Who are these Minnesota football teams? That might seem like a rhetorical question, but we actually would like to demand answers.


Who are these Gophers, the ones that play virtually mistake-free on offense and fly to the ball on defense? This college football team is not one we recognize.

The Vikings? Well, we've seen a group of men in purple play like world-beaters for one half of football before, quite recently. And we've seen that very team start off with a thud in the second half, just as the Vikings did on Sunday. But we have not seen an immediate answer to the second-half punch, nor can we recall a defensive crew that could withstand the closing-minutes clownery on the part of referees and Toby Gerhart such as the Vikings did yesterday.

The Gophers and Vikings physically dominated two solid opponents this weekend -- a high-flying BCS offense in one case, and perhaps the best team in the NFC in the other case -- and outperformed in both cases when it comes to fundamentals.

Winning this way is a reflection of both their coaches; when things are good, this is how Jerry Kill and Leslie Frazier want to win. Next week and beyond are not guaranteed, but this weekend gave some mighty hope going forward.

The Gophers are somehow a touchdown underdog at Iowa next week. The Big Ten is woeful. Awful. Reheated garbage. If Minnesota wins at Iowa and continues to gain some real momentum, well, suddenly the "maybe they can go 6-6 overall" talk has to be replaced with "hey, maybe this team can go .500 in the conference."

The NFC North is suddenly more vulnerable than previously thought. The Packers still figure to be very good, but things are not coming as easily as they did last year. The Bears can be great one game and a mess the next. The Lions? They're 1-2 going into next weekend's game hosting the Vikings, and they could be without QB Matthew Stafford.

Could both the Gophers and the Vikings pull off potentially season-defining road victories next weekend? Well, if they do, then we officially will know these are not football teams we recognize.

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Weekend links with Jon Marthaler: Vikings still must-see TV + national profile of Joe Mauer

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