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Roundtable: Joel Stave, wide receivers key to Wisconsin's success vs. Minnesota

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A look at who needs to step up to bring the Axe back to Madison for the 12th straight year.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Who's the x-factor for the Badgers in Saturday's game?

Drew Hamm: Who cares? Both these teams are *trash emoji and poop emoji.* I am preemptively upset with myself for watching this whole game. I'll be in the Twin Cities for Thanksgiving and I have absolutely no interest in going to the game. The only thing more annoying than drunk Minnesotans is drunk Minnesotans at a sporting event where their team is losing.

The X-Factor is going to be redshirt senior Tanner McEvoy. He needs to make plays on both sides of the ball, especially if redshirt senior quarterback Joel Stave isn't able to play on Saturday. But seriously, there is so much good college football on this weekend...maybe keep this game as your flip-back.

Neal Olson: I am tempted to go with junior running back Corey Clement for what feels like the four thousandth time this season [Ed.'s note: this was written before the news of Clement's citation for disorderly conduct]. But at this point I think he will continue to be limited, maybe even through the bowl game. So I like the Jazz Peavy redemption train angle. Last week against Northwestern, Peavy was one of the few offensive bright spots and the with touchdown overturn hanging over his head all week, I have feeling we may see another breakout game of sorts from him. The Badgers desperately need another receiving threat and Peavy is looming as that option, I think he captures the moment Saturday.

Luke Mueller: I think it's Stave. If Stave plays, how will he rebound after last week? I think he's the X-Factor for a few reasons. Say what you want about Stave, I know he doesn't want to give the Wisconsin faithful another loss, especially after his inexplicable decision to hold onto the ball on second down. Another reason he is the X-Factor is strictly because he has been the only consistent (using the word lightly) offensive threat all year. Most times, he's been the only thing going right for the Badgers, who have struggled to move the ball on the ground more often than not.

Finally, if Stave can't go he's still the X-Factor. With him out, he forces Bart Houston *cue Wisconsin fans' applause* into the limelight. While Houston played exceptionally well in relief against a putrid Illinois team, he still made two terrible decisions that resulted in two red zone interceptions. Let's play role reversal, if Stave throws those interceptions Wisconsin fans are asking for his head on a stake. I know that Stave has a track record of head scratching mistakes, but my point is while Houston played well for a backup against the Illini, throwing him into a rivalry game on the road is a tough situation. While he had a well-established track record before coming to Wisconsin (Look up the legend of young Bartlet Houston in high school at De La Salle if you haven't heard it before), has a lot of potential to be great, and has all the tools to be a huge upgrade -- this late in the season, do you really want to baptize a quarterback by fire? I think it's time to ride the Stave train for it's last two stops before it drops Badger fans off at the Houston stop. Stave gives the Badgers the best chance to win this game, but with all of the questions it makes him the X-Factor.

What's your prediction for Saturday?

Drew: The fact that Wisconsin is favored in this game really speaks to how pathetic the Gophers have been this season. I expect that one weirdo on Minnesota's sidelines that eats the Dilly Bars to, uh, eat a Dilly Bar and for Wisconsin to win by a touchdown, 7-0, setting the Big Ten conference and the spread offense back easily a decade. I lastly predict that I'll have a turkey sandwich for breakfast.

Neal: Remember when Stave played like crap against Iowa, then everyone predicted a big vengeance/rebound game at Nebraska the following week -- but then they had to squeak one out even though they were in control for most of the second half? The lesson here is this Badger team, well actually just the offense, is wildly unpredictable. Both teams have underperformed expectations this season and the stakes are much lower than what was anticipated looking at this match-up in August. The Gophers still have a bit of the ‘win one for the Gipper' vibe after Jerry Kill's retirement announcement. Despite Wisconsin having a better team, that angle worries me.

However, Badger players seem to be pretty well focused. Jack Cichy was tweeting out #AxeWeek less than two hours after the Northwestern game. Rightfully so, no one wants to be a part of the team that loses the Axe. Prediction-wise, I think Matt Millen continues his not surprising run as the worst color analyst on television and Wisconsin wins a defensive struggle.

Luke: Vegas has the Badgers as -2.5 point favorites. I say bet the house on the Badgers. They'll be pissed off from last week's inexplicable ending (Still not okay with it!!) and will look for vengeance against their hated little brothers to the Northwest. Those rodents from the Land of 10,000 Lakes won't stand a chance! Wisconsin let's Minnesota know that they have more lakes in their state and cruises to a 28-10 victory.