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College Football Preview 2024: Minnesota Golden Gophers win projections, strengths and weaknesses, quarterback spotlight and more

2W9C8BR DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 26: Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Darius Taylor (1) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the Quick Lane Bowl between the Bowling Green Falcons and the Minnesota Golden Gophers on December 26, 2023 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

After putting up back-to-back 9-4 seasons, Minnesota took a step back in 2023, finishing with a 6-7 record. The biggest culprit was the Golden Gophers’ inability to get anything going with their passing game, as they were the sixth-worst offense in the Power Five in terms of EPA per pass last year.

The program has a new quarterback in New Hampshire transfer Max Brosmer, but it will need some receivers to step up to ease his transition to the FBS, let alone the Big Ten. Luckily, he should have a very strong rushing attack to take some of the pressure off.

On the defensive side, Minnesota projects to have a strong pass rush once again but needs to do a better job stopping the run.


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Biggest Strength: Run game

Minnesota returns its two leading rushers from last season in Darius Taylor and Jordan Nubin. Taylor is a rising star, as his 80 rushing yards ranked second among FBS true freshmen last year. The Golden Gophers also added Ohio’s Sieh Bangura and Oklahoma’s Marcus Major from the transfer portal, with each earning a 70.0-plus rushing grade last season.

Minnesota also brings back four starting offensive linemen from 2023 after earning a top-40 run-blocking grade last season (68.0). The star of that unit is left tackle Aireontae Ersery, who is college football's best returning run-blocker.


Biggest Weakness: Passing game

Minnesota needs some players to step up in the passing attack, or it risks the offense being one-dimensional. It starts with New Hampshire transfer quarterback Max Brosmer, who earned a solid 79.9 passing grade last year but is jumping from the FCS to the Big Ten. While Daniel Jackson is a good No. 1 receiver, the Golden Gophers still placed just 109th in team receiving grade last season. Only three of Minnesota’s pass-catchers posted 100 receiving yards in 2023, and Jackson is the only one returning.


2023 Team Overview

Offense
EPA per play Yards per play Successful play rate Explosive run play rate Explosive pass play rate
-0.102 4.9 33.3% 12.3% 13.0%
109th 119th 90th 117th 86th
Defense
EPA allowed per play Yards allowed per play Successful play rate allowed Explosive run rate allowed Explosive pass rate allowed
0.047 6.0 35.0% 16.2% 14.5%
99th 96th 75th 84th 74th

Three Notable Transfer Portal Additions

  • QB Max Brosmer (New Hampshire): 80.1 PFF grade
  • CB Ethan Robinson (Bucknell): 79.8 PFF grade
  • RB Sieh Bangura (Ohio): 71.7 PFF grade

Three Notable Transfer Portal Losses

  • QB Athan Kaliakmanis (Rutgers): 65.2 PFF grade
  • CB Tariq Watson (UAB): 63.2 PFF grade
  • RB Zach Evans (North Texas): 75.8 PFF grade

Quarterback Spotlight: Max Brosmer

2023 Grade: 80.1
Key Stat: 3,498 passing yards (led all FCS QBs last season)

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