The Gophers play a home game as a betting-line favorite Saturday, but it's probably best not to assume any outcome because — shield your eyes, fans — Bowling Green still dangles as a stark reminder that anything is possible.
OK, that disclaimer noted, the Gophers' position looks different today than it did two weeks ago, or even one week ago.
Same thing with Wisconsin.
Yes, Iowa too.
The Big Ten West race isn't over. It's only beginning. Amazing how swiftly the narrative can shift in one football Saturday.
The IowaHawkeyes, fresh off a thrilling win over Penn State, rocketed to No. 2 nationally, undefeated and seemingly ball-hawking their way to a blowout of the West Division.
But then the takeaways dried up, Purdue's offense revved up and suddenly the West no longer looks like a one-team runaway now that Iowa carries a loss on its record.
The West is up for grabs as November approaches. Which team wants it?
The conference has two tales. The East is top-heavy again with four teams ranked in the Top 10 nationally this week. The West lacks a true powerhouse.
Iowa's 17-point home loss to Purdue gives the rest of the division renewed hope. Well, except Illinois. Even five-loss Nebraska seems capable of playing the role of spoiler if anyone gets caught overlooking the Huskers.
The Big Ten scrapped its goofy, hubris-tic division model of "Legends" and "Leaders" back in 2013, replacing it with a more sensible and logical East-West alignment.
Since that switch, a team with two conference losses has won the West only twice. Typically, the West winner runs the table or finishes with only one Big Ten loss.
Every West team already has one loss this season. The bet here is that the eventual winner loses again before it's over.
Why? No team in the division has an offense that scares opponents.
The Gophers lost their top two running backs to season-ending injuries and rank 121st nationally in passing yards after ignoring it some games. Iowa leads college football in takeaways but has one of the least productive offenses in the nation (118th in total offense).
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz sits 104th nationally in passing efficiency. Purdue ranks 97th in scoring. Northwestern is even lower in scoring at 110th.
From that will come the West winner.
The final six weeks has the potential to be full of scoreboard-watching tension. The Gophers know better than anyone the dangers of taking any opponent lightly, if that indeed was the culprit in the Bowling Green debacle. That one remains a puzzler, but their goal of contending in November remains attainable, assuming they don't stumble again in a game in which they are favored.
The Gophers have remaining games against the four lowest-scoring offenses in the Big Ten — Indiana, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Illinois. All four of those teams rank 107th nationally or lower in scoring.
Take a step back and the picture looks familiar. The Gophers' fate likely hinges on how they fare against border rivals Iowa and Wisconsin. Same as always.
P.J. Fleck's record is 1-7 in those two measuring stick games. The Gophers likely need a split, at a minimum, this season to have a realistic chance to win the division.
Fleck has talked openly about trying to replicate the sustainability of those two programs, a hurdle that won't be cleared fully until the Gophers start winning those two games with more frequency.
Iowa appeared primed to sprint away from the West pack until Purdue produced a stunner, which is a term that probably should be sandblasted from the sport's lexicon.
College football is wonderfully wacky. Upsets happen. Heck, even Alabama lost a game this season.
The Big Ten West narrative changed suddenly last week. Maybe it will change again this weekend. The opportunity is there. Let's see who jumps up and grabs it.