2013 has been a great run for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. They were in the mix for the Big Ten title into November thanks to four straight conference wins, including huge games over the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Penn State Nittany Lions, and finished the regular season with an 8-4 record that few expected. Minnesota makes its way back to the postseason this year for a second straight trip to the Texas Bowl where they take on the Syracuse Orange where a win could give the Gophers a huge push into 2014.
Overachieving and getting back to the Texas Bowl is a nice accomplishment for Minnesota but they need to win this year to take the next step in 2014. Syracuse is a lower-tier ACC team this season and losing to them would be a step backwards for the Gophers, wiping out much of what they have done already this year. If they win, though, it’s a nice win to cap a great season and provide a huge wave of momentum heading into the offseason.
That momentum could lead to some big things in 2014. Minnesota returns most of their roster next season and improving to 9-4 with a win in the bowl game could put the Gophers in position to start the season in the Top 25 next fall. They showed this year that they can hang with some of the better teams in the Big Ten and could make a run at a possible division title if they can pull off a few upsets.
But all of that momentum and expectation relies on a strong finish to the 2013 season. They’ve put themselves in a position to be a team to watch in 2014 but need to win the Texas Bowl to give them that final push into being darkhorse contedners next season.