First of all, do you remember when we were excited about getting bowl eligible? That really was a thing for a while around here. Even though this program has really been making bowl games on a regular basis for quite some time, often those seasons were 6 or 7 win seasons and we were sweating out bowl eligibility.
Now? Now making a bowl is no noteworthy. I think that would partly be the result of Jerry Kill and Tracey Claeys having a run of 8 or 9 win seasons that began to build a foundation for this Gopher program. PJ Fleck has taken over, instilled his own culture and now has the Gophers often in the conversation for winning the Big Ten West.
The key statement here is that we have often been in the conversation. We have yet to earn that actual division title and trip to Indianapolis.
After his past weekend the Gophers are in position to win the Big Ten West. They not only have control of their own destiny but they have margin for error, albeit a slim margin.
Having control is ideal. There are obviously many scenarios remaining, with 4 games left on the schedule, but the Gophers are the odds on favorite to win the West right now.
But here is the deal, you still have to play the games. And for Minnesota, you still have to win them.
Remember my pleas to not look ahead to Iowa? Well, now that the real Iowa has shown itself, that game is still important but please DO NOT LOOK AHEAD TO ANYBODY!
Should we beat Illinois? Yes, we should. They are not very good and we have been playing rather well lately. But there is no way that they should have beat Penn State. They did. There is no way the Gophers should have lost to Bowling Green. They did. Every single game matters.
There is a good chance that the Gophers still win the West going 3-1 in their remaining 4 games. This is the margin for error that we have and the rest of the West does not. There are scenarios where the final game of the season will not matter for the right to travel to Indianapolis. This is what happens when you hold a 1-game lead with 4 to go. And really Nebraska may very well have something to say in this with a win over Wisconsin and/or Iowa.
But also, there really is one goal that matters more than anything else. At least one goal that matters to me, and I believe much of the Gopher fan base.
That is the Rose Bowl. Considering that many of us have never in our lives witnessed the Gophers playing in the Rose Bowl, this would be amazing.
There are many scenarios that could play out for winning the West, there are many more scenarios for who would actually get the invitation to Pasadena.
So while the Gophers could conceivably win the West with another loss. This makes the likelihood of the Rose Bowl much smaller. Really it would be unlikely. Assuming the Gophers lose one more regular season game and then lose to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game, it seems unlikely that a 4-loss Gopher team would go to the Rose Bowl over a 1 or 2 loss Michigan or Michigan State team.
So you know what? Can we please win the next 4 games? Winning the West and going to Indy will be awesome. That will be a banner to be hung. But Pasadena? Perhaps once in a lifetime.
So can I write the same post saying that we have to actually control our own destiny, one game at a time...AND beg for winning all 4 remaining regular season games?
Fair question, I don’t know. But this is what I want. And I can taste it.
It starts with Illinois at home. Get this done and let’s talk next week.