Iowa’s Shocking Loss to Purdue Leaves Big Ten West Wide Open

Photo: @Purdue Football – Twitter

If you’re a Minnesota Gopher football fan, it’s been a nice little Saturday. First, your maroon and gold beat their newest rival, Nebraska, in a game that both teams needed badly. PJ Fleck is now 4-1 vs Scott Frost. But wait, it gets better.

Much like a surprise visit to Dairy Queen after a big 4th-grade flag football win, Gopher fans got a little dessert when their undefeated rivals to the south, the Iowa Hawkeyes, were routed by the Purdue Boilermakers. The defeathering was nationally televised on ABC.

That means the Hawkeyes (3-1) have the same number of Big Ten losses as the Gophers (2-1), though Minnesota is undefeated (2-0) against West teams, while Iowa is now 2-1. For some reason, victory drinks tonight in Dinkytown will taste just a little bit better.

Wild Wild West

The Big Ten West has been an absolute roller coaster so far in 2021. Many, myself included, counted the Gophers out when they lost to Bowling Green during non-conference play. Even in the West, where the gap between competition is smaller than ever, I didn’t think it was possible to lose vs an FCS team and recover to play in the Big Ten Championship.

But, it’s quite possible I doubted PJ Fleck when I shouldn’t have. If any team can recover from that type of devastating loss, it’s probably a Fleck-led team that rows through everything, no matter how rough the waters.

Don’t look up now, because it’s been just two games since that embarrassing L vs BGSU and the Minnesota Gophers are riding a two-game Big Ten West winning streak and sitting 2nd in the division standings. Just one Iowa loss away from a chance at the top spot.

Upcoming Schedule

Want some more good news? You’d might as well fill up on it because we all know how quickly karma swings in this state.

Minnesota’s upcoming schedule is one of the easiest in the Big Ten. Over the next three weeks, they will play all Big Ten bottom-dwellers. First the Gophers will welcome (4-2) Maryland Terrapins, whose record looks pretty good. But, they’ve played just two good teams on the season, losing 51-14 to Iowa and 66-17 to Ohio State a week later.

After the “Maryland Season”, PJ Fleck will take his team up to Chicago to play in (3-3) Northwestern’s empty Stadium before coming back to Minneapolis to play (2-5) Illinois. None of those games are sure victories but they’re matchups Minnesota should be favored in.

Iowa gets to think about their first loss over a bye, next week. They’ll take that negative energy out in Madison vs Wisconsin and in Evanston vs Northwestern the next two weeks after, before the Gophers and Hawkeyes meet at Kinnick Stadium on November 13. We’ll see where the standings shake out then.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan