Still one win from bowl eligibility

David McCoy

This is the fourth Tuesday in a row Minnesota’s football team has looked ahead to its next game with the chance to become bowl-eligible.

After beating Michigan 23-20 Oct. 8 in Ann Arbor, Mich., and moving to 5-1 on the season, Minnesota put itself in a

position where one more win would make the team bowl-eligible, and each passing week could bring it closer to a Big Ten title.

Now after a 38-34 loss to Wisconsin, a bye and Saturday’s 45-31 loss to Ohio State, the Gophers are out of the Big Ten championship race.

Minnesota is still just one win away from qualifying for a bowl, but with each passing week, the Gophers have slipped a little farther down the ladder as other Big Ten teams have risen to the occasion.

“We came into the game (against Ohio State) hoping that with a win we could still have a chance to win the Big Ten,” defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery said. “But we lost, so it makes things a little tougher. But if we win out, we will still be going to a bowl game, which is our main focus right now.”

Minnesota’s final three games are at Indiana, at home against Michigan State and at Iowa – all unranked teams. With that kind of schedule, the Gophers could win out. But given a quick history lesson, the remaining schedule is more deceiving than meets the eye.

Though Indiana (4-4, 1-4 Big Ten) is third from the bottom of the conference, the game will be no cakewalk.

Indiana was even worse last year, but the Gophers still managed to lose 30-21 to give the Hoosiers their only Big Ten win of the season.

In fact, Minnesota has not beaten the Hoosiers in Bloomington, Ind., since 1985.

Michigan State (5-3, 2-3) has an identical record to Minnesota, but history hasn’t been kind to Minnesota against the Spartans either.

Michigan State has won all but three of the teams’ matchups since 1977, including the last two. The Spartans also feature a mobile quarterback in Drew Stanton, an element Minnesota has had trouble defending this season. Stanton rushed for 102 yards against the Gophers last year.

And despite its ups and downs this season, Iowa (5-2, 3-2) has handed the Gophers four straight losses. Minnesota has also lost its regular season finale the past three seasons.

But quarterback Bryan Cupito said Minnesota is more than ready to change the course of history.

“We are 5-3 finishing against three teams that we lost to last year,” Cupito said. “But I know we can overcome this and not let last year repeat itself. There is no reason that we still can’t win out and go 8-3.”