Column: Regular season — not bowl — is Gophers’ real victory, ya feel me?

Samuel Gordon

Now the waiting game begins.

The Gophers closed out their regular season Saturday with a 14-3 loss to No. 10 Michigan State.

The Spartans will continue on to play No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday for the Big Ten title before bowl matchups are announced.

Some projections pit Minnesota against Texas Tech in a rematch of last year’s Texas Bowl, which followed a mediocre 6-6 Gophers season.

This possible repeat matchup is hardly indicative of the progress the Gophers have made this season.

Other projections are slating a possible matchup with Kansas State or Boston College, but either way, what’s the significance of a repeat appearance in the same second-tier bowl game?

The Gophers were whipping boys in the Big Ten last year. This year, they were competitive in all but one conference game and doubled their Big Ten win total.

This year’s squad is superior to last year’s in every way, shape and form.

And they’re going to be rewarded with the same bowl game?

Last season, playing postseason football was a victory. This season, it was an expectation.

The Gophers had eight tangible victories this season, including four in the Big Ten.

They beat a ranked Nebraska team for the first time in 50 years, an achievement far more meaningful than any bowl game the Gophers could be invited to at season’s end.

A shift in the football culture and dynamic on campus is a much bigger victory, and winning four consecutive Big Ten games for the first time in 40 years says far more about this season than winning a bowl game ever could.

While some Minnesota fans may relish the limelight of the “Texas Bowl,” the truth is that most bowl games are glorified exhibitions created by television networks and sponsors in an effort to make an extra buck.

There’s little to no merit in most of the 35 bowl games — mediocre 6-6 teams from around the country routinely qualify for postseason play.

There were about 20,000 empty seats in Reliant Stadium in last year’s Texas Bowl, and there’s almost sure to be plenty of room in the stands at this year’s game.

That’s not to say there isn’t value in a postseason game — the value is just not in the game itself.

The bowl game is important for the Gophers because it allows 15 additional practices, which are valuable in the context of rebuilding a program.

It’s also a chance for the squad to end its season on a positive note in the lap of luxury.

But even so, what this team has accomplished this season is already more impressive than beating an average Big 12 team in a bowl it has already played in.

Ya feel me?