We’ve passed the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day, and that means college football is only three months away. It also means that college football preview magazines are hitting the newsstands. Two of the best – Athlon’s and Street & Smith’s – went on sale last week, and in them are some tidbits about the Gophers.
Both magazines expect the Gophers to finish sixth in the Big Ten West, with Athlon’s predicting a 6-6 record and 3-6 Big Ten mark in P.J. Fleck’s second year as Minnesota coach, a one-game improvement over last year’s 5-7 and 2-7 marks. Athlon’s also projects the Gophers to play North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, while Street & Smith’s does not have the Gophers making a bowl game, nor does it predict a record.
Both magazines predict Wisconsin to win the Big Ten West and Ohio State to win the Big Ten East, with the Buckeyes winning the conference title game and advancing to the College Football Playoff.
Athlon’s named All-Big Ten first, second and third teams, and Gophers senior Rodney Smith is the second-team all-purpose player. The Gophers had four players on the third team: wide receiver Tyler Johnson, defensive lineman Carter Coughlin, linebacker Thomas Barber and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Street & Smith’s selected one All-Big Ten team, and there were no Gophers on it.
Athlon’s rated the 23 new head-coaching hires from the 2017 and had Fleck at No. 16 but wrote, “Word of caution for those eager to call P.J. Fleck a bust after one season at Minnesota: His first team at Western Michigan went 1-11.’’
In its top coordinator hires for 2018, Athlon’s ranked former Gophers coach Tracy Claeys, now the defensive coordinator at Washington State, eighth among its top 12.
In the players to watch who are returning from injury, Athlon’s mentioned Winfield.
In its FCS preview, both Athlon’s and Street & Smith’s tabbed defending champion North Dakota State as its No. 1 team, with South Dakota State No. 3 (Street & Smith’s) or No. 4 (Athlon’s). Street & Smith’s has Minnesota State Mankato ranked No. 3 and fellow NSIC member Sioux Falls No. 15 in its NCAA Division II preseason top 25. In NCAA Division III, Street & Smith’s has St. Thomas at No. 4 and St. John’s at No. 11 in the preseason top 25.