Floyd of Rosedale will be at stake Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium, so that tradition is safe. But the Gophers will have four more games to play after meeting Iowa, including a game with Wisconsin in two weeks, which is the end of a different tradition.
For the past 78 seasons, Minnesota has closed its Big Ten season by facing either the Hawkeyes or Badgers. But the Big Ten's split into divisions, and Iowa's preference for a new day-after-Thanksgiving tradition with Nebraska, has ended that pattern. Minnesota will end the 2011 season by playing host to Illinois -- the last time those teams met in a season finale was 1917 -- and for the following three seasons at least, Michigan State will finish with Minnesota.
It's a tradition that few Gophers seem aware of, and even fewer care. Their focus, coach Jerry Kill said, is on what they can control -- the outcome of the game -- and not the schedule, which they can't.
"It's a rivalry game. It's a big history game," Kill said. Whether it's played in October or late November, "it's not going to affect how I feel about it."
Same goes for the players. The tradition of the game rests within Floyd, that bronze pig that goes home with the winner each year, and not when it's played, senior offensive lineman Chris Bunders said.
"Iowa is never just one of the games in the middle of the year. It's bigger than that," Bunders said. "We always enjoy playing Iowa. We have the pig, so I'm sure they'll be a little bit angry this year. But the end of the season, it's still a Big Ten game. If it's Iowa or Illinois, it doesn't really matter."
Kirk Ferentz has been the Hawkeyes' coach for the past 13 years, and was an assistant in Iowa City for another nine years in the 1980s. This will be the first time in those 22 seasons that the Minnesota game wasn't played in November, and the Iowa coach admitted this week that it will feel weird -- in more ways than one.
"I predict it might be a little warmer" than in previous years, Ferentz said. "That's a good thing."