The signs at Colorado's Folsom Field remind visiting football teams that they will be playing at an elevation of 5,334 feet above sea level, a little mental nudge that players' lungs soon might be burning a bit because of reduced oxygen intake.
"They do a good job of branding that, of how high you are," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said.
On Saturday afternoon in Boulder, Fleck and his team will experience that elevation and thin air when making the transition from Minneapolis — 830 feet above sea level — to the Rocky Mountains for a nonconference game against Colorado. It'll be Minnesota's first game in the state since Sept. 12, 2015, when the Gophers, coached by Jerry Kill at the time, beat Colorado State 23-20 in overtime in Fort Collins.
Fleck aims to prepare his team for any situation it might face, and he has a plan for combating any elevation issues, though he's been hesitant to discuss all the details. He consulted with various doctors and other members of the medical field to gather advice about playing at a high elevation. His conclusion: Don't dally in Denver.
"We're going to be there the shortest amount of time as possible," he said. "The longer you're there, the more it's going to affect you. If we can get in and get out, it shouldn't affect us very much at all."
Fleck also pointed to the need for his players to maintain good sleep habits, while quarterback Tanner Morgan emphasized proper nutrition.
"Never leave a stone unturned, right? That's part of our job," Fleck said Tuesday on his weekly KFXN-FM radio show. "So, in the offseason, we did a lot of studies and contacted a lot of NFL teams. When they go out to Denver, what do they do? What's their pregame like? What's their week leading up to it like?"
On Tuesday, Fleck had his team practice in its indoor facility to prepare for a hot Saturday afternoon and for a loud experience at Folsom Field.
"It's supposed to be 90 degrees out in Boulder, so it was pretty warm in our indoor [Tuesday]," he said. "... We have a lot of things going over the speakers that are incredibly loud. Practice was incredibly chaotic with the environment today. It's constantly yelling out the word, 'Altitude.' And constantly yelling out '5,345 feet.' Constantly yelling out, 'Can you breathe?' … All these subliminal messages going through the speakers, because that's what [Colorado's] fans are going to tell them. 'How are you feeling? Are you getting dizzy?'"
One area in which the elevation could be a positive: the kicking game. The ball can travel farther in the thin air, as evidenced by Matt Prater's NFL-record 64-yard field goal, plus 63-yard makes by Jason Elam and Sebastian Janikowski coming in Denver. Gophers kicker Matthew Trickett kicked a career-long 50-yard field goal last week against Miami (Ohio), while kickoff specialist Dragan Kesich could be used for extra-long field-goal attempts.
Gophers defensive lineman Micah Dew-Treadway doesn't see elevation as having a big impact on how his team will play.
"Not at all," he said. "We've talked about it as a team, and it affects you within a certain window. We know that, and Coach has done a good job of relaying that message to us. If it's a problem, we would address it, but it's not. We're going to go up there and play just like we play in any away game."
Added Morgan, "It doesn't matter where we go. Our culture travels."