2015 game of the year, one to watch in 2016: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Mitch Leidner and the Golden Gophers will get an early conference test against Iowa in 2016. Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 college football season certainly was one to remember in the Big Ten. Iowa's undefeated regular season, Michigan State's stirring 22-play drive for the league championship, Ohio State's offensive meltdown against Michigan State and the Spartans' wild last-second victory against Michigan following a last-second blocked punt were just a few of the indelible moments from another great season.

We'll take a look at some of those signature games of 2015, along with an early glance at one game that could make memories in 2016.

Next up: Minnesota

Best game of 2015

The Golden Gophers won a bowl game in 2015 but don't have a lot of great victories to brag about from last season. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that they went bowling after a 5-7 regular-season campaign. Regardless, their best game of the year arguably came in defeat.

On Halloween night, Minnesota played its first game since Jerry Kill announced he would retire for health reasons. Kill's departure was emotional for the entire university community, and it was unclear how the Gophers would respond just a few days later while hosting Michigan.

Under then-interim head coach Tracy Claeys, the team turned in one of its best efforts of the year. It led the Wolverines at halftime and had the ball inside the 1 on the game's final snap with a chance to pull off the win. Some questionable play-calling and clock management marred the ending for Minnesota, and Mitch Leidner was stuffed on a sneak attempt as time expired for a gut-wrenching 29-26 loss.

Still, the Gophers learned that day that life would go on without Kill and that they could continue to compete against the best Big Ten teams. Even in defeat, a glimmer of hope was won.

Game to look forward to in 2016

Can Minnesota contend for the Big Ten West Division title this year? It has a manageable crossover schedule, facing Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers from the East. So the Oct. 8 conference home opener against Iowa could tell us a lot about the Gophers' chances, as well as establishing an early tone.

Last year's Floyd of Rosedale game was a thriller, as Iowa prevailed 40-35 in Iowa City. Minnesota ran away with the pig two years ago with a 51-14 home blowout. For whatever reason, the Gophers' offense has excelled of late against the Hawkeyes' defense, and with a senior quarterback returning in Leidner, Minnesota should be ready for this year's game at TCF Bank Stadium.

Iowa should enter the season as the favorite to repeat in the West, so this is a game that could establish an early pecking order. Minnesota will still have to find a way to get past Wisconsin for the first time in 13 years. But beating Iowa would give the Gophers some confidence and an early leg up in the division.