Minnesota has been so close to planting its flag atop the B1G West mountain. Twice in the past three seasons, the Golden Gophers have entered the final week of the season with a chance to claim a division title.

Both times, Minnesota was a day late and a dollar short. Still, head coach PJ Fleck has the program trending in the right direction, knocking on the door of a trip to Indianapolis.

In 2019, Minnesota finished the season with an 11-2 record. Last fall, the Gophers closed out the year at 9-4. Over the course of his five seasons in Minneapolis, Fleck’s teams have compiled a 35-23 record with a perfect 3-0 mark in bowl games.

Minnesota will enter the 2022 season with a ton of talent at the skill positions and some questions along the offensive and defensive lines. Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca is back in town and the Gophers will be one of the favorites to win the B1G West.

Fleck says the program continues to get closer and closer to reaching the B1G Championship Game.

“Why not us? I think everyone in the B1G is saying that right now because the parity across it is better than it’s ever been,” Fleck said in an interview with 247Sports. “But we’re gonna focus on us. We have to focus on Minnesota. Nobody is gonna to put more pressure, nobody is gonna to put more expectations and nobody is gonna challenge us more than ourselves.

“They know we’re very close. And you gotta get close before you get there. We’re taking all the necessary next steps for that to happen. One thing I love about it, we can’t just predict one year, hey, this is the year. … We’ve been in the fight, we’ve been in the hunt, we’ve been in the conversation over the last few years. That’s all we can keep doing. Sooner or later, the more times you’re in the hunt, gives you a better chance to actually accomplish it.”

Minnesota has never reached the B1G title game and its last conference crown came in 1967. Fleck and the Gophers have been trying to snap that drought and has turned the program into a more consistent contender.

Heading into 2022, Minnesota should have another legitimate shot to reach Indianapolis.