The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences have a longstanding relationship, with champions usually meeting in the Rose Bowl — if the College Football Playoff doesn’t come into play.
But when it comes to the Gophers, what you’ll see Saturday night when they play Oregon State in Corvallis is a rarity. Minnesota is making its first regular-season trip to play a Pac-12 team since 2011 and only its third such trip in 37 years.
The last time the Gophers played at a Pac-12 opponent in the regular season was Sept. 3, 2011, when they opened with a 19-17 loss to USC in the Los Angeles Coliseum in Jerry Kill’s first year as coach. Freshman Max Shortell rallied the Gophers to a near-upset of the No. 25 Trojans and coach Lane Kiffin.
That trip west went much better than the most recent one before it. On Sept. 9, 2006, Glen Mason took his Gophers to Berkeley, Calif., to face No. 22 Cal. The result: Golden Bears 42, Gophers 17. That score shouldn’t stun anyone. Cal featured future NFL stars Marshawn Lynch and DeSean Jackson, along with NFL journeyman running back Justin Forsett.
The Gophers did beat Pac-12 team Washington State in San Diego in December in the Holiday Bowl, but that’s about the only winning road trip west in recent decades. Before 2006, the Gophers last ventured west to play a Pac-12 (or Pac-10) team in 1979, when they lost 48-17 at USC. They also had losses at UCLA (17-3 in 1978) and at Washington (38-7 in 1976) in the 1970s.