While ESPN's "College GameDay" and most of the nation will be focused on the Alabama-LSU game in Tuscaloosa, the Gophers are preparing for what head coach P.J. Fleck believes is one of the biggest games in team history.
"This is what college football is all about. You've got two 8-0 football teams, two top-13 teams playing at TCF Bank Stadium ... this is what it's all about," Fleck said on WCCO Radio Sunday morning when talking about this Saturday's 11 a.m. matchup with No. 5 Penn State.
"[The] Gophers are in the hunt for the Big Ten West title race, and this is what we said could happen at this point and here we are. I know our fans will be there and I know it's going to be an electric atmosphere. I know our fans are going to be able to provide that for us and it's going to be a lot of fun. We talk about one of the biggest games in Minnesota history, it's fun to be a part of."
Penn State, ranked fifth in the country, takes on the 13th-ranked Gophers. The winner will improve to 9-0 and put themselves in a position to contend for a spot in the Big Ten championship game, in addition to setting themselves up for a marquee bowl game in late December or early January.
Penn State opens the game as a 6.5-point road favorite.
"Hard to find them if there are," said Fleck when asked if Penn State has any weaknesses.
It's still possible that either team makes it to the College Football Playoff, but with four weeks to go in the regular season any talk of that is premature.
Not mad about ESPN picking No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 LSU
ESPN's "College GameDay" will be broadcasting live from Tuscaloosa for the 46th time since the show debuted in 1987. They have never broadcast from Minnesota, but Fleck, despite lobbying to get ESPN to Minneapolis, isn't disappointed.
"We did everything we could but I think everybody knew in the back of their mind that it's hard to turn down the game of the century, one-two in Tuscaloosa," said Fleck. "I get it that there's two 8-0 football teams, but one is ranked five and one ranks 13 – and the other ones are one-two. That's a really special game that's really hard to turn down. I completely understand it 100 percent."
Fleck addresses speculation that he could leave
"Minnesota is a big-time job. Period. I really believe that," Fleck said when asked by Sid Hartman if he likes it in Minnesota. "Heather (Fleck) and I absolutely love it in Minnesota, our kids love it when they're here. It's a lot of fun. We've got a lot of work to do and a lot of things to finish, we love it here for sure."
The Star Tribune recently reported that University of Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle may be close to offering Fleck a hefty contract extension as Fleck's success in Minnesota could attract attention from other big-time college football programs, like USC, South Carolina and Arkansas.
Florida State's head coaching job just opened up after Willie Taggart was fired over the weekend, and Fleck's name has already come up as a potential replacement in the Tallahassee Democrat.
Fans encourage to wear maroon
Saturday's game should be close to sold out if not sold out entirely, and Gophers fans are encouraged to wear as much maroon as possible. The players will be wearing maroon jerseys and pants with gold chrome helmets.