Gophers could open up the season with a home win over Ohio State, but that’s asking a lot. The next Big Ten game is a month later in West Lafayette against what’s sure to be a surly Purdue team looking for revenge after last year’s loss.
Purdue scored what seemed like it would be the game-winning touchdown pass – at least it would give it the lead – but a questionable pass interference call took it away. The Gophers picked off a pass soon after and got out with a 34-31 win.
Lose, and it’s almost certainly an 0-2 Big Ten start. Win, and with a week off to rest and winnable home games against Nebraska, Maryland and Illinois over the next four
2020 Minnesota Golden Gophers Fun Stats
– Field Goals: Opponents 5-of-14 – Minnesota 4-of-6
– Time of Possession: Minnesota 34:06 – Opponents 25:54
– Fumbles: Opponents 12 (lost 2) – Minnesota 5 (lost 2)