GET YOUR POPCORN READY! The Minnesota Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers have one of the oldest rivalries in all of college football. The Badgers have won 16 of the last 17 meetings and now own a 62-60-8 overall lead. Since the arrival of PJ Fleck though, the University of Minnesota football program has been completely turned around, both on and off the field. The Gophers are now a team that is becoming a consistent threat in the Big Ten West and will continue to do so in years to come. That won't happen on Saturday, though. Since Iowa beat Nebraska on Friday, the Gopher/Badger game will determine whether Iowa or Wisconsin represents the Big Ten West in the Big Ten Championship. A Minnesota victory will bring the Axe back home AND prevent Wisconsin from going to the Big Ten Championship. This is still a huge game and I can't wait for kickoff! Let's jump into what to watch for in this matchup.
Wisconsin Badgers: After a slow start, the Badgers have gotten hot and have won 7-straight games. They don't have a good passing game, but their rushing attack and defense are both in the top ranks in the NCAA. They are going to lean heavy on their 1-2 punch at RB with Allen and Mellusi who have combined for almost 2,000 yards and 17 TDs combined. QB Mertz, who's father played for the Gophers in the early 90's, has not performed to the level that many thought he would. They will use him in a limited fashion, but he does have the ability to make some nice plays. The Badgers defense is currently 5th in the NCAA allowing only 14.8 points per game and their rushing defense is like a brick wall. The Gophers are going to need a balanced attack against these guys.
Minnesota Gophers: The Gophers have had a roller coaster season. They came into the season with 7 running backs and only have 2 remaining after 4 were lost to season ending injuries and 1 left in the transfer portal. They have a loss to Bowling Green, a 4-game winning streak, and an inconsistent passing attack. The one bright spot is that the Gophers defense has also been one of the best in the nation. Headed by their top-10 rushing defense, this group flies around and does a good job of forcing punts, turnovers, and getting the ball back to their offense. With Wisconsin's top notch rushing defense, the 2 freshman RBs (Irving and Thomas) are going to need help from QB Tanner Morgan and the passing attack in order to open up rushing offense. Morgan and the receivers played really well last week against Indiana, so hopefully they can carry that over to this matchup.
In order to come out with a win and Paul Bunyan's Axe, the Gophers passing offense will need to be on point, they need to win the turnover battle, and they need to take points when they can get them. Everyone is picking Wisconsin to win this matchup, but you won't catch me doing something that dumb. I don't eat cheese or meat from Wisconsin because it's all horrible and people who say any of it is good are lunatics. Minnesota is going to end the season on a high note with stellar performances from Morgan, Autman-Bell, both RBs, and their defense and come out with a huge 34-23 victory to bring back the Axe and prevent Wisconsin from winning the Big Ten West! Saturday is going to be a good day... GOOD VIBES ONLY! GO GOPHERS, STOMP THE BADGERS!!!!