The Minnesota Golden Gophers history hasn’t been bad. Since 1999, they have reached a bowl game in 15 of 20 seasons played. They already clinched a bowl game this year. The idea of this team having a winning record and going to a bowl was more than expected. But, no one predicted a season like this one. They weren’t even ranked in the AP Poll until week 7, and they were ranked No. 20.
At this point, the assumption was that Minnesota was better than expected.
Fair enough; let them be ranked. Penn State would give them a reality check. But, thing is, that didn’t happen. The No. 17 ranked Minnesota upset the No. 4 Penn State. It didn’t end the Nittany Lion playoff hopes, but it gave some to the Golden Gophers.
The College Football Playoff rewarded the win mightily by bumping Minnesota up from No. 17 to No. 8. According to ESPN, this is one of the largest jumps in the CFP’s short history. Minnesota stayed undefeated (9-0) after the win as well.
A Reddit post helped give some perspective to Minnesota’s status:
The closest undefeated FBS team to each county in the United States: pic.twitter.com/bJtP5M3tXt
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) November 13, 2019
Now, Are They For Real?
For now, committees say yes. But, the college football landscape changes quickly. They could complete this miracle season; something along the lines of the 1984 BYU Cougers; Or, they could go the way of the 2007 USF Bulls; a team that clawed its way to No. 2 only to come crashing down to finished 9-4 and unranked?
Minnesota Head Coach PJ Fleck said that he’s not worried about ranking and that his team is focused on being the best it can be:
It might be the best mindset to have, especially if they’re still considered statistical underdogs. In their final three games, Minnesota is only favored in the ESPN Football Power Index against Northwestern. This is despite the fact that Iowa has a 3-3 in-conference record. Wisconsin being favored at least has some validity with on of their two losses being against No. 2 Ohio State.
At this point, Minnesota has put themselves in a good position to reach the Big Ten Championship. They need to win two out of three to guarantee it. Even as a won-loss team, if they upset Ohio State, they could be propelled into the playoff. If they lose, the Rose Bowl is still in their sites.
So, yes. The Golden Gophers appear that they can keep up with the competition, and they still have much to play for.