COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — In unfamiliar territory in November, Minnesota has a piece of the lead in the Big Ten West and faces tough opponents in the final stretch.
Tied with Nebraska and Wisconsin atop the division at 4-2, Minnesota closes out the regular season on the road against the No. 21 Cornhuskers, hosts Northwestern and travels to the No. 7 Badgers.
Minnesota is 7-2 overall and has won four straight, with the losses coming against Penn State and Iowa. The Gophers have yet to play a ranked team. Still, win out and they’ll be in the Big Ten Championship game for the first time.
The Gophers haven’t even won a share of the Big Ten since 1967. They got close in 2014 when they went into the final game with a chance to go to the championship game, but were denied by Wisconsin.
“We’ve got a great group of seniors, and we felt like if we played well we could get to November and be in that discussion still,” Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference.
“It makes it exciting to get into November and you still have a chance,” he said. “I figured with the West teams playing five road games that the winner was probably going to have two losses. We burnt ours up right away in those first two, but our kids have responded and just kept fighting and winning each week.”
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s status for Saturday’s game against Minnesota is questionable after apparently suffering a concussion last week against Ohio State.
Armstrong was knocked out briefly during the second quarter after his head bounced off the turf while being tackled by Ohio State safety Malik Hooker. He was strapped to a backboard and taken to a hospital. He returned to the sidelines in street clothes in the third quarter.
“Tommy’s doing well, but as we all know he will go through that whole protocol (for) a head injury, and we don’t know what that means yet as far as being available for the weekend,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. “It goes through the process, and we’ll go day by day with it.
“So far, it’s pretty well on track. So we’re hopeful, but we’re not for sure at all.”