P.J. Fleck, Minnesota Are Blowing A Big Opportunity

It would not have been surprising to see Minnesota regress from last year's 11-2 record. Some people felt like the Golden Gophers could compete for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, but it's hard to maintain the caliber of success P.J. Fleck's squad had in 2020.

Two of the team's top playmakers, wide receiver Tyler Johnson and safety Antoine Winfield Jr., were gone. But a combination of quarterback Tanner Morgan and wide receiver Rashod Bateman gave the impression that Minnesota would still be a problem.

Halfway through a shortened season, and we now know that was an inaccurate assumption.

The Golden Gophers have been terrible. The team is 1-3 with its latest loss coming in a 35-7 blowout against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Friday night. To make matters worse, that touchdown didn't even come until late in the fourth quarter.

Morgan continues to be awful. He completed 16 of his 33 pass attempts (48.5 percent) for 167 yards, one touchdown and two dreadful interceptions.

That now puts Morgan's season totals at four touchdowns to four interceptions through four games. He's averaged only 167.3 passing yards per game. To put that into perspective, running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who might be the lone bright spot on Minnesota's offense, has averaged 178.8 yards rushing.

In other words, the junior quarterback has regressed significantly.

At this point, Bateman should go the opt-out route once again and avoid this catastrophe in Minneapolis. After choosing to opt out originally, he had chosen to rejoin his teammates following the Big Ten's decision to play in the fall, but I'm sure he wasn't expecting these sort of struggles.

As for Fleck, he had shown such promise as a head coach prior to this season. Here is how his record-by-year had looked since his arrival at Minnesota back in 2017:

Now, the team is two games under .500 at the halfway point.

This season was their opportunity to establish themselves as a fixture in the Big Ten. Not to the point of an Ohio State or Wisconsin, but to at least become a second-tier program in the conference that is a problem to deal with each and every season.

Instead, the Golden Gophers fell to 0-6 on Friday night in their last six meetings with Iowa. That also means Fleck falls to 0-4 against the Hawkeyes.

What a disappointment.

Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.