Ranking Minnesota Gophers 2024 Football Opponents From Easiest to Toughest

Like it or not, strength of schedule tends to play a big role in the success of a college football team. That will certainly be the case for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who face one of their toughest schedules in recent memory in 2024. That’s what happens when the Big Ten adds several West Coast powerhouses to the conference. If nothing else, it should lead to an interesting season for P.J. Fleck’s squad. To get an idea of how tough Minnesota’s schedule will be in 2024, let’s rank the Gophers’ opponents this year from easiest to toughest.

Rhode Island

As an FCS program, Rhode Island better be Minnesota’s easiest game. However, the Rams have been a winning program in recent years. They will be outmatched against Minnesota, but they aren’t going to make it easy.


Facing Nevada at home should be almost as easy as playing Rhode Island. The Wolf Pack is coming off back-to-back 2-10 seasons and will have a new head coach in 2024. This could be a long year for Nevada, giving the Gophers a chance to score an easy September win.


Despite going to three straight bowl games, Maryland has been largely mediocre under Mike Locksley. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to raise the play of the Terrapins over the last few seasons. But he’s out of eligibility, creating questions about Maryland’s ability to compete in the Big Ten this season because the rest of the roster isn’t particularly impressive.


Likewise, UCLA joins the Big Ten with a rather underwhelming roster. Chip Kelly’s sudden departure to become the offensive coordinator at Ohio State was a surprise, leaving the Bruins in a state of flux. Even with Kelly at the helm for the past six years, the Bruins didn’t quite hit their stride. UCLA looks due to take another step backward in 2024 with a first-year head coach.


To his credit, Greg Schiano has slowly but surely improved Rutgers during his second stint with the Scarlet Knights. But it remains to be seen whether they can be competitive with a solid Big Ten program like Minnesota. Playing on the road could make this a tricky game for the Gophers. However, Minnesota has never lost to Rutgers, so this should be a winnable road game.


The Fighting Illini won’t be the most talented team Minnesota faces this year, but that doesn’t mean this will be an easy game for the Gophers. Illinois coach Bret Bielema has had Minnesota’s number throughout his two stints in the Big Ten. This could be an ugly, low-scoring affair that challenges how much heart and grit the Gophers have this season.

North Carolina

The good news for Minnesota is they won’t have to face Drake Maye. That makes North Carolina a little less intimidating. However, scheduling a quality ACC opponent in the midst of adding a couple of Pac-12 teams to the schedule doesn’t do the Gophers any favors. The Tar Heels will still be a tough team, returning plenty of talent from the group that beat Minnesota 31-13 last year. Texas A&M transfer Max Johnson gives UNC an experienced quarterback, so the Tar Heels may not take a huge step back this year.


With any luck, the Hawkeyes won’t be as strong defensively as they were a year ago – or as reliant on their defense. In a way, that could make this a more challenging game for Minnesota. The Gophers will host Iowa in September, all but ensuring they have to face quarterback Cade McNamara, who they missed last year following his season-ending injury. That will make this one of Minnesota’s tougher home games in 2024.


There’s no question the Badgers are facing some questions in 2024 after a modest 7-6 record in Luke Fickell’s first season in Madison. However, Fickell should be able to make some positive strides this year. Plus, there is nothing easy about a late November trip to Camp Randall, so it almost doesn’t matter how good the Badgers look on paper heading into the season.


The hype train on quarterback Miller Moss left the station after last season’s bowl game. Even with some lingering questions about the USC defense, there are high hopes for the Trojans this year. Getting USC at home will hope the Gophers a little. But there’s no denying that Minnesota will be challenged from a talent perspective when the Trojans come to town.


It’s always interesting to have a reigning national champion on the schedule. The caveat is the Wolverines will have a new coach and a new quarterback in 2024. But Jim Harbaugh recruited so well that Michigan’s roster still has plenty of talent. In fact, the fan base still has high hopes for the Wolverines. All of the top Michigan sportsbooks are bound to take a lot of bets this season that favor the defending champs. The Gophers haven’t won the Little Brown Jug since 2024, and it won’t be easy toppling the Wolverines this year either, especially on the road.

Penn State

The Nittany Lions look both determined and capable of winning a Big Ten title this year. With Drew Allen returning at quarterback, Penn State’s offense could be the most dynamic in the conference. Even with the Gophers getting this game at home, they’ll be hard-pressed to get a win. Penn State could easily be a top-5 team with national title aspirations when this game is played, creating an opportunity for a big win, but one that won’t be easy to get.

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