Can Gophers Salvage Season with 3rd Straight Win vs Badgers?

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Wisconsin
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

PJ Fleck and the gopher football team has one game remaining of this very forgettable 2023 campaign. However, Fleck still has the opportunity to beat the Wisconsin Badgers for the third straight season, keeping the historic Axe in Dinkytown for a historic amount of time.

When Fleck was hired here in 2017, many fans only cared about one thing: can you beat Wisconsin? At the time, the Gophers hadn’t beaten the Badgers since 2003, 14 years prior to Fleck’s arrival.

PJ Fleck going for history vs Wisconsin

Now, Fleck has the Gophers set up to win three straight against the Badgers, which hasn’t been done since the Gophers won four in a row back in 1984-87, heck the Gophers won back to back games against the Badgers the last two seasons which hadn’t been done since the 93-94 seasons.

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Saturday is a big opportunity for Fleck and company. The Gophers also have the chance to be bowl eligible for the third straight season and 5 of 7 years during PJ’s tenure.

PJ Fleck would join only Glen Mason as the only head coach to attend 5+ bowl games as the Gopher coach, this is a stat no matter how you look at Fleck these past few seasons, PJ Fleck’s ability to be consistent and win 6+ games almost every year is something the Gophers have not been blessed with in the recent history.

Disappointing season doesn’t mean disappointing tenure

Keep in mind, Fleck is only 42. He’s still considered a young mastermind of college football. Was this season a huge disappointment? Sure, the Gophers at many points during the season were pretty much handed the Big Ten West.

They just didn’t beat the teams that, well, you need to beat if you’re expecting to play for a conference championship. The loss to Northwestern was really bad. The loss to Illinois, in my opinion, was even worse, and well, getting blown out by a three-win Purdue team, is just unacceptable.

Things like that can’t continue to happen. But unfortunately, over the years of the PJ Fleck era, they have. The close games to non-power 5 teams, losses to the Bowling Greens of the world… gross.

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PJ Fleck does find ways to bounce back, he always has. And I’m fairly confident in his ability to continue to build this football program, he has set the standard high for himself. It’s all about the next step, beating teams you’re supposed to beat, beating rivals, and fighting for Big Ten Championships.

And all this starts tomorrow afternoon in Minneapolis. Can PJ Fleck bounce back once again, salvage the season, and get his Gopher squad The Axe for the third straight year?

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