MINNESOTA in WISCONSIN
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Camp Randall Stadium
Radio: KFAN, 100.3 FM
Weather: 52 degrees, sunny, 22 km/h south wind
Betting favorite: Wisconsin, minus 3
Records: Minnesota (7-4, 4-4 Big Ten) had dashed its Big Ten West Division title hopes in last week’s 13-10 home loss to Iowa. Wisconsin (6-5, 4-4) was knocked out of this race a while ago but bounced back from a 24-10 loss to Iowa with a 15-14 comeback win in Nebraska last week.
Story: The Gophers will be seeking their first straight win over Wisconsin since 1993-94. Minnesota has captured Paul Bunyan’s ax in two of their last four matchups, including a 23-13 win in Minneapolis last year.
key match: Both teams against the forward pass. Minnesota and Wisconsin each rank outside of the top 110 teams nationally in passing yards per game, while their passing defenses rank in the top 25. A close game will boil down to which side can make more explosive plays when throwing the ball. Last week it was Iowa with two class drives.
Who is ahead?
Gophers Attack vs. Wisconsin Defense: RB Mo Ibrahim rushed for a career-best 263 yards against Iowa and is on the verge of other records, including the program’s all-time rushing record of 127 yards (Darrell Thompson’s 4,654 in 1989). But Wisconsin hasn’t conceded more than 112 yards in its last six games, including four that have been held under 100. … Gophers OC Kirk Ciarrocca said Wisconsin has new faces on defense but the same kind of standout players. Ciarrocca said they “definitely clicked” in the past month. LB Nick Herbig has 11.5 sacks this season but he will be suspended for the first half on Saturday after missing a well-placed penalty against Nebraska last week. … The Gophers have had one passing touchdown in their last seven games and haven’t thrown for more than 175 yards in that 3-4 stretch. Last week, Minnesota didn’t throw a pass past 20 yards until the final minute of the final ditch of the game. … QB Athan Kaliakmanis has started back-to-back games for Minnesota; Head coach PJ Fleck said Monday that Tanner Morgan (upper body injury) may return to training this week. … An All Big Ten match to watch will be C John Michael Schmitz vs DT Keeanu Benton. RAND: Wisconsin
Gophers Defense vs. Wisconsin Offense: Like Minnesota, RB Braelon Allen put the Badgers on their backs. The bleeding 6-foot-2, 235-pound jam has 1,126 rushing yards and 10 TDs. But he’s been struggling with a shoulder injury for some time and appears to have injured his right leg against Nebraska. RB Chez Millusi, the speed to Allen’s forte, returned after four games and rushed for 98 yards against the Cornhuskers. Gophers defense coordinator Joe Rossi called them an “impressive duo.” Allen had a monster freshman season a year ago, but Minnesota’s scheme and swarming to the ball kept him for 47 yards with 17 carries. … QB Graham Mertz is playing 57 percent of his passes this season but has hit just 41 percent in the last three games and thrown three interceptions in that span. … WR Chimere Dike leads the Badgers in receptions, yards and touchdowns but had no grip against Nebraska. …An Achilles heel for Gophers defense has been guarding tight ends. Iowa and Penn State meet Minnesota for explosive plays, but Wisconsin rarely throws at that position. …Minnesota is plus-3 in revenue margin and plus-48 points down in revenue. EDGE: Ground Squirrel
Special teams: Gophers K Matthew Trickett has made 12 of 14 field goals, but his two misses have resulted in crucial losses to Purdue and Iowa. …K Dragan Kesich has touchbacks on 53 of 61 kickoffs. … Wisconsin kickers are 8 of 13 on field goals, including three misses within 30-40 yards. EDGE: Ground Squirrel
Forecast: With dreams of winning the Big Ten West dashed, the Gophers end the regular season on a high. They make a few more passes in the passing game to get to the other side of the razor blade. Minnesota, 21-20