Gophers top 10 in ESPN's College Football Playoff odds – Sports Illustrated

Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports
ESPN’s Football Power Index believes only six teams have a better chance of making the College Football Playoff.
The Minnesota Gophers have raced out of the gates this season and their chances to make the College Football Playoffs are skyrocketing.
According to ESPN's College Football Power Index, only six teams have a better chance than Minnesota of making the College Football Playoff entering Week 5. The Gophers are given a 10.2% chance by the ESPN tool. 
The schools ahead of Minnesota are a list of college football powerhouses including Alabama (84.8%), Ohio State (78.0%), Georgia (71.7%), Clemson (42.9%), Michigan (30.9%) and USC (26.1%).
Some national analysts have also started rowing the boat after Minnesota demolished Michigan State 34-7 last weekend, including FOX Sports' Joel Klatt, who declared the Gophers the favorite in the Big Ten West and a team to watch as a potential College Football Playoff contender. 
"They housed Michigan State…and they did it at Michigan State," Klatt said. "That wasn't even particularly close at all…you look at their schedule there's no reason they couldn't be 12-0, 11-1 in Indianapolis. Prove me wrong….they are rowing themselves right into the College Football Playoff discussion and I'm here for every moment of it."
With the Gophers ranking second in scoring defense (6.0 points per game) and 11th in scoring offense (45.8), it's easy to see why everyone is bullish on Minnesota. Their path to the playoff is a still difficult and will have several challenges ahead.
The Gophers begin their march this weekend with a home game against 2-2 Purdue. They'll then go to Illinois, who picked up a win at Huntington Bank Stadium last November. 
If they survive those games, they'll head to Happy Valley where Penn State will be staging their annual White Out game in front of a nationally televised audience. Wins in all three would mean a 7-0 start and Minnesota would enter a soft stretch where they host Rutgers, travel to Nebraska and return home to face Northwestern.
This brings them to the toughest part of the schedule with back-to-back rivalry games with Iowa and Wisconsin. Kirk Ferentz has helped the Hawkeyes dominate The Battle For Floyd of Rosedale with seven straight wins including five since Fleck arrived at Minnesota in 2017.
That gives way for a trip to Madison where the Badgers likely haven't forgotten the full-blown trolling Gophers fans gave them after claiming Paul Bunyan's Axe last season.
At this point, the Gophers would encounter their final boss in the Big Ten Championship Game. Michigan or Penn State could be worthy adversaries but the most likely opponent would be the Ohio State Buckeyes, who just obliterated Wisconsin 52-21 last Saturday night.
Perhaps the Gophers would have built up enough of a resume by that point to challenge for a playoff spot if they lose, but with only four teams in the playoffs and the national allure of the other teams in the mix, it's possible that Minnesota will be left out in the cold.
Still, the Gophers are off to a dominating start and they've started gaining the nation's attention. 
Related: Hype for the Gophers as College Football Playoff contender

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