Game of the weekend: 2:30pm today, ESPN: #19 Wisconsin at #25 Minnesota
Most people already consider this year of Gopher football, broadly speaking, a success. Four Big Ten wins, including one over traditional power Nebraska, have seen to that; even if the Gophers lose their final three games of the year, it has been a positive year for Minnesota.
Today, though, the Gophers have a chance to make 2013 the most memorable year of Gopher football for a generation - to not only get to five conference wins, but to get a truly memorable win. ("Remember the year we beat Wisconsin, the year it was like zero degrees?")
Minnesota has had a handful of five-win conference seasons in the past forty years, but perhaps only 1986, when the Gophers beat Michigan at the Big House, can truly compare - and even that year, Minnesota lost to Pacific in the non-conference schedule. 2003 was marred by the Michigan debacle in the Dome (and the nearly-as-craptacular Michigan State loss at home the following week.) 1999 had the epic upset at Penn State, but also had the frustration of four losses of five points or less. 1990 had a 56-0 loss to Nebraska, and a Pacific-style loss to Utah to open the year.
A win over Wisconsin would give Minnesota those five Big Ten wins, plus the fond memory of beating the Badgers in the below-zero wind chill. The Gophers probably aren't going to the Big Ten championship game, let's be honest; Michigan State can end that hope before things even kick off on the East Bank today. But regardless of what might happen next week against the Spartans, the Gophers can seal 2013 this week as one of the team's best years ever. All they have to do: bring the Axe home.
What else to watch this weekend
11:00am today, ESPN: #13 Michigan State at Northwestern. All of that said, just keep an eye on how things are going in Evanston... you know, just in case.
7:25am Sunday, NBC Sports: Tottenham at Manchester City. It's the best of the weekend English soccer slate, according to Dana Wessel. Can City continue their run of playing well at home? Can Spurs score a goal this season, pretty much ever? Can you find anything else to watch if you happen to be up early tomorrow morning? (Probable answers, in order: Yes. No. No.)
4:00pm Sunday, FSN: Minnesota-Duluth at Minnesota. When the kickoff for the Gophers and Wisconsin was announced for the late afternoon, this game was moved from Saturday night to Sunday, in order to minimize the difficulty of getting football fans out of Stadium Village and hockey fans in. A lot of Gopher hockey fans were mad about that one - Saturday night is hockey night! - but here's the weird thing: Sunday afternoon Gopher hockey games are always raucous. I don't have an explanation for that, but some of the loudest crowds I've ever heard at Mariucci were Sunday afternoon crowds.
7:20pm Sunday, ESPN: Denver at New England. Sunday afternoon is inviolable for a lot of NFL fans. I've talked to at least one person, and I'm sure there are others, who have negotiated a truce of sorts with their families: just let me have from noon to 6:30 on Sunday to watch football, and I'll go anywhere and do anything the rest of the week. It is to those people I speak here: The afternoon games (Indy at Arizona, Dallas at the Giants) are terrible, and you probably don't want to watch the Vikings/Packers game anyway. Move it back. Give up the afternoon so you can take the evening; you'd much rather watch this game instead. You have a day to pull this off. Go.
What to read this weekend
With Thanksgiving coming up, you probably haven't been thinking much about the Twins' starting rotation. I'd like to offer you the chance to correct that, thanks to the TwinsCentric / TwinsDaily crew. Last week, Parker Hageman looked at Ricky Nolasco, one of the guys the Twins are rumored to be high on; this week, John Bonnes did the same for Bronson Arroyo.