As it turns out, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee thinks even less of Minnesota than the national media.

The Golden Gophers are just 17th in the first edition of the rankings, which were revealed Tuesday night. They are by far the lowest-ranked undefeated team, obviously well behind the top five of Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Penn State and Clemson.

But they are also significantly trailing No. 12 Baylor. They are also behind two-loss teams like No. 10 Florida, No. 11 Auburn, No. 13 Wisconsin, No. 14 Michigan, No. 15 Notre Dame and No. 16 Kansas State. Essentially, the CFP Committee is treating Minnesota like UCF or a Group of Five team.

Here’s something to consider: Minnesota (8-0), at 5-0 in the Big Ten, is very underrated.

Everyone wants to talk about what the Golden Gophers have done. Who did they beat? No one of note. That’s fair.

But here’s what they haven’t done:

  • Lose at home as a 21-point favorite to a 4-5 team playing its third-string quarterback, like No. 6 Georgia did
  • Lose as a 23.5-point favorite (at one point trailing by 25!) like No. 9 Oklahoma did
  • Lose as a 30-point favorite to a team that hasn’t made a bowl game since 2014, like No. 13 Wisconsin did

Each week, a CFP contender is getting tripped up by a team to which it has no business losing. Winning handily every week against Big Ten teams has to mean something, right?

Minnesota’s schedule has been weak so far, ranking 77th in FBS, according to TeamRankings.com. The only Big Ten team that it has played with a winning record is Illinois. Speaking on the ESPN broadcast, committee chair Rob Mullens cited that as a factor in Minnesota’s ranking, and that’s understandable. This is life in the Big Ten West Division, though, especially when you have a backloaded schedule like Minnesota and your crossover opponents don’t include Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State. That’s out of Minnesota’s control.

Look a little closer, though, and maybe the schedule isn’t quite as bad. If you look at the strength of each win (meaning you get credit for each FBS win of the opponent you defeat), Minnesota stacks up more favorably. Per Phil Steele, Minnesota is 10th in this category – ahead of Alabama and Baylor, just behind Clemson. Interesting, right?

This isn’t to say Minnesota belongs in the same category as Alabama or Clemson, but maybe it deserves a little more credit? After all, this is a team on a 10-game winning streak dating to last season, which includes winning at Wisconsin by 22 and beating Georgia Tech by 24 in the Quick Lane Bowl.

The biggest knock against Minnesota is the way it played in its non-conference – it won, but it was ugly. The schedule itself was awful, and the Golden Gophers played awful against South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern, winning by a total of 13 points. I wrote at the time that Minnesota was the most underwhelming team in the Big Ten, and I stand by it.

But once you get past those three games, Minnesota has actually been very good. In their last five games, the Golden Gophers have won by an average of 26.8 points – the fourth-highest point differential in the country in that span, behind only Ohio State (43.2), Clemson (32.2) and Alabama (30.4).

Minnesota may have skated by in those three non-conference games, but since the bye week, it has played really well, and that seems to be going unnoticed. The same Illinois team to which Wisconsin lost, Minnesota beat by 23. The Golden Gophers led by 21 at Purdue late (the game Elijah Sindelar and Rondale Moore got hurt) before the Boilermakers scored twice in the final six minutes to make the score appear closer than it really was. By the way, that was a much more dominant performance than Iowa had against Purdue, when it had to score with two minutes left in a one-possession game.

Comparing Minnesota’s common opponents with Michigan is interesting. Michigan beat Illinois by 17, Minnesota won by 23; Michigan beat Rutgers by 52, Minnesota won by 35; Michigan beat Maryland by 31, Minnesota won by 42. Michigan has two losses (one of which it trailed by 35 points), yet it is ranked ahead of Minnesota. Minnesota’s Big Ten results haven’t been much different – it just doesn’t have the same “quality losses” as Michigan.

But the great part about all this is that Minnesota gets to prove it belongs. Even though it is well out of the CFP picture right now, it still controls its own destiny. The next four weeks for the Golden Gophers looks like this: vs. No. 4 Penn State, at No. 18 Iowa, at Northwestern and vs. No. 13 Wisconsin. If Minnesota wins three out of four, it will be in the Big Ten Championship and play either No. 1 Ohio State or Penn State. There will be plenty of chances to rack up those quality wins and put itself in the CFP conversation.

This column isn’t meant to say Minnesota is going to beat Penn State on Saturday and roll to the Big Ten title game, or even that it will beat Iowa and Wisconsin. Quite frankly, I have no idea.

But here’s what I do know: Through eight games Minnesota is better than you think – and it has certainly looked much better than the No. 17 team in the country over the last five games.