The improved play of the 2014 Gophers caught some broad national attention. The 2015 schedule alone is deserving of the same. The Gophers open with TCU, a team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation on Tuesday in ESPN's "way too early" 2015 rankings. Hard to imagine a more high-profile opening game for Jerry Kill's fifth season. After that Thursday nighter at TCF Bank Stadium comes a trip to Fort Collins, Colo., to face a Colorado State team that was 10-1 and ranked 21st before two season-ending losses.

And, oh yeah, there's that Big Ten schedule, too. This year, the conference run will feature three new coaches at traditional powers Nebraska (Mike Riley), Michigan (Jim Harbaugh) and the season-ending Wisconsin (Paul Chryst) game, and a November trip to Columbus, Ohio, to face the newly crowned champs. Those Buckeyes are No. 2 in ESPN's too-early rankings, by the way.

Will the Gophers improve on 8-5? Fall back? It should be fascinating to follow the ride, up or down:

Minnesota, 2015

Sept. 3*vs. TCU

Sept. 12at Colorado State

Sept. 19vs. Kent State

Sept. 26vs. Ohio

Oct. 3at Northwestern

Oct. 10at Purdue

Oct. 17vs. Nebraska

Oct. 24Bye week

Oct. 31vs. Michigan

Nov. 7at Ohio State

Nov. 14at Iowa

Nov. 21vs. Illinois

Nov. 28vs. Wisconsin

*Thursday night game