The signs of progress at Minnesota are plentiful.

The 22nd-ranked Gophers have cracked the Associated Press poll for the first time in more than six years. They've posted consecutive eight-win seasons for the first time since 2002 and 2003. They've got a chance to go to the Big Ten championship game.

The way the players have talked about their performance, their expectations and their place among the conference's best might be the best measure of how far this program has come. Their confidence is clear.

The Gophers play rival Wisconsin on Saturday for the West Division title.

The status of star running back David Cobb is a concern, though. Coach Jerry Kill said Cobb is "very questionable" for the game because of a pulled left hamstring.