The Ohio State football schedule 2021: Meet the Minnesota Golden Gophers

Joe Harrington
The Columbus Dispatch

It's time to row the boat again in Minnesota. 

The Ohio State Buckeyes open the 2021 season against P.J. Fleck and the Golden Gophers on at 8 p.m. Sept. 2 in Minneapolis.  

It's the second year in a row that the Buckeyes will begin the season against a Big Ten opponent, though last season the Buckeyes played only Big Ten teams in the shortened regular season.

The last time Ohio State opened a normal regular season on the road and against a Big Ten opponent was in 2017. Ohio State beat Indiana 49-21

That game was on a Thursday night, as will be the 2021 Minnesota game. It is the only Thursday game on the Ohio State schedule in 2021 and will be televised on FOX. 

This game will also be notable as it will be the first look at whoever the starting quarterback may be for the Buckeyes after Justin Fields was drafted by the Bears this spring. 

Ohio State football:What channel is the Ohio State game on? What you need to know about the OSU-Minnesota game

Here's what we know about the Minnesota Golden Gophers: 

What the Golden Gophers did in 2020

In the nine-game Big Ten only schedule, Minnesota went 3-4. The program was coming off an 11-2 year in which it  finished No. 10 in the AP rankings and won the Outback Bowl. 

Every Big Ten team saw its season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as the conference initially canceled the football season only to reverse course a few months later. Minnesota lost its opening game to Michigan 49-24 during its 2-3 start and saw back-to-back games canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. The Gophers went 1-1 after that with a win over Nebraska. 

Two of Minnesota's losses in 2020 came in overtime. 

Looking back at 2020:Texts from August show Ohio State considered an independent football schedule

What Minnesota football is expected to do in 2021

Some college football prognosticators, such as Athlon Sports, pick the Golden Gophers to finish third in the Big Ten West. 

A full season under offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr. should help quarterback Tanner Morgan. But it is Minnesota's defense that needs to improve. The Gophers allowed 30.1 points per game — 10 points more than in their outstanding 2019 season. 

Returning Starters: 10 offense, 6 defense

Who is Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck?

Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, one of the youngest coaches among the Power 5 conferences at just 40, enters his fifth season with the Gophers.

Famous for his "row the boat" catchphrase, Fleck is one of the youngest coaches ever hired at a Division I program. When he took the job at Western Michigan in December 2012 he became the first college football head coach ever hired who was born in the 1980s. 

About a year younger than Ohio State coach Ryan Day, Fleck has ties to Ohio State. He was a graduate assistant for the Buckeyes in 2006 under coach Jim Tressel following his college career at Northern Illinois.  

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