PJ Fleck talks Gopher football

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Fleck is Fleck; PJ optimistic about 2018 Gopher football

Gophers are picked 6th in 7-team west division

July 21, 2018 - 8:33 am
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The first preseason football poll for the Big Ten conference has the Gophers scraping near the bottom.

But head coach PJ Fleck still expressed optimism when speaking at the annual Big Ten football media days in Chicago.

"We have a very youthful, very young, very inexperienced football team which does not necessarily mean we can't win," said Fleck, who's starting his second season with the Gophers.

"The one thing about young players is sometimes they don't know how bad they are, how good they are," said Fleck.  "They get in there and really surprise you."

In a poll of 28 sportswriters compiled by cleveland.com, the Gophers came in sixth among seven teams in the Big Ten West.

Only Illinois received fewer points than the Gophers in the balloting among west division teams. No one from Minnesota was among the site's player of the year voting.

This is the eighth year that the website has polled writers that cover Big Ten teams. The conference itself does not put together a preseason poll.

The Gophers are coming off a 5-7 record in 2017, including 2-7 against Big Ten opponents.

"I enjoy the first few years that are usually pretty rough in different ways," said Fleck. "I called them the dirty water years, the muddy waters.

"Last year we were not a player-led football team. Bad teams, nobody leads; average teams, coaches lead; elite teams, players lead. You've heard me say that before and we weren't at that level. We've got to build that as we continue to go."

The Gophers finished in sixth place last season in the division, just ahead of Illinois, which did not win a league game.

The 2018 season opens for the Gophers on August 30 against New Mexico State at TCF Bank Stadium. 

The Gophers Big Ten opener is September 22 at Maryland, with the league home opener a week later against Iowa.

Here is the results of the Big Ten football preseason poll:

BIG TEN WEST

  1. Wisconsin, 196 points (28 first-place votes)
  2. Iowa, 155 points
  3. Northwestern, 138 points
  4. Nebraska, 104 points
  5. Purdue, 98.5 points
  6. GOPHERS, 64.5 points
  7. Illinois, 28 points

BIG TEN EAST

  1. Ohio State, 191.5 points (23.5 first-place votes)
  2. Michigan State, 142 points (2)
  3. Penn State, 141.5 points (1)
  4. Michigan, 140.5 points (1.5)
  5. Maryland, 75.5 points
  6. Indiana, 60 points
  7. Rutgers, 33 points