The No. 8 Golden Gopher football team heads to No. 20 Iowa this weekend, and despite holding a higher ranking and undefeated record, most everyone seems to be picking the Hawkeyes to beat Minnesota on Saturday.
Not only is Iowa a 3-point favorite, ESPN's Football Power Index gives the Gophers just a 38.7% chance to win at Kinnick Stadium, where the Gophers have not won since 1999.
As the Des Moines Register points out, Iowa has been in this situation before. In 2010, a 6-2 Iowa team, ranked 18th in the country, was a 6.5-point favorite over Kirk Cousins and the No. 5 Michigan State Spartans, and the oddsmakers turned out to be right as the Hawkeyes walloped the Spartans in a 37-6 victory.
Wait a second. Cousins lost in a prime-time game? Never heard that one before...
Done with cheap shots, let's move on.
Bottom line, we're sure there are plenty of people picking the Gophers to win, but it really seems like way too many are picking against one of the top teams in the country. Here are some examples.
The diehards at Black Heart and Gold Pants:
"I hate Minnesota so goddamn much. Is it because my entire family and ¾ of my high school class went there? Maybe. Is it because I grew up going to Minnesota football and basketball games, watching some of the worst teams in the conference? Probably. Is it because I didn’t get accepted to Minnesota? Definitely absolutely not and you’re the bitter one and not me. ANYWAY, I’m very happy that Minnesota fans from the past three generations are getting literally their first taste of football greatness ever. I’ll be even happier when they get their first taste of complete and utter disappointment Saturday, when Iowa inexplicably sinks their boat in what will assuredly be a hair-pulling exercise in offensive dominance by an Iowa team that has nothing but pride left to play for.".
Rob Howe of Hawkeye Nation also picks Iowa to win:
"Now the test for Minnesota is knocking off a formidable opponent in a tough road environment. It will be trying to end an eight-game losing streak at Kinnick Stadium, the last victory there coming in ’99. There would appear to be considerable pressure on the Gophers with a lot of attention coming their way this week. And there’s a lot on the line for the first time in a long time. Conversely, Iowa’s chances of winning the Big Ten went out the window for all intents and purposes with last week’s loss at Wisconsin. That reduced the stakes for them in this matchup to playing spoiler. I think that helps the Hawkeyes and serves as an advantage in this contest. Oddsmakers feel the same way, making a three-loss team a favorite against an unbeaten. Final score: Iowa 27, Minnesota 24."
And it's not just Iowa bloggers and beat writers picking the Gophers to lose. Four of six "experts" from USA TODAY are picking Iowa, including Paul Myerberg:
"Minnesota loses to Iowa in a close one for the Gophers’ first loss on the season. The single loss won’t eliminate Minnesota from making the College Football Playoff, since a 12-1 team with wins against Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State would have a pretty good case for the top four. But losing to the Hawkeyes would make the matchup with the Badgers on Nov. 30 a winner-take-all game for the West Division."
Here's another nonbeliever from Bleacher Report, Joel Reuter:
"The Hawkeyes surrendered 250 rushing yards to Jonathan Taylor last week and still kept things close against Wisconsin in a 24-22 loss, so they are capable of hanging tough even if the Minnesota running game is firing on all cylinders. The undefeated run stops here for the Gophers in a classic grind-it-out Big Ten game.”
So even though the Gophers are coming off their biggest win in more than 50 years, they have yet to convince the majority that they're for real.
A win over over the Hawkeyes would change that, and possibly move Minnesota ahead of Utah and/or Oregon in the College Football Playoff rankings, as those two clubs, ranked 6th and 7th, respectively, face teams with losing records this weekend.