The college football preview magazines have been on newsstands for a month, and today brought the most anticipated Gophers preview story of the summer, for me. Bill Connelly, from SBNation, does a terrific job each year breaking down every FBS team with smart insight and deep statistical analysis.
Last year Connelly had the Gophers pegged, almost perfectly, as a four-loss team that would finish No. 42 nationally in his S&P+ ranking. Sure enough, they finished 9-4 and No. 42 in S&P+.
In assessing these Gophers, Connelly blends references to Fleck's successful rebuild at Western Michigan with notes on what the staff inherited from Tracy Claeys. All in all, I think it's pretty spot on. Connelly projects the Gophers as a 6.6-win team and No. 47 in projected S&P+, noting that there are five relative toss-up games -- Oregon State (road), Michigan State (home), Iowa (road), Nebraska (home) and Northwestern (road) -- that could dramatically swing the season one way or another.
Of the Big Ten West’s middle four teams, Minnesota’s ceiling might be higher than anybody’s outside of Nebraska, but its floor for 2017 is probably the lowest, too. And a fascinating schedule features five games with S&P+ win probabilities between 39 and 54 percent each. There are few guaranteed wins and few guaranteed losses. A small number of injuries could make the difference between West contention and a 4-8 record.
I recommend reading the whole thing, for those looking for an early summer fix, as the season is getting closer than you might think. Big Ten Media Days are July 24-25, and Gophers training camp opens Aug. 1.