Last fall, I wrote down nine bold predictions for the Minnesota Gophers heading into the 2023 season. These predictions involved just about every aspect of the team. I’ll be honest; I haven’t looked at them since about a week ago. Partly because I had a good idea of how far or close I was to some of them. I have zero problem making fun of myself and having some fun by owning up to how wrong I was. So let’s see if any of my predictions happened, came close, or were way off.
1. The Gophers will have three tailbacks rush for over 500 yards this season.
Did it happen? Came close.
Nobody expected Sean Tyler to have the season he had. The Western Michigan graduate transfer came in with a lot of experience after running for over 1,000 yards the two previous years. Tyler struggled holding onto the ball, which significantly decreased his playing time. After Tyler, I did expect Darius Taylor and Zach Evans to make an impact, which did happen when they were healthy. One pleasant surprise was Jordan Nubin, who stepped in when Taylor and Evans were out due to injuries. Minnesota had two players rush for over 500 yards on the season: Taylor and Nubin. Sean Tyler rushed for 242 yards, while Zach Evans had 230 yards in 2023.
2. The Gophers will finish in the Top 8 of the Big Ten in team sacks.
Did it happen? No, they finished 11th in the Big Ten.
After finishing second to last in the Big Ten in 2022 with 19 sacks, I predicted the Gophers defensive line would be better in 2023. They were better in 2023; they finished with 26 sacks to finish 11th in the conference. They were three sacks away from finishing in the Top 8 in the Big Ten. Jah Joyner finished third in the Big Ten with 7.5 sacks. Defensive line coach Winston DeLattiboudere has a bright future, and the group should be really good next year.
3. One streak will be broken while two streaks continue.
Did it happen? Not even close.
Before the season, I predicted that Bret Bieliema would finally lose to Minnesota, the Gophers would beat Wisconsin for the third straight year, and P.J. Fleck would go another year without beating Iowa.
Well, here is what happened:
Bret Bielema beat Minnesota for the ninth time in nine tries.
The Badgers took back the Axe in Minneapolis.
The Gophers beat Iowa in Iowa City.
Who expected all of that to happen?
4. The Gophers will have two first-team All-Big Ten players for the second year in a row.
Did it happen? Yes, and no.
Before the season, I predicted safety Tyler Nubin and tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford would be named on the first-team All-Big Ten list. Nubin would find himself on the list, while Spann-Ford did not. The Gophers did have the Big Ten Kicker of the Year in Dragan Kesich. So yes, the Gophers had two first-team selections for the second year in a row.
5. Athan Kaliakmanis will enter two Top 10 program record lists.
Did it happen? No.
Nicknamed the “Greek Rifle,” Kaliakmanis finished the 2022 season on such a good note that Gopher fans were pretty excited to see him air it out in 2023. I thought that he could easily enter two Top 10 program lists for passing yards and touchdowns thrown in a single season. To enter the Top Ten in those categories, he had to throw over 2,530 yards and at least 15 touchdowns. He finished the year with 1,838 yards and 14 touchdowns. Kaliakmanis would miss the bowl game as he entered the transfer portal after the regular season.
6. This will be the last season with Joe Rossi.
Did it happen? Yes, but I was wrong with one thing.
Rossi entered the 2023 season feeling pretty good, as he was coming off two years in a row in which he led a Top 10 defense. The word was that Rossi had turned down head coaching positions the last few years to stay at Minnesota. I thought that if the Gophers defense had another solid year, I predicted he would be a head coach somewhere. The defense took a step back, and Rossi took the defensive coordinator job at Michigan State. So yes, this was the last season for Rossi at Minnesota, but I thought he would leave for a different job because of a different reason.
7. Minnesota will have three receivers with 400 yards this season.
Did it happen? Not even close. Only one player finished with more than 400 yards.
This one hurts because, to be honest, I even thought the Gophers had a chance to have four receivers finish with 400 yards in the 2023 season. Minnesota returned two experienced pass catchers, Daniel Jackson and Brevyn Spann-Ford. Corey Crooms came with plenty of experience from Western Michigan. Chris Autman-Bell was returning from injury, and you had 2021 Conference USA freshman of the year Elijah Spencer too. There are plenty of weapons for Athan Kaliakmanis. Poor throws and drops plagued the passing game this season. Here are your leaders in receiving yards in the 2023 season.
Daniel Jackson, 831
Corey Crooms Jr., 376
Brevyn Spann-Ford, 239
Darius Taylor, 92
8. Tyler Nubin becomes an All-American and enters programs Top Ten lists.
Did it happen? Yes!
This one wasn’t the boldest of predictions, but you just never know if players will rise to the occasion. Nubin entered the 2023 season with plenty of preseason hype, and he lived up to it. The star safety finished the year with five interceptions, which is just what he needed to sit alone in the number one spot in career interceptions for a Minnesota defensive player. Nubin was named on four separate All-American lists at the end of the season.
9. Minnesota will win nine games in a season for the third year in a row.
Did it happen? No.
I predicted the Gophers would finish the regular season with eight wins and have their ninth win come in the bowl game. Depending on where you looked, Vegas had them winning at least six games in the 2023 season. We all know the Gophers went to a bowl game as the only 5-7 team in the nation. The Northwestern and Illinois games still haunt me. Northwestern scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to come back and beat Minnesota in overtime. Illinois went 84 yards in six plays to beat Minnesota in the last two minutes to beat the Gophers.