The game this year is about more than keeping Floyd where he belongs for a third straight year. It feels like the outcome will determine the rest of the season, even though I know that's not true. At least not necessarily.
The opinion I'm about to give is completely non-sensical. I get that and fully admit it up front, and yet I can't shake the feeling. Tomorrow is the Iowa game. It's (in my opinion- and this is not the non-sensical opinion I mentioned) our biggest and most intense rivalry game. It's a chance to not just beat Iowa and keep Floyd and have bragging rights over the Hawkeyes for an entire year, but it's also a chance to win at Kinnick for the first time since 1999 and to beat Iowa for the third straight year for the first time since 1998-2000.
And yet that's still not why there would be perceived extra meaning in a victory over the Hated Hawkeyes. Look, it's the elephant in the room so let's address it: I FEEL like if Minnesota beats Iowa tomorrow it could mean a big season for the Gophers. Like, doing-the-unthinkable kind of big season: no, not a B1G title, and not even winning the
Legends West division. I just mean the Golden Gophers playing in a New Year's Day bowl. And for some reason- this being the non-sensical opinion I mentioned off the top- I feel like it has an infinitely better chance of coming true if the Gophers beat Iowa than if they don't. I feel like I'm in a holding pattern of excitement about this entire season based on what happens against Iowa. If they win, we get two weeks of crazy buildup to Northwestern in a battle of unbeatens. Good lord, if that doesn't sum up how strange this season has been, I don't know what would.
The Iowa game is just one game, but yet it seems pivotal despite the fact we're not even to October yet. I know how crazy that sounds, I know what I would normally say (and what Chris or GoAUpher has been saying to a few of you in the comments the past few days) to people who were having this emotion and reaction to the game, and yet, I've had it since Sunday morning after having a chance to digest the Gopher's defensive dominance over Syracuse to keep them undefeated and Iowa's struggles against a not-so-good MAC school (if you're wondering, Western Michigan is the greatest MAC team in the history of the universe. I may be a tad biased). If we were playing another B1G team who had the same start as Iowa, say Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, or even Michigan State, I'd feel great about our chances of going into their stadium and coming back with a win.
I AM confident the Gophers are better than the Hawkeyes, and JD made a great point in his OTE exchange with the Iowa dude over there about how the Hawkeyes' big rushing performances have come against two terrible run defenses (Northern Iowa and CMU). And yet I can't shake the feeling deep in the pit of my stomach not to get my hopes up and not to get too excited because we've been here before. 2008, pretty much every season under Glen Mason, and I'm sure others before that have started out strong like this one, and all have ended short of a NYD bowl. As a Gopher fan it's like I'm pre-conditioned to hope for the best and prepare for the worst because if the worst hasn't happened already, it's about to.
This has nothing to do with Jerry Kill or his coaches or his players. I know we have the right coach and staff in place to get us to where Glen Mason never could, to a New Year's Day Bowl, to a place where Gopher football actually matters in the Big Ten and, dare I say it, even in the Twin Cities. I want it to happen this season but know it's not the end of the world if it has to wait a year or two or three. Thus far this season has felt different and it's been a great ride so far. The Syracuse game was literally like nothing I've seen from a Gopher team and a Gopher crowd. It was incredible, really. I know people have talked a lot about it in the past week and yet I still don't feel like it's been done justice- that was a big-time college football crowd, standing on every defensive 3rd down, getting behind the guys at just the right time. I mean, the student section was full! Full! The whole damn thing right up to the top of the upper deck! Full- of students! Screaming, rowdy, (possibly a tad inibriated) students from the University of Minnesota who were supporting their Golden Gopher football team like a big-time football program. And it was AWESOME! I want more! I want to BELEIVE IN MORE! I want more of that crowd and atmopshere and that team.
Yet I have the non-sensical, illogical belief that more of all that won't happen without beating Iowa. It's not to say we should fire Kill and shut down the program if they lose. They'd still just be two games away from bowl eligibility, and make no mistake, a bowl game of any type this season would be a major accomplishment for Kill in just his second season after taking over for the cluster-you-know-what that WIN!FIGHT!TRY! Play4Brew left behind. Every game outside of Nebraska, Michigan, and Michigan State looks winnable, but considering the up-and-down nature of this conference right now, they're all loseable too. A win or loss at Iowa shouldn't exactly define the season, yet I feel like a victory over our hated rival would be a monster spring board toward bigger things, and a loss would mean it's not going to happen this year.
I will be at Kinnick on Saturday and I will be yelling my lungs out for the Maroon and Gold to win and bring Floyd back for a third straight time. I'll be cheering them on throughout and hope I get to see a glorious victory, while somewhere in the back of my mind I'll be preparing for a long, depressing drive home if they lose. If they win, then holy schnikes we can really start talking about big things. If they lose I know it won't be the end of the world or the end of the season (although Iowa fans will tell us it is), and it certainly won't be the worst thing to happen to the program, and the impossible dream of an eight win season or NYD bowl won't be completely dead.
It'll just feel that way.