Minnesota Gophers enter a new era with ESPN’s College GameDay

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Joe Broback

Contributor at Champion Insiders
Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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Minnesota Gophers and elite college football don’t normally go together. Even when they produce a winning season, it rarely gets above nine wins and even more rarely comes against Top 10 competition. Elite success isn’t something fans are used to, and the benefits that come with it are completely unheard of with this team. We saw what the Gophers are capable of in their win over #4 Penn State, but now they’ll enter unprecedented territory.

ESPN’s College GameDay announced they would come to Minneapolis for the final week of the regular season. Minnesota hosts Wisconsin this week, and the winner heads to Indianapolis. What more could you want? The Gophers missed out on a chance to host the show earlier this year, but now the show comes to Minnesota for the first time. Can Minnesota handle the pressure? Will the spotlight be too much? The Gophers have come a long way under P.J. Fleck, but they are on the cusp of reaching new heights.

The new era Minnesota Gophers

If it feels like this team is different, it’s because they are unique. Not just because they have a chance to win 11 games for the first time since 1904 and not just because they beat a Top 5 team for the first time this century. Stats like that matter, but there’s so much more to this team.

College GameDay doesn’t just go anywhere. You must be relevant in college football, and you must also be a winner. Minnesota hasn’t warranted an appearance from the show, nor have they really been in the conversation to begin with in the past. It puts them on the same level as Ohio State, Alabama, and more. That’s huge. This isn’t just a team on a magical run, it’s a team who’s coach talked a big game and his team backs him up.

Nine win seasons are rare for this team. So rare, in fact, that they’ve only produced two in the 21st century (this is their third). Those two also happen to be the only two since 1905 as well. Even during the 2016 season (9-4) and the 2003 season (10-3), the Gophers were never a threat. The 2016 produced wins against bad teams (combined record of 44-64) and losses against good teams (combined record of 35-19). In 2003, the Gophers lost to all three ranked teams they faced and finished fifth in the Big Ten. So, while we’ve seen success in the win column before, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen this type of success.

Beating Wisconsin will be as tough as it’s ever been. Jonathan Taylor’s a monster, and the Gophers know that. However, the Badgers haven’t seen a Gophers team like this in forever. A team playing with confidence and competing for a chance to play for a conference championship. Normally you could say the spotlight is a factor for a team like Minnesota, but they’ve already weathered a big test. They’re hungry, their fans want it, and a win gives them a shot at Ohio State. Penn State, the Top 4 team the Gophers beat, just gave the Buckeyes a run for their money. So while it may be delusional to think Minnesota has a great chance to become Big Ten champions, remember that this isn’t your typical Gophers team.

Minnesota’s special season has a different feeling to it. One that many of its fan base never experienced. GameDay coming to Minneapolis signifies relevancy on the national stage for the Gophers, and they get a chance to prove they belong (again). Doing so in an era where four and five-star recruits take their talents to the brand schools is unprecedented. This fan base is starving for legitimate success after years and years of pseudo confidence. Past Gophers teams would fold under the pressure and back away from the challenge. P.J. Fleck’s team has embraced the underdog role and the challenge presented to them. All they do is continue to row.

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