No. 5 Wisconsin (12-0, 9-0 Big Ten) put the finishing touches on an undefeated regular season in blowout fashion, defeating Minnesota (5-7, 2-7 Big Ten) on the road by a score of 31-0. Say what you might about the level of competition Minnesota has faced this season, but the Badgers have done everything asked of them to be in the College Football Playoff discussion, and they may be one win shy of reaching the playoff for the first time in school history.
Wisconsin had a straightforward approach to beating Minnesota fueled by steady defense and a good running game. Jonathan Taylor rushed 20 times for 149 yards and a score in the big win to continue a dominant freshman season. Alex Hornibrook passed for 151 yards and three touchdowns for an efficient afternoon when needed.
All that stands in the way for the Badgers now is Ohio State and the selection committee. A win against the Buckeyes to string together a 13-0 record with a Big Ten championship capped by a win against a top 10 team feels like it should be enough on its own to be rewarded with inclusion in the College Football Playoff. And with the top two teams in the nation losing this weekend, it still remains a guessing game how the selection committee will evaluate the situation. Nothing should be considered a given, but if Wisconsin is the last undefeated power conference team standing at the end of the season, then that should be enough if the Badgers can pull it off.
Wisconsin will play Ohio State next week in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Minnesota’s season is now done with a 5-7 record, bringing the first season under P.J. Fleck to a close. There were some positives at times, but the Gophers have plenty of rowing to do to take steps forward in the Big Ten West pecking order and to give Wisconsin a decent run.
Minnesota is preparing to take on Michigan State this week, immediately after the Spartans pulled off a hard-fought road win against Michigan last week. The win by the Spartans seemed to catch many off guard considering last year’s struggles and the rise of the Wolverines under head coach Jim Harbaugh. But Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck wasn’t surprised at all.
Asked about the win by Michigan State last week, Fleck said he was not surprised at all by the Spartans victory in Michigan Stadium. Fleck went a step further to suggest it would be more shocking if Michigan managed to beat Michigan State instead.
“I think they beat them eight out of the last 10 times, so I don’t think you would be surprised at all,” Fleck said when asked if he was surprised by the result. “I think it almost be the other way, if Michigan beats Michigan State you should be surprised.”
Saturday’s 14-10 win was indeed Michigan State’s eighth win in the last 10 meetings with Michigan, so Fleck is well aware of the recent history between two Big Ten rivals. And Fleck’s remarks may have had dual purposes attached to them as well. On the one hand, Fleck is offering some praise for his next opponent by stressing his lack of surprise over the Spartans winning. On the other, by suggesting it was no surprise Michigan State won, he is taking a bit of a jab at Michigan as well.
Fleck coached Western Michigan to an undefeated regular season last year, but that largely was overshadowed by Michigan’s own run to an undefeated regular season until November. So he knows a thing or two about the state of college football in the state of Michigan. He also knows that anything that pecks away at Harbaugh and the Wolverines could bode well for him and his program at Minnesota. Fleck is known to find every possible recruiting angle he can use to his advantage, and chipping away at Michigan whenever the opportunity arises should be exploited by Fleck as he looks to build the Gophers into a Big Ten contender.
Fleck and Minnesota will get their chance to measure up against Michigan later this season. The Gophers visit Ann Arbor on November 4. Don’t be surprised if this comment is revisited in a few weeks.
While much of the attention on the Thursday night slate was focused on Ohio State’s second half resurgence at Indiana or Mason Rudolph‘s dazzling aerial display against Tulsa, you may have somehow missed the coaching debut of on P.J. Fleck at his new job last night.Fleck and Minnesota may not have played a perfect game, but it was good enough to go 1-0 to start the season after Minnesota got by Buffalo.
Fleck and Minnesota may not have played a perfect game, but it was good enough to go 1-0 to start the season after Minnesota got by Buffalo.
After the game, Fleck was awarded the game ball in honor of his first win with the school. As noted by USA Today, Fleck became the first Minnesota head coach to win his coaching debut with the program since John Gutekunst led the Gophers to a 31-7 victory over Bowling Green in 1986 (they then lost 63-0 the following week against No. 1 Oklahoma, and 24-20 the next week against Pacific). So it’s been a long time coming for a Minnesota coach to get off to his new job with a 1-0 start. And for that, the milestone was deserving of the game ball, handed to Fleck by Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle.
“I was very honored,” Fleck said afterward. “But that game ball was not for me. That game ball was for our players. That game ball was for our boosters. That game ball was for our fans, our student section, 10,000 strong are chanting ‘row the boat.’ … That’s for everybody who believed in what we’re doing, not that it’s guaranteed to happen right now or this year. But that’s for that vision, and I just appreciated it and accepted it on behalf of everybody.”
Fleck’s next goal will to become the first Minnesota head coach to start his tenure with the Gophers with a 2-0 record since Murray Warmath started the 1954 season with four consecutive wins. Next up for Minnesota will be a road trip to Oregon State next Saturday.
It didn’t take long for Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck to ruffle some feathers with his outside-the-box thinking at his new Big Ten job. Following a recent football camp at Minnesota, Fleck shared a promotional video for the next summer camps on Minnesota’s campus that featured video highlights and sequences of potential recruits. Although the issue was raised to the NCAA by some coaches who noticed this tactic, it is perfectly within the rules of the NCAA for Fleck to share such video.
The loophole comes from the video being an advertisement for a football camp, as explained by 247 Sports. As such, any footage of participants in the camp is fair game. If the video was promoting the university or football program specifically, that’s another issue entirely.
Fleck is a young and upcoming head coach who has found ways to provide a spark as a head coach at Western Michigan and now at Minnesota. He will do some new things that have not been tried or some other strategies that coaches like Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh may not have to resort to in order to improve his program. So far, he has played within the rules as best he possibly can. And that’s a good thing. Every coach should be working within the rules and utilize any loopholes to their advantage if it means improving the chances of building a stronger football program.
I cannot wait to watch Fleck in the Big Ten.
P.J. Fleck has found his new home as he settles in with his new coaching job at Minnesota. The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports Fleck has purchased a brand new $3 million home in Edina.
With a square footage of 5,949, six bedrooms and six bathrooms, it sure sounds as though Fleck did a fine job finding a new home. This newly-built home also comes with some technological features like Amazon’s Alexa built in. Settlement no the house was finalized on the same day Fleck and Western Michigan worked out a buyout of $600,000. So it was quite the busy day for Fleck.
Unfortunately, this new home is not located on a lake with a boat dock. This feels like a wasted opportunity because I was really hoping we would get a glimpse of Fleck rowing his boat up to the house in his down time.