MINNEAPOLIS -- Here’s something for Minnesota fans to keep in mind for Saturday’s battle of unbeatens against Penn State: The Golden Gophers’ history in games between ranked opponents is, um, not great.

But you probably already know that, having lived through the pain.

The Gophers and Nittany Lions enter Saturday’s 11 a.m kickoff at TCF Bank Stadium ranked No. 17 and No. 4, respectively, in the first College Football Playoff poll of the season. Since the Associated Press started its weekly fall poll in 1936, ranked Minnesota teams are 8-23 against ranked opponents.

That includes 12 straight losses since Minnesota knocked off top-ranked Michigan State in 1961. But the Gophers haven’t played many such games recently, only 10 in the past 51 years, further reason to savor a game pitting the 8-0 Gophers against the 8-0 Nittany Lions.

Heck, it’s even rare for the Big Ten, which says Saturday’s game will be only the second conference game between teams 8-0 or better in 45 years. It’s the type of game Gophers coach P.J. Fleck stated as a goal in his introductory press conference in January 2017.

His theme in his third season has been “restore,” a goal touted on T-shirts and signs throughout the Larson Football Performance Center.

“We want to be the bridge that restores that tradition,” Fleck said Tuesday after he signed a new seven-year, $33-million contract.

It’s a long bridge. Minnesota hasn’t won a Big Ten championship since 1967 and hasn’t played a game between ranked opponents on campus since 1968, when legendary coach Murray Warmath’s 17th-ranked Gophers lost to No. 9 Nebraska, 17-14, at Memorial Stadium.

After that, tradition graduated.

Lou Holtz’s Gophers spent a week at No. 20 in 1985 before losing to No. 9 Ohio State, 23-19, at the Metrodome. If not for that game, the gap in ranked-vs.-ranked games for Minnesota would have been 31 years — from 1968 until Glen Mason put the Gophers back in the Top 25 in 1999.

Since 2000, it’s happened seven times, and Minnesota has lost every one of them. Four recent ones have brought a special kind of heartbreak:

In 2003, No. 17 Minnesota built a 28-7 lead on No. 20 Michigan through three quarters at the Metrodome, but the Wolverines staged the biggest comeback in program history with 31 fourth-quarter points for a 38-35 win.

In 2004, No. 13 Minnesota led No. 14 Michigan 24-17 in the fourth quarter at the Big House but allowed the Wolverines to score the game-winning touchdown with two minutes left.

In 2005, No. 22 Minnesota was a successful punt away from knocking off No. 23 Wisconsin at the Metrodome, but Justin Kusek dropped the snap and the Badgers blocked the punt for the winning touchdown with 30 seconds left.

In 2014, Minnesota was ranked No. 18 in the CFP poll when it visited No. 6 Wisconsin. The Gophers led 17-13 at halftime, but Badgers running back Melvin Gordon ran for 151 yards to close out a 34-24 win at Camp Randall Stadium.

It was the first time in 21 games coach Jerry Kill lost a halftime lead at Minnesota, and the defeat kept the Gophers from clinching the Big Ten West Division title and going to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.

This year’s Gophers team could have three games against ranked opponents this month, which would tie Mason’s 2003 team for most in program history. Minnesota will play No. 18 Iowa at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 16, and No. 13 Wisconsin comes to Minneapolis on Nov. 30.

A seven-point underdog against Penn State, Minnesota would maintain a two-game lead on those two rivals with a victory on Saturday.

RANKED VS. RANKED

The history of ranked Gophers football teams playing ranked opponents:

  • 1936 — No. 3 Northwestern 6, No. 1 Gophers 0

    1938 — No. 2 Notre Dame 12, No. 12 Gophers 0

    1940 — No. 7 Gophers 13, No. 15 Ohio State 7

    1940 — No. 2 Gophers 7, No. 3 Michigan 6

    1941 — No. 1 Gophers 7, No. 3 Michigan 0

    1942 — No. 13 Gophers 16, No. 4 Michigan 14

    1942 — No. 7 Wisconsin 20, No. 10 Gophers 6

    1943 — No. 10 Michigan 49, No. 11 Gophers 6

    1945 — No. 12 Ohio State 20, No. 5 Gophers 7

    1945 — No. 10 Michigan 26, No. 16 Gophers 0

    1948 — No. 1 Michigan 27, No. 13 Gophers 14

    1949 — No. 5 Gophers 27, No. 11 Ohio State 0

    1949 — No. 12 Michigan 14, No. 3 Gophers 7

    1954 — No. 17 Wisconsin 27, No. 10 Gophers 0

    1956 — No. 17 Gophers 14, No. 3 Michigan State 3

    1957 — No. 20 Michigan 24, No. 14 Gophers 7

    1960 — No. 3 Gophers 27, No. 1 Iowa 10

    1960 — No. 6 Washington 17, No. 1 Gophers 7 (Rose Bowl)

    1961 — No. 5 Gophers 13, No. 1 Michigan State 0

    1962 — No. 3 Wisconsin 14, No. 5 Gophers 9

    1968 — No. 9 Nebraska 17, No. 17 Gophers 14

    1985 — No. 9 Ohio State 23, No. 20 Gophers 19

    1999 — No. 20 Wisconsin 20, No. 25 Gophers 17

    1999 — No. 22 Ohio State 20, No. 24 Gophers 17

    2002 — No. 6 Ohio State 34, No. 23 Gophers 3

    2003 — No. 20 Michigan 38, No. 17 Gophers 35

    2003 — No. 15 Michigan State 44, No. 25 Gophers 38

    2003 — No. 20 Iowa 40, No. 19 Gophers 38

    2004 — No. 14 Michigan 27, No. 13 Gophers 24

    2005 — No. 23 Wisconsin 38, No. 22 Minnesota 34

    2014 — No. 14 Wisconsin 34, No. 22 Gophers 24