Fifth Quarter Consensus: Badgers Win 9th Straight Battle For The Axe

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

It's unanimous: B5Q says Wisconsin will keep Paul Bunyan's Axe for the ninth straight year.

The Predictions:
  • Sahil Shah (+108): Wisconsin 34, Minnesota 10
  • Nathan Palm (+127): Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 13
  • Andy Johnson (+141): Wisconsin 37, Minnesota 13
  • Phil Mitten (+148): Wisconsin 30, Minnesota 17
  • Mike Fiammetta (+149): Wisconsin 41, Minnesota 17
  • Jake Harris (+158): Wisconsin 45, Minnesota 10
  • Andrew Rosin (+191): Wisconsin 34, Minnesota 6
  • Louis Bien: Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 13
  • John Daly: Wisconsin 27, Minnesota 10
  • Jack Moore: Wisconsin 41, Minnesota 14
  • Adam Tupitza: Wisconsin 35, Minnesota 20

The Reasoning:

This game features two teams heading in opposite directions. Minnesota boasts a solid 4-2 record but has lost its last two games, both against Big Ten opponents. Meanwhile, Wisconsin struggled out of the gate, but after a pair of close losses on the road, has rebounded to win its last two contests by double digits.

The Gophers have issues at quarterback, where starter MarQueis Gray suffered an ankle injury last week against Northwestern. Sophomore Max Shortell is listed as the starter on this week's depth chart. He has completed 57.1 percent of his passes for 791 yards and has tossed six touchdown passes to go with four interceptions. Shortell does not pose the running threat that Gray does, however.

[Ed. note: Minnesota reportedly will start freshman quarterback Phillip Nelson on Saturday instead.]

With Gray potentially out, it will be up to sophomore Donnell Kirkwood to get the Minnesota ground game going. He averages 4.2 yards per carry and has scored three touchdowns, but he has just one 100-yard rushing effort on the season.

The Gophers have been in offensive disarray for some time and have not scored 20 points in a game since the third week of the year. Things could get ugly against a Wisconsin defense that is starting to get healthy and find its groove.

Minnesota gives up just 19.8 points per game and ranks third in the Big Ten in surrendering 313.2 yards per game. The good news for Montee Ball, James White and the Badgers is that the Gophers do give up over 150 rushing yards per contest. Ball will look to build off his career-best 247-yard performance at Purdue last week. The Gophers have intercepted seven passes this season, so expect Wisconsin to keep it on the ground until UM shows it can slow the Badgers down. This is especially true with Ryan Groy likely making his first start at left tackle in place of the injured Ricky Wagner.

Minnesota's special teams are underwhelming. Senior kicker Jordan Wettstein has made just 6-of-11 field goal attempts, including four misses from 49 yards or shorter. The Gophers' return game is anemic, which bodes well for a UW team that has trouble landing kickoffs in the end zone.

Head coach Jerry Kill will be back on the sideline for the Gophers, despite suffering a seizure following the team's loss to Northwestern last week.

Who has the edge?
  • Offense: Wisconsin
  • Defense: Wisconsin
  • Special Teams: Push
  • Coaching: Wisconsin
  • Intangibles: Wisconsin
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