For the second straight year, Minnesota will open conference play with a shiny 4-0 record.
Life is good for Gophers fans.
But if fans are expecting the unbeaten streak to extend into the Big Ten schedule, they could be in for a rude awakening.
Minnesota entertained the worst nonconference schedule of any Big Ten team this season — and the worst for any Gophers team since 2008.
The decision last year to buy out a North Carolina game this season made Minnesota the lone Big Ten team without an opponent from a Bowl Championship Series conference.
There were several Big Ten teams that even traveled to play BCS foes in their nonconference schedule.
But not the Gophers. They stayed true to their bowl-game-by-any-means blueprint.
The UNLV team Minnesota opened up its season with was 6-32 from 2010 to 2012.
The Gophers’ only road trip so far this season was to Las Cruces, N.M., for a week two date with hapless New Mexico State — a perennial laughingstock that has never been relevant on a national scale and is still winless this
The Gophers beat Western Illinois of the Football Championship Subdivision in week three, but that team was so bad, UNLV blew it out a week later.
Then it was on to San Jose State out of the Mountain West Conference — Minnesota’s toughest test to date but still a mid-major opponent. SJSU played the Gophers tough for a half before eventually falling victim to its physical disadvantages.
Being 4-0 with that schedule should be an expectation, not something fans are gloating and celebrating about.
That said, Gophers players have no control over who they play.
Their job is to show up and compete, and for the second straight season, they’ve beaten the teams they’re supposed to beat.
Credit where credit is due.
Still, we won’t be able to correctly gauge exactly how good this year’s squad is until midway through the Big Ten season.
Iowa comes to town this Saturday and will undoubtedly present Minnesota its biggest physical challenge so far.
The Gophers opened as a one-point favorite in what is a very winnable matchup.
But remember last year, after the hot start, the Gophers were eviscerated by Iowa in their Big Ten opener.
That loss snowballed into what turned out to be another disastrous Big Ten season. The Gophers finished 2-6 and were blown out by all of the usual suspects.
That could certainly happen again this season, and fans shouldn’t hold this team to the expectations a 4-0 record normally would suggest.
It’d be a disservice to everyone involved.
Ya feel me?