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Gophers football picked to finish third in Big Ten West in 2022

The Gophers were picked to finish in third behind Wisconsin (246 votes) and Iowa (198).

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Minnesota Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck leads his team onto the field before the start of the game against Nebraska at Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Oct 16, 2021.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The University of Minnesota Gophers football team has aspirations to take that final step and win the Big Ten West Division in 2022.

After falling just short on the final weekend of the regular season in both 2019 and 2021, that championship goal is part of the reason why center John Michael Schmitz said he returned for a sixth season. Fourth-year safety Tyler Nubin has it on his to-do list as well.

“It would be huge,” Nubin said in an interview earlier this month. “The goal every year is to win the West and get to the Big Ten Championship, give ourselves a chance to be in the College Football Playoff. … That is something that we are always fighting for. That is something that we are gunning for. We are putting all our focus in.”

But the 12th annual cleveland.com poll predicts Minnesota to fall short yet again. The Gophers were picked to finish in third behind Wisconsin (246 votes) and Iowa (198).

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Minnesota received 162 total votes from 36 conference reporters polled. The Gophers were picked to win the West by two voters and head to the Big Ten Championship Game; the Gophers were predicted both times to fall to Ohio State.

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The Buckeyes were the unanimous Big Ten East champion and expected winner of the Big Ten title game over any foe: Wisconsin (31), Iowa (3) or Minnesota (2). Michigan, last year’s Big Ten champion, did not receive one vote to defend its top spot.

After the Badgers, Hawkeyes and Gophers, the Big Ten West predictions are: 4. Purdue (153); 5. Nebraska (123); 6. Illinois (65); 7. Northwestern (61).

The order of finish in the East: 1. Ohio State (252); 2. Michigan (203); 3. Penn State (169); 4. Michigan State (162); 5. Maryland (104); 6. Rutgers (60); 7. Indiana (58).

The Gophers’ three East crossover games this season are: at Michigan State in the Big Ten opener on Sept. 24; at Penn State for the Nittany Lions’ annual “White Out” game on Oct. 22; and at home vs. Rutgers at Huntington Bank Stadium on Oct. 29.

In preseason player awards in the poll, Gophers sixth-year running back Mohamed Ibrahim received three points for offensive player of the year; that puts the 2020 Big Ten running back of the year eighth on the list. Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was No. 1.

Minnesota did not receive a vote for defensive player of the year. Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell came in No. 1.

Four representatives of the Gophers will be at Big Ten Media Days at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis on Tuesday: head coach P.J. Fleck, quarterback Tanner Morgan, linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin, Schmitz and Nubin.

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