We had a feeling it might happen in Iowa City on Saturday night. Unfortunately for P.J. Fleck‘s Minnesota Golden Gophers, they lost for the first time this season and their playoff hopes are technically not dead but it’s over for the Gophers, who still have plenty to play for and be proud of.
The reason it’s over for Minnesota is they face two must-win Big Ten games vs. the Northwestern Wildcats and the Wisconsin Badgers to even reach the Big Ten Championship. Minnesota should crush Northwestern, but playing rival Wisconsin for the right to represent the Big Ten West will be tough sledding.
The rivalry game vs. Wisconsin is at home, but this is a spot where it’s easier to have more faith in a historically strong Big Ten team like the Badgers to come out on top. If the Golden Gophers beat the Wildcats in Evanston and then beat the Badgers at home, they will have earned a trip to the Big Ten Championship game, and rightfully so.
Unfortunately, Minnesota won’t beat the Ohio State Buckeyes who will presumably come out of the East. Should the Penn State Nittany Lions get the best of the Buckeyes next Saturday, can they James Franklin‘s team twice in one year?
If Minnesota wins out, sure, they can still reach the College Football Playoff as a one-loss, Power 5 champion. That said, the odds are against them.
Truthfully, nobody expected the Golden Gophers to start the year 9-0. This is a team that still has a good chance to play for its conference championship and will possibly be in consideration for a New Year’s Six bowl game.
This was not the result Minnesota wanted, but that doesn’t mean that they should fall to pieces by losing on the road to Iowa. Great Big Ten teams lose at Kinnick Stadium at night all the time. Minnesota should be proud of its team. Going forward, Fleck will have his team contending for Big Ten West crowns for as long as they’re able to keep him on campus.
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