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Are we headed for a PJ Fleck vs. Jerry Kill bowl game?

The 5-7 Gophers vs. the 10-3 Aggies? It's a possibility.
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Hollywood couldn't write a better script than a 2023 bowl game between P.J. Fleck's Minnesota Gophers and Jerry Kill's New Mexico State Aggies. 

It could happen, at least in the predictive eyes of 247Sports, which in its Sunday bowl projections has the Gophers facing the Aggies in the New Mexico Bowl, a game that is set to be played at 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 16 in Albuquerque. 

We won't know for sure which bowl game the Gophers are in until the NCAA announces all 41 bowl matchups on Sunday, Dec. 3. But if 247Sports' prediction proves accurate, it'll set the stage for the second meeting between the current and former Minnesota coaches. 

Kill has led New Mexico State to a 10-3 season, including an update win as a huge underdog at Auburn on Nov. 18. Fleck's Gophers lost four straight to finish the regular season 5-7, only qualifying for a bowl game because of good grades coupled with Hawaii's walk-off field goal preventing Colorado State from reaching six wins. 

Kill coached the Gophers from 2011 to 2015 before health complications forced him to step down. His defensive coordinator, Tracy Claeys, took over as interim head coach at the end of the 2015 season and then led Minnesota to nine wins and a Holiday Bowl victory in 2016 before the University of Minnesota replaced Claeys with Fleck. 

In a 2019 interview on SiriusXM's Big Ten Today, Kill accused Fleck of treating Kill's former coaching staff at Minnesota poorly and being all about himself, even bringing up Fleck's first wife.

"He coached with me, but after that, he changed a lot. I’ll just be honest with you guys. People that have known him before — When he got with [Greg] Schiano, his personality changed a lot. And I knew his first wife, and he just changed a bunch. And then once he became a head coach, I mean, I helped him get the job at Western Michigan, and I just think sometimes, ego gets carried away," Kill said.

"And when he went into Minnesota and treated the people the way he treated my guys and telling ‘em he had to go in and completely change the culture, and it was a bad culture and bad people, you know, he made it sound like we didn’t know what we were doing, and I took it personal. You just don’t treat people that have been with you and helped you career and you don’t even talk to him, you know, once you get the job."

Kill kept on... 

"Do I still root for the Gophers? I do," he said. "Do I enjoy [Fleck] running up and down the sideline? No. Do I think that he’s about the players? No. He’s about himself. You can’t tell me. You’ve watched him. You listen to his interview, you think he thinks about the players?"

Fleck and Kill

Sep 1, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck and New Mexico State Aggies head coach Jerry Kill shake hands after the game at Huntington Bank Stadium. 

Fleck responded to Kill's 2019 tirade by saying it "saddened" him and his family but he'll always have "a lot of respect" for Kill. 

The Gophers defeated Kill's Aggies 38-0 in the 2022 season opener in Minneapolis. Despite Kill saying he wasn't sure if he'd shake Fleck's hand, the two wound up meeting on the field (and shaking hands) before and after the game. 

One thing that could hold New Mexico State back from a more prestigious bowl game this season is that they played the third-easiest schedule in the country, ranking 131st of 133 Division I teams.