USA Today published the their Amway Coaches Poll yesterday. Using a complex formula and scientific sampling method, the poll determines the best teams in the country (based today on zero games played). Our Golden Gophers have some proverbial sledding in their future, and it will probably be tough.
I think we're all pretty familiar with a Big Ten schedule that will feature a team or two ranked in the top 20. That's not unusual, and it happened again this year. Wisconsin is ranked 18th in this poll (I look forward to the bright day in the future when Wisconsin is no longer ranked in the preseason). Nebraska, Illinois (?), and Michigan(???) also received votes but didn't crack the top 25 (Minnesota is just outside the top 25 as well). This is pretty much standard Big Ten strength-in-scheduling.
UNDISPUTED National Something Ohio State is ranked #1. I would know what that Something is if I ever made it to the bottom of their athletic department's emails, which I never have.
Where we cross into unknown territory is in this opening game against #2 TCU. Can you name a time when the Gophers were scheduled in advance to play the two best teams in the country? Not in my lifetime. If you're a person who bases their decision to purchase season tickets on the quality of competition, this is your year to strike.
We're all hoping the Gophers keep things respectable in the face of overwhelming odds, because these two teams are serious about locking down a spot in the College Football Playoff. They're not going to overlook little old Minnesota.
TCU will want to make statement. Until the Big 12 figures out how to run a respectable football conference, they'll need to make 12 statement games in row if they even want a shot at the CFP. Their first shot at a statement comes on a Thursday with a national television audience watching. On the flip side, the Gophers have a chance to close the book on the Big Twelve's CFP hopes on the first day of the season. Take that, South.
Minnesota has to travel to Columbus to face Ohio State on November 7th, right when the Buckeyes should be rounding into form. I don't think the Gophers have the ability to match OSU's depth (who does)? After all, they just demoted last season's Heisman favorite to fullback or whatever an H is.
There's still hope, of course. Maybe an upset is possible. If the Gophers miraculously manage to win either game, it'll be the most important win since Happy Valley back in '99. Hell, let's all relive that one shall we?
I think winning one of these games is not likely, but can you imagine if the Gophers win BOTH? I mean, put us in the CFP already. Who cares if we get Purdue-harbored between these games, or if we drop a road game against Northwestern? PLAYOFFS.
In all seriousness, I defy anyone to find a schedule tougher than Minnesota's, including anyone team in the SEC.