The countdown to the highly anticipated Minnesota Golden Gophers opener against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Thursday, Sept. 2 continues, but the release of the preseason coaching poll draws attention to what could be a streak brutal three games to complete. the regular season.
As expected, the Buckeyes will open the season as a Top 5 team, placing No.4 in the Coaching Poll. But four other Big Ten teams were also in the Top 25: Wisconsin (No.15), Indiana (No.17), Iowa (No.18) and Penn State (No.20).
The Gophers have their work cut out for them against the Buckeyes. Ohio State is looking to reload after losing five starters on either side of the ball. On offense, quarterback Justin Fields leaves the bigger shoes to fill. Redshirt rookie CJ Stroud is expected to step in below center, although he has yet to pitch football in a college game. Lucky for him, he’ll have a pair of game-changing wide receivers – Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson – to help him acclimatize. Defensively, Ohio State will need to replace its top five tackles from last season, including its top four linebackers on the team from last year.
Fans have certainly had the Ohio State game circled on their schedule for some time now, but the prospect of November reveals a three-game streak to end the regular season that could very well determine the fate of the Gophers in the Big Ten. West: in Iowa ranked # 18 (November 13), in Indiana ranked # 17 (November 20), and Wisconsin ranked # 15 (November 27).
Iowa is hoping for better from second-year caller Spencer Petras, although he’ll have to do so without top spreaders Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith. Running back Tyler Goodson appears to be the focal point of their offense, but he will be playing behind an offensive line replacing two starters. The Hawkeyes will face a fair amount of loss on the defensive end of the ball, replacing leading tackle Nick Niemann as linebacker and three-quarters of their defensive line. Their secondary numbers are some of the best in the Big Ten, bringing in both starting cornerbacks and hard-hitting safety Jack Koerner.
Indiana just finished in the Top 10 a season ago and is hoping dynamic quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will be at full strength after tearing his ACL apart in November of last year. But the offense will need to replace running back Stevie Scott and wide receiver Whop Philyor, both of whom will play on Sundays in the fall. The Hoosiers return nine starters in defense, including a pair of All-Americans with linebacker Micah McFadden and cornerback Tiawan Mullen. The question will be how many changes have been made to new defensive coordinator Charlton Warren.
After finishing 4-3 last season, Wisconsin has once again become the Big Ten West’s favorite, at least in the eyes of Big Ten writers. The offense loses left tackle Cole Van Lanen and left guard Jon Dietzen, but sacks quarterback Graham Mertz and all of their skill position players from last year. The Badgers’ defense will need to replace a pair of defensive ends and free keeper Eric Burrell, but reloading that side of the ball never seemed to be a problem for them.