Games are not won on paper and they’re not determined by a win probability metric. That’s probably best for Minnesota through the first three games of the season.

The Golden Gophers have faced fourth quarter deficits in each of their first three games this season, overcoming all of those to start the season with a 3-0 record.

First it was a late fumble recovery and touchdown against South Dakota State. The following week, it was a ridiculous touchdown catch by Chris Autman-Bell and interception by Antoine Winfield Jr. in overtime. This Saturday, it was a tremendous catch by Tyler Johnson in the end zone.

Whatever way you slice it, Minnesota has escaped disaster a handful of times this season. And ESPN’s win probability meter can prove it.

In all three games this season, Minnesota has been the favorite. However, in the fourth quarter of all three games, the win probability meter has favored each of the Golden Gophers’ opponents at some point — and at varying levels of confidence.

Here’s what Minnesota’s win probability looked like at the start of each of those three games:

  • Week 1 vs. South Dakota State: 86.5% win probability
  • Week 2 at Fresno State: 68.5% win probability
  • Week 3 vs. Georgia Southern: 92.2% win probability

And here’s what those win probability percentages dropped to in the fourth quarter in those three games:

  • vs. South Dakota State: 49.9% (SDSU: 50.1%)
  • at Fresno State: 8.1% (FSU: 91.9%)
  • vs. Georgia Southern: 36.8% (GSU: 63.2%)

There’s no doubt the Gophers have flirted with danger. And, if you were to look at those percentages with five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, you probably would’ve assumed Minnesota is 1-2 on the year.

Again, that’s why they play the games, as dumb and cliché as it may sound.