Back in early June, Penn State announced its White Out opponent for the 2022 season. For many it was a surprise when it was revealed to be the University of Minnesota. Usually, Ohio State or Michigan win the honor, and are the biggest rivals of the Nittany Lions. This is a big honor for the Gophers and a sign that the program is being noticed.
What This Means For The Gophers Program
Being named the white out opponent for 2022 shows just how much of a turnaround the Gophers have made since P.J. Fleck came to Minneapolis. Fleck came to Minnesota from Western Michigan after a 13-1 season only losing to Wisconsin (although he has gotten payback a few times since then). Since coming to Minnesota, the team has gone 35-23 with a win percentage of .603 over five seasons. The Gophers have had only two losing seasons since Fleck’s arrival. The first was in 2017 (Fleck’s first season) where they went 5-7. The other was 2020 (covid) where they went 3-4.
During the previous five seasons the Gophers went 37-28 with a winning percentage of .569. With Fleck, the Gophers winning percentage has improved. During those five years prior to Fleck, the Gophers were mediocre to good. The best record came in 2016 when they went 9-4. The Gophers under Fleck have had two seasons the same or better. The first was 2019 during their historic 11-2 season, then in 2021 when they finished 9-4.
While the Gophers haven’t been as consistent during the previous five years, their program has improved. The Gophers have been more competitive, competing with teams like Michigan and Ohio State and even beating top teams like Penn State and Auburn. They have recruited much better, getting quality players and coaches. The team looks to rebound this season, even after going 9-4. The return of offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca should help the offense rebound from a lackluster performance last season. The Gophers boast a strong veteran team, with players at every position. This includes quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebackers, and secondary. The offensive and defensive line had to rebuild a little, bringing in a few transfers to help retool the two lines. If things go well here, expect another crack at a 2019 caliber season in the North Star State.
What To Expect From The Game
The last time these two played was in 2019. Penn State was ranked fourth in the nation and the Golden Gophers 17th. Both were undefeated at 8-0. It was a great game that came down to the wire, ending with the Gophers intercepting Sean Clifford for the third time to seal the victory 31-26.
Both quarterbacks who played in that game will be playing in this one as well. Both Tanner Morgan and Sean Clifford are six-year seniors who are set to fight it out in the white out game. Going into the game the Gophers at worst should be 4-2 and at best 6-0 (though unlikely). Penn State on the other hand should be at worst 3-3 or at best 6-0 (also unlikely). Will we get the undefeated matchup like in 2019? As much as I would love to say yes, both teams should have a loss if not a pair come October 22nd.
Expect a good matchup come October though. Both teams should be good. Both underperformed last season and are looking to get back and compete for their divisions. Who knows, maybe this could be a preview of the Big 10 Championship. You never know, anything can happen in college football.
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