Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press
October 11 vs. Northwestern
Picking a potential trap game for Minnesota in 2014 is no easy task. Almost every game on the Gophers' slate this season seems to have a particular level of importance.
Minnesota has gone through a remarkable transition these past few seasons under Jerry Kill. No longer is Minnesota a Big ten doormat that loses to the likes of FCS South Dakota. Instead, Minnesota is beating the teams it should be beating.
The other side of the coin, however, is the fact that Minnesota is still losing to teams perceived to be "above" the Gophers in terms of the Big Ten pecking order.
The West Division can, for most intents and purposes, be boiled down to a race between three teams: Nebraska, Wisconsin and perhaps Iowa. If we were to extend that to four, Minnesota would be most people's choice for the next spot.
In order to be competitive, however, Minnesota must start beating some teams to which it traditionally loses—teams like Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin. But even if Minnesota loses a game to, say, the Wolverines on September 27, all is not lost. What will knock the Gophers out of contention, however, is a loss to the likes of divisional foe Northwestern on October 11.
This is the type of game the Gophers must continue to win to have any hope of breaking through. Coming on the heels of a bye week (which follows that September 27 game in Ann Arbor), the Gophers will host a Northwestern program looking for its own redemption after a very disappointing 2013.
If the Gophers drop this sneaky game, it becomes almost inconceivable for Minnesota to earn a trip to Indianapolis. To do that with a loss to Northwestern, Minnesota would almost certainly need to beat everyone else in the division—and the Gophers have Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin, in that order, in Weeks 11 through 14.
Good luck with that.