Third time’s the charm, right?
The Big Ten announced the third edition of the conference’s football schedule for 2020. That means each team starting near the end of October and entering championship week in December.
Just like every other team, Minnesota gets four home games and four on the road. After the eight-game regular season, there is a ninth game against a team from the Big Ten East. Likely, this will be the team that finishes with the same record as Minnesota in that division.
Though there aren’t any set times yet for each of these games, the schedule looks as follows:
Minnesota has a well balanced schedule. Each of the dominant teams in the conference, especially in the West Division, are spread out. The Gophers are going to be challenged by border rivals Iowa and Wisconsin, and Michigan will be a tough game. The Wolverines are starting the season with a new quarterback, but they are expected to be good again this year.
There are also some rebounding programs that the Gophers shouldn’t overlook. Purdue had a down season in 2019, but it could give the Gophers a real test between the Iowa and Wisconsin games. And Illinois surprised many last season with a victory over the Badgers. They finished 6-7, going out with a loss to Northwestern and to Cal in their bowl game.
The battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe shapes up to be another competitive affair this season. Wisconsin’s biggest loss was electric running back Jonathan Taylor to the NFL, and Minnesota’s defense has improved. Also, given that the game now takes place on the hard, natural grass of Camp Randall Stadium at the end of November, this could be a hard-fought ground battle.
Badgers’ quarterback Jack Coan will be called upon for a bigger role this season. He was the most efficient starting quarterback in the Big Ten last year. With Taylor’s 26 touchdowns gone from a season ago, Coan will be counted on in this game to elude Minnesota’s rush defense.
Another trophy game, but this one has been more one-sided through PJ Fleck’s first three seasons — Iowa has a five-game winning streak in the rivalry. Minnesota is looking to return Floyd of Rosedale to Minneapolis for the first time since Jerry Kill was head coach in 2014.
Minnesota’s offense returns quarterback Tanner Morgan, but their top receivers have departed — pending Rashod Bateman‘s status. Conversely, former Hawkeyes’ quarterback Nate Stanley has graduated, but many of his targets remain.
With Stanley in the NFL, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has been high on sophomore Spencer Petras. He will have a stable of wide receivers to throw to with collegiate experience, including Tyler Goodson and Tyrone Tracy Jr. Last season, Goodson put up 94 yards and Tracy Jr. had 77 yards in the Hawkeyes’ victory over the Gophers.
Minnesota’s ability to overcome significant losses on both ends of the ball will become apparent early. With Michigan visiting TCF Bank Stadium just over a month from now, the losses of Tyler Johnson and Rodney Smith will be tested. Defensively, filling the roles of Carter Coughlin, Kamal Martin and Antoine Winfield Jr. is paramount to having early success this season.