Minnesota Gophers 2019: ESPN FPI’s game-by-game predictions
After the way Minnesota and PJ Fleck finished the 2018 season with wins over Wisconsin, Purdue and Georgia Tech, many view the 2019 season as the time to break out in Big Ten competition.
Head coach PJ Fleck has had two full off-seasons to build his roster, Minnesotans Tyler Johnson and Carter Coughlin are sky-rocketing up NFL Draft Boards and expectations are high for Minnesota.
Some Vegas oddsmakers like the Gophers, but what about the analytics?
Here’s a game-by-game look at the 2019 schedule and ESPN’s predictions for who comes out on top. ESPN uses its Football Power Index formula to general the odds at victory on a week-by-week basis. Will 2019 be a break-through year for the Gophers?
(Photo: Jackson Moore, 247Sports)
Game 1: Vs. South Dakota State, Aug. 29 (Win, 1-0)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 86.8 percent chance at victory — South Dakota State, was a damn good FCS team last season, making it all the way to the semi-finals before losing to North Dakota State. The issue is for the Jackrabbits, is they’re losing their senior quarterback, and most of their secondary. The talent gap is also significant with the Gophers as a heavy favorite. Pierre Strong is a tailback and return man to watch.
Game 2: at Fresno State, Sept. 7 (Win, 2-0)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 71.3 percent chance at victory — Fresno State has been a really good football team under Jeff Tedford with back-to-back 10 win seasons, including a 12 win season in 2018. Antoine Winfield saved the day for the Gophers last year with his interception in the end zone to seal it for Minnesota. The Bulldogs lose their quarterback, 11 pass-catchers, four starters on the offensive line, three starting linebackers and two key contributors in the secondary. This is going to be a much different team for the Gophers to face in their first road game of 2019.
(Photo: Michael Hickey, Getty)
Game 3: vs. Georgia Southern, Sept. 14 (Win, 3-0)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 86.9 percent chance at victory — The 2018 Georgia Southern Eagle football team became the first team in school history to win 10 games since the university moved to FBS in 2014. The Eagles also had an FBS-best +22 turnover margin. Minnesota’s going to have a challenge to stop the triple option, but ESPN has this as the highest probability for a win all season for the Gophers.
Game 4: at Purdue, Sept. 28 (Win, 4-0)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 66.4 percent chance at victory — Following their first bye week, the Gophers conference play starts off on the right foot for Minnesota. The Gophers dismantled a white hot Purdue team in late October last year, so you know the Boilermakers will be ready for some payback.
Game 5: vs. Illinois, Oct. 5 (Win, 5-0)
(Photo: Jeremy Werner, 247Sports)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 85.3 percent chance at victory — This game last year got defensive coordinator Robb Smith fired as the Fighting Illini racked up a season-high 55 points and 430 rushing yards as Illinois gave it to the Gophers in Champaign. With new defensive coordinator Joe Rossi, the Gophers run defense improved immensely. You know that Fleck and staff want another shot at the Illini, and they’ll get it at home to start October.
Game 6: vs. Nebraska, Oct. 12 (Win, 6-0)
(Photo: Bruce Thorson, USA TODAY Sports)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 60.5 percent chance at victory — Potential bowl eligibility in early October? What a life this could be for the Gophers. Minnesota’s going to have to figure out how to contain quarterback Adrian Martinez, who racked up over 400 total yards and four touchdowns on the Gophers last fall in Lincoln. This will be a huge test for the Gophers, as the Cornhuskers hype train will be going at full-speed coming into TCF Bank Stadium.
Game 7: at Rutgers, Oct. 19 (Win, 7-0)
(Photo: Brad Fedie, 247Sports)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 81.2 percent chance at victory — The Scarlet Knights aren’t a very good football team, and really haven’t been in recent memory with just a total of 11 wins in their last four season, but that doesn’t mean that the Gophers are overlook Rutgers at home. This game also shapes up to be a battle of former high school teammates as Artur Sitkowksi and Zack Annexstad, could be starting for both teams, and both started games for IMG Academy.
Game 8: vs. Maryland, Oct. 26 (Win, 8-0)
(Photo: © Mitch Stringer, USA TODAY Sports)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 84.1 percent chance at victory — Minnesota undefeated going into November? That’s what ESPN FPI thinks, and the amount of people rowing the boat to TCF Bank Stadium would be immense. I’m a bit skeptical as the Gophers haven’t been able to figure out how to stop the Maryland offense the last two years, as Robb Smith’s defense was eviscerated for over 40 points and 300 rushing yards, but Minnesota could be flying high with a ton of confidence. If Antoine Winfield can figure out a way to make it through the Maryland game, and the Gophers win. watch out.
Game 9: vs Penn State, Nov. 2 (Loss, 8-1)
Penn State coach James Franklin. (Photo: Mark Brennan-FOS/247)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 39.8 percent chance at victory — ESPN projects that the Gophers finally have their first slip up when the Nittany Lions of Penn State come to town. This is going to be a much different team that what fans saw last year as Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders will be gone from that offense, but there’s still a lot of talent returning for James Franklin and company.
Game 10: at Iowa, Nov. 16 (Loss, 8-2)
(Photo: Jeffrey Becker, USA TODAY Sports)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 37.2 percent chance at victory — ESPN projects this as the toughest game on Minnesota’s schedule, as a trip down to Kinnick hasn’t been easy for the Gophers of late. Iowa has won four-straight over the Gophers, and Minnesota hasn’t won in Iowa City since 1999. The Hawkeyes are going to look different on offense without first-round picks TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant, but this is still a very good Big Ten team at home for the Gophers to face.
Game 11: at Northwestern, Nov. 23 (Win, 9-2)
(Photo: Steve Helwagen, 247Sports)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 58.9 percent chance at victory — This would be a hell of win for Minnesota to grab as Northwestern has been sensational in Big Ten in recent years, especially at home. Chicago in late November isn’t going to a warm place to play, but if any team would understand that, it’s going to be Minnesota. ESPN projects the Wildcats to finally return from their 90+% Big Ten winning percentage, but the Gophers are going to have to earn it if they’re going to emerge from Evanston with a win.
Game 12: vs. Wisconsin, Nov. 30 (Win, 10-2)
(Photo: Stacy Revere, Getty)
ESPN’s FPI says Minnesota has a 64.6 percent chance at victory — The Gophers grabbing their 10th regular season win for the first time in over 100 years, with a win at home over Wisconsin would be oh-so sweet for Gopher fans. Minnesota finally cracked the code on how to beat Wisconsin last year, but you better believe the Badgers going to be out for revenge in 2019. If things play out the way ESPN’s FPI projects, a win here would not only keep the Axe in Dinkytown, but it could send Minnesota to Indianapolis for a shot at the Big Ten title.