No. 17 in the debut College Football Playoff rankings, Minnesota will see its postseason stock soar after Saturday’s 31-26 win at home against Penn State left the Golden Gophers as one of two unbeaten teams in the Big Ten, along with Ohio State.

After the program’s first win against a top-five opponent in 20 years, Minnesota is now 9-0 for the first time since 1904 and through the first major hurdle of a difficult November.

September and October, meanwhile, seemed to reveal little about Minnesota’s ability to hang among the best teams in the Bowl Subdivision. The Golden Gophers narrowly defeated South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern to open the season before rolling past the bottom rung of the Big Ten — Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland.

Minnesota players hold up the Governor Liberty Bell trophy after defeating the Penn State at TCF Bank Stadium.

Minnesota takes the Nittany Lions’ place as the Big Ten’s other playoff contender and moves one step closer to securing the West Division championship. The Gophers are two full games ahead of the second-place team in the division with three games to go.

The win is validation for the team’s underrated talent level: Minnesota drew outstanding play from wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson, who combined for 14 receptions for 307 yards; both will soon be playing in the NFL. It’s also continued validation for coach P.J. Fleck, who has his detractors yet has now performed incredible turnarounds at two FBS programs.

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