Minnesota win against Northwestern gives Gophers another bowl trip

When the Minnesota football team takes to the Metrodome turf on Saturday, it’ll be looking for more than just a Homecoming win against Northwestern. The Gophers will be fighting for their sixth win of the season.
Whoop-di-do. Six wins. What is the importance of that?
In simple words: A lot of things.
A sixth win is the elusive victory that guarantees Minnesota a winning season and makes the Gophers bowl-eligible for the second consecutive year.
“That is the main goal each year, to go to a bowl game,” senior defensive tackle John Schlecht said.
“It takes your program from a losing program to a winning program. When you go to a bowl game people look at you as a winner.”
A year ago Minnesota had its first winning season since 1990 and went to a bowl for the first time since 1986.
Minnesota coach Glen Mason has said all season the hardest thing to do with a football program isn’t making it a winner — it’s making it a consistent winner year after year.
A win on Saturday would mark the first time since 1989-90 the Gophers put together consecutive winning seasons.
“To me when you start talking about the six wins that make you bowl-eligible, the bigger factor is that you are a winner,” Mason said.
“What’s the difference between 5-6 and 6-5? It might not mean a big difference to you but it means a big difference to me.”
With a sixth win Saturday the Gophers can then start dreaming about where they want to spend their winter break.
But with a bottleneck atop the Big Ten standings, a possible bowl stop includes Orlando (Citrus Bowl), Tampa (Outback), San Antonio (Alamo) or Miami (Micron/PC).
It would appear unlikely that Minnesota would return to last year’s destination of El Paso for the Sun Bowl.
Time — and a sixth win — are the only things that can tell if and where the Gophers will go Bowling.

Middlebrooks update
Preseason all-Big Ten cornerback Willie Middlebrooks underwent surgery on his left leg on Tuesday and will be out for the rest of the regular season.
The junior’s absence leaves a gap in the Gophers secondary. Trevis Graham and Mike Lehan have seen a large amount of playing time this season, but from there Minnesota’s depth becomes questionable.
“Our ability to rotate corners has been minimized, and we’ll have to put a less experienced guy in there,” Mason said.
Mason said wide receiver Jack Brewer may see time on the defensive of the ball.

John R. Carter covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]