Minnesota sits atop the Big Ten West, but they still have a lot to prove if they’re going to win the division. Starting with Saturday’s game against Penn State, the 8-0 Golden Gophers face a brutal November where they also face Iowa and Wisconsin. Their undefeated start has given them the best path to the Big Ten Championship game, but the toughest part of the schedule begins this week.
Minnesota started the season 4-0, but could’ve ended the stretch 0-4 just as easily. They narrowly avoided upsets against South Dakota State, Fresno State, and Georgia Southern in their first three games. Purdue also nearly came back from a 21 point deficit, but Minnesota held on to win by seven.
Since the Purdue game, Minnesota has hit its stride, winning each of their next four games by at least 20 points. They haven’t faced tough competition, though, as their wins have come against Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland.
Because of their weak schedule, some people aren’t convinced that Minnesota is as good as their record. They are ranked 17th in the first College Football Playoff rankings and are the lowest ranked undefeated team. They’re ranked behind Florida, Auburn, Wisconsin, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Kansas State, who have two losses.
They can change the perception of their team when they host Penn State, who is ranked 4th in the College Football Playoff rankings. A win would help their College Football Playoff hopes, likely putting them in the top 12, but wouldn’t mean much in the Big Ten West race. They travel to Iowa next week and host Wisconsin in the last week of the season. Iowa and Wisconsin, who are tied for second in the West, play on Saturday. Both teams have two conference losses, but whoever wins that game would win the division if Minnesota loses to both Iowa and Wisconsin.
Minnesota is looking to have at least their best season since 2016, when they went 9-4. They only have one 10 win season since 1905, a 10-3 season in 2003. This Minnesota team has the potential to be one of the best in program history, but they have to navigate a month where they play three of the Big Ten’s best teams to reach that goal.