Gophers enter first College Football Playoff rankings at No. 20

Braelen Oliver #14 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers celebrates with teammates after breaking up a pass intended for Jack Coldiron #89 of the Miami (Oh) Redhawks in the first quarter of the game at Huntington Bank Stadium on September 11, 2021 in Minne ((Photo by David Berding/Getty Images))

The University of Minnesota football team hasn’t been ranked all season, but that all changed Tuesday night when the College Football Playoff committee released its first rankings.

The Gophers, who have won four straight Big Ten games and currently have a one-game lead in the Big Ten West, enter the poll at No. 20. Minnesota has not been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 or the USA Today Coaches Poll this season.

Even more interesting, the Gophers were ranked ahead of No. 21 Wisconsin, and No. 22 Iowa. Minnesota heads to Iowa City next week, and hosts the Badgers to end the regular season. The Gophers lead the Big Ten West at 4-1, one game ahead of Wisconsin, and control their own destiny with four games to play to win the division.

Since a 14-10 loss to Bowling Green, the Gophers have wins at Purdue, against Nebraska, Maryland and last week's win at Northwestern.

If the Gophers can win the Big Ten West, they’ll play the East Division champion on Saturday, Dec. 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The Gophers are one of six Big Ten teams in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. Michigan State, which just beat Michigan, is No. 3. Ohio State is No. 5, and Michigan is No. 7. In perhaps the biggest surprise of the first rankings, undefeated Cincinnati is No. 6, not in the top four. The top four teams after the conference championship games advance for the right to play for the national title.

Minnesota hosts Illinois at 11 a.m. Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium.