Gopher football head coach P.J. Fleck's "Row the Boat" mantra is loved – and loathed – by many.
Those not fans of his hope the Gophers' schedule — according to ESPN, the fourth toughest in the nation — makes the boat sink in 2023.
Fleck has brought this program more wins and sustained success than it has had for a long time. Winning brings elevated expectations.
Do not let their schedule stop you from thinking the Gophers could make noise.
"This schedule produces the most opportunistic schedule in the country. Is it challenging? Yes. Do I ignore that? No. Is it tough?
Yes," Fleck said in his season-opening press conference last week. "I get all of that… But I'm in charge of putting in young people's minds how to go attack this thing."
Their regular season win total odds sits at seven games. That is lower than their wins in recent seasons.
Excluding the 2020 season – the team only played seven games – the Gophers have back-to-back eight-win regular seasons and had 10 in 2019.
Having another season along those lines will be difficult. The Gophers face five preseason top-25 teams.
Included are the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes, both of whom were in the College Football Playoff last year.
They are ranked second and third in the country, and Minnesota is the only team from the West to play both of those teams.
That is a disadvantage. The one thing they can do about it is take care of business against the teams they need to beat to contend.
The Gophers are in Iowa City this year, playing a team Fleck has never beaten with the maroon and gold in a place they have not won since 1999.
Start there. Fleck is entering his seventh season at the helm. It is time for his team to make it happen.
Minnesota has exceeded at outplaying Iowa for long stretches and finding a way to lose. Outplay them and win.
The Gophers host Wisconsin at home this year, a team they have beaten the last two years and three of the last five.
Keep the axe. Iowa and Wisconsin do not feel sorry for Minnesota. If Minnesota beats their rivals, they will contend for the division crown.
"They know how hard that [the schedule] is going to be. And they've trained since January for it, which doesn't promise you anything, but it gives you a better chance," Fleck said.
Instead of looking at the schedule, the team should look inward. There is a lot to like about this team.