MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It won’t feel like a normal season opener, but Gopher football is back.

It’s a top-25 match-up against the University of Michigan. The Gophers are currently ranked at No. 21, with the Wolverines at No. 18.

ESPN’s “College GameDay” will also pay a visit to TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, heading to the Gopher state for the second year in a row. However, the University of Minnesota is asking people to stay away from campus because of the risk of spreading COVID-19. No tailgating or pre-game festivities are allowed.

COVID-19 has whittled the season down to just eight games. But Coach P.J. Fleck says the team has to be ready for the touch matchup.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, when we play,” he said. “They all count, they all matter, and they’re all the most important game at that particular time.”

The question is whether the Gophers can build on their season last year. They were ranked No. 10 in an AP poll for their highest end-of-season ranking since 1962. They beat Auburn and Penn State. Overall, the team went 11-2 in the season.

But COVID-19 has thrown the college sport for a loop; initially the Big Ten postponed the fall season on Aug. 11 because of COVID-19 concerns. But amid mounting pressure from parents, players, coaches, and President Donald Trump, they decided in mid-September to still put on a season, with medical protocols in place.

The battle for the Little Brown Jug begins at 6:30 p.m. There will be very few people in the stands, mostly comprised of the players’ family members.

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