Although the Johnnie Football team has ended their illustrious run toward playoff football, those who truly bleed for Minnesota sports still have plenty of football to cheer for in this fine state, but it is not the Vikings like many expected before the fall began.
It is the University of Minnesota’s Gophers.
The Gophers have finally woken up from their state of deep irrelevancy and have put their coaching issues behind them to become the most surprising success story in the Big Ten. They are currently 8-2 and depending on what rankings you look at, are either just ranked in the top 25 rankings or are right on the fringe of being ranked.
Overall, the Gophers are finally starting to garner attention around the country after years in the Big Ten’s cellar. They are on their first four game win streak against Big Ten opponents since 1973 and in search of playing in their first New Year’s Day bowl game since 1962.
However, if they dream of having an even bigger impact on the Big Ten in the form of a Big Ten championship game or Rose Bowl appearance, it is going to take everything they have in the tank because the remaining schedule is a gauntlet of Big Ten powerhouses.
It all starts this weekend when the Gophers face the No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers in the annual battle for Paul Bunyan’s axe. This matchup is set to be the biggest game between the two rivals in recent memory, as the Gophers look for their first victory over Wisconsin since the days of Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber III in 2003.
However, if the Gophers win against Wisconsin and keep the axe at home, next weekend’s game against the No. 13 ranked Michigan State Spartans could become the most important game for the program since its Rose Bowl appearance in 1962. The Gophers, depending on how Michigan State does against Northwestern this weekend, could be playing for its first ever berth in the Big Ten championship game.
The opponent in that game would ultimately be the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes, another Big Ten powerhouse that has yet to lose under current head coach Urban Meyer.
All in all, the Gophers are in a position to make all sorts of history if they just continue to win. However, the climb to the top and to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 50 years is treacherous, yet not impossible given their current play.
If you have had the chance to watch this Gophers team over the past couple of weeks, something just seems different. Unlike, any other Gophers team or Minnesota sports franchise in the past decade, they are finding ways to win no matter how bad they look doing it.
So, while the chances of everything continuing to go the Gophers way the rest of the season seem highly unlikely, the Gophers have already starting imagining the smell of roses and hope to smell the sweet fragrance sometime in the near future.