The Gophers football team still is focused on getting practices scheduled and moving forward whenever the Big Ten and NCAA allow teams to resume activities this spring or summer.

One of the unique elements of the Gophers’ upcoming season is that while they open with four home games — including nonconference contests against Florida Atlantic, Tennessee Tech and BYU — in the middle of those games, they are scheduled to face Iowa at TCF Bank Stadium on Friday, Sept. 18.

The longtime rivals have faced each other 113 times, and this will be the earliest date they have ever played for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy.

Twice they faced off in September, once in Iowa City in 2012 and once in Minneapolis in 2013. The Hawkeyes won both games.

Gophers 2020 football schedule

And while the Gophers lead the overall series between the two teams 62-49-2, the Hawkeyes have dominated of late.

Going back to 1993, Iowa has won 20 of 27 games, including the past five matchups.

Last season’s game was one of the biggest in the rivalry’s history, with Iowa winning 23-19 in Iowa City that, if the Gophers had won, would have sent them to the Big Ten Championship Game and the Rose Bowl.

But this season’s contest could be just as important.

The Big Ten West could easily come down to a race between the Gophers, Iowa and Wisconsin.

The Hawkeyes and Gophers will be in excellent shape after Iowa went 10-3 last season and Minnesota went 11-2.

Start of practice?

Earlier this month, University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld told the school’s Board of Regents that he hoped practice could resume at the university on June 1.

That will be a big sticking point for the reopening of college football, if some states allow their universities to start practices ahead of schools in other states.

Sign up for Gophers and other sports newsletters here

So far, the Big Ten has suspended all team activities through June 1. If they remove that restriction, it doesn’t mean all states will allow practices to start at the same time.

Iowa hasn’t had gathering restrictions as strict as Minnesota, and that could make a big difference when it comes to resuming college practices.

Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle said in a news conference last week that having every team start at the same time in the Big Ten or even nationally is going to be difficult, but that the coordination between the conference schools has been excellent.

“The collaboration that we have right now in the Big Ten is unbelievable,” Coyle said. “I mean literally, I am talking to the athletic directors more than I am talking to my family right now. We are on the phone almost daily. I am thankful for [Big Ten] Commissioner [Kevin] Warren’s leadership. And I don’t want to speculate [on practice start discrepancies].

“I can tell you that we are looking at all types of different models. We are looking at models that are driven by our medical experts, because ultimately they are going to make the decision for us. We all have a core understanding that when we come back, we want to make sure we’re providing the safest possible environments we can for our student-athletes. That is at the center of every one of our conversations.

“So when we look at different models, and obviously states are going to open up at different times, and those are going to create conversations that we’re going to have to have. But I’m incredibly confident and grateful for the leadership of our Big Ten commissioner [and] our athletic directors in the Big Ten that we will find the right path for all of us to start to work together to move forward in a safe fashion, not only for the Big Ten but for all of college football.”

It is going to be difficult to explain to the Gophers coaching staff if Iowa or any other Big Ten school gets to start practicing before them.

Vikings’ draft success

Pro Football Focus named the Vikings the most improved team in the NFC North from the NFL draft.

“The Vikings needed to have a good draft after what has transpired over the past several months,’’ PFF wrote. ‘‘They lost nearly all of their starting experience at cornerback, traded away [wide receiver] Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills, and parted ways with two longtime standouts on the defensive line in Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen. From an instant reaction standpoint, it looks like they did a pretty good job of reloading in the 2020 NFL draft.”

PFF thought the Vikings got a lot of high-end talent that could play right away in the first two days of the draft, but also nabbed a lot of potential impact players in the later rounds when they added a ton of draft picks for a total of 15.

“Justin Jefferson figures to play a large role early next to Adam Thielen after torching college football last season for over 1,500 receiving yards and 18 receiving touchdowns,” PFF wrote. “The Vikings also attacked their need at cornerback early and well with Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler, two players who should see significant playing time. The other big area of need, offensive line, was addressed with Ezra Cleveland at solid value in the back end of Round 2 — a potential starter as a rookie at either tackle or guard.

“That’s before you even get to the Vikings’ sea of Day 3 picks, which included good value with players such as Troy Dye and Kenny Willekes. The Vikings’ roster is certainly in better shape now than it was before the draft.”

Zimmer on Mahomes

Vikings co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer provided some insight into how he would try and defend quarterback Patrick Mahomes, reigning Super Bowl MVP of the champion Chiefs.

“The thing about him is he can do it by running or he can do it by throwing, so you have to be able to have an extra set of eyes on him so he doesn’t scramble and you have to have really good coverage on their receivers because they’re as fast as anybody in the NFL,” Zimmer said. “You have to have a really good plan on how you’re going to take away their receivers and you have to do a really good job as far as pass rush and your lanes and not letting him escape, maybe having an extra set of eyes and spying him. And you’re going to have to mix it up.

“You can’t have the same look every time, because Coach [Andy] Reid has seen it all. You really want to mix it up with [Mahomes] and do the best you can to keep him contained. He’s going to make his plays, but you can’t just give up a bunch of plays like they were able to get in the playoffs.”