The Gophers moved up two spots to No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday night, following their bounce-back victory at Northwestern.
That means that entering Saturday’s game vs. Wisconsin for the Big Ten West title, Minnesota (10-1) remains in the national playoff discussion.
“I think there’s still a very strong case that Minnesota can control its own destiny,” ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said after the release of the rankings.
Of course, that was a much-needed response for the Gophers after their first loss of the year the previous week at Iowa.
But P.J. Fleck’s squad also got help from others dropping in the rankings and watching their playoff hopes dashed. Oregon lost to Arizona State and fell from No. 6 to No. 14, and Penn State lost to Ohio State and fell from No. 8 to No. 10.
The Gophers have now peaked at No. 8 twice since the weekly rankings began. They are the second-highest-rated team in the Big Ten behind No. 1 Ohio State. Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa held their ground at 12th, 13th and 17th.
The Buckeyes replaced LSU in the top spot, which the Tigers had held for two weeks in a row. LSU dropped to No. 2, followed by Clemson and Georgia. The next five were Alabama, Utah, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Baylor.
Baylor made the biggest leap of the week, going from No. 14 to No. 9.
In each of the first five years of the playoff, three of the top four teams in the rankings heading into rivalry weekend reached the national semifinals, including the No. 1 team every time.
Two weeks remain before selection Sunday.