Most important game: Minnesota

Every game matters in college football. But some matter more than others.

That's the basis of our series looking at the most important game on the 2012 schedule for each Big Ten squad. These are games that will have the biggest impact on the league race or hold special meaning for one of the teams involved.

We've run through five schools so far, and now it's time to take a look at the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Most important game: Sept. 29 at Iowa

Why it's important: We're not exactly in the midst of a golden age of Minnesota football, but the Gophers have done pretty well lately when it comes to the bronzed pig. They've won two straight Floyd of Rosedale trophies, including last year's 22-21 upset in Minneapolis. The Iowa rivalry is always going to be one of the most important games on the schedule, and this year I think it could have a big impact on how Jerry Kill's second season winds up. Here's why: Minnesota has four winnable games in the nonconference schedule, starting at UNLV and including home games against New Hampshire, Western Michigan and Syracuse. While those aren't guaranteed victories in any sense, if the Gophers improve on the progress they made late last season, they certainly could begin the season 4-0 or 3-1 at worst. Then comes the Big Ten opener at Iowa. Going to Kinnick Stadium will be no cakewalk, but the Gophers surely have confidence against the Hawkeyes after the past two years. If MarQueis Gray and Minnesota can manage to keep Floyd for a third straight year, then all of a sudden a bowl game looks like a real possibility in 2012. That would represent a huge step forward for Kill and this program. Throw in the fact that a Gophers win would send Iowa fans into an early-season panic, and it becomes that much sweeter -- and important.