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As Wisconsin goes for 15 straight vs. Minnesota, what’s in store this weekend?

P.J. Fleck’s crew looks to become bowl-eligible.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

For the 128th time, the Wisconsin Badgers and Minnesota Golden Gophers meet in their storied rivalry this weekend.

Wisconsin (7–4, 5–3 Big Ten) holds a 60–59–8 series lead over Minnesota (5–6, 2–6), with a 43–24–3 advantage ever since Paul Bunyan’s Axe entered the border battle in 1948. On Saturday, the Badgers could extend their winning streak over Minnesota to 15.

Looking at Minnesota’s roster, nearly 52 percent of the program (58 of 112) consists of freshmen, the highest number in the FBS.

The Gophers come off a 24–14 home loss to Northwestern last weekend where their offense only gained 306 total yards. For the second straight contest, however, they held an opponent under 100 yards rushing.

A win makes P.J. Fleck’s program bowl-eligible, but all does not seem that great in Minneapolis.

Offense

  • Scoring offense: 27.7 points per game (76th in nation)
  • Rushing offense: 160.0 yards per game (77th in nation)
  • Passing offense: 223.5 yards per game (74th in nation)
  • Total offense: 383.5 yards per game (81st in nation)
  • Third-down conversions: 38.03 percent (54 of 142, 80th in nation)

Minnesota lost running back Rodney Smith for the season back in September, but redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim has stepped up, rushing for 815 yards and six touchdowns on 5.6 yards per carry. Bryce Williams has added 450 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for the Minnesota rushing attack.

Redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan started last week and for the past four games instead of true freshman Zak Annexstad. Morgan has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,145 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. For that matter, Minnesota has thrown 14 interceptions this season.

Wisconsin gave up 114 yards on nine receptions and two touchdowns to Purdue true freshman Rondale Moore last week, and Jim Leonhard's secondary will face another standout conference receiver in Tyler Johnson on Saturday. The junior wideout leads the team in receptions (70), receiving yards (1,036), and touchdowns (10). Coming into Saturday’s game, Johnson has recorded six 100-yard receiving games and leads the Big Ten in receiving yards per contest (94.2).

Defense

  • Scoring defense: 29.09 points per game (80th in nation)
  • Rushing defense: 170.7 yards per game (73rd in nation)
  • Passing defense: 226.82 yards per game (62nd in nation)
  • Total defense: 397.5 yards per game (T-66th in nation)
  • Third-down conversions: 37.75 percent (57 of 151, 54th in nation)

Minnesota dismissed Robb Smith as its defensive coordinator after giving up 55 points to Illinois earlier in the November. Insert interim coordinator Joe Rossi, and the unit has allowed 34 points in two games. Prior to that, the Gophers gave up at least 30 points in their conference contests.

The big name on defense is senior linebacker Blake Cashman, who leads the program in tackles (101) and tackles for loss (15). He has also tallied 2.5 sacks and five pass break-ups on the season.

Junior ‘backer Carter Coughlin is the main pass-rushing threat for the Gophers, leading the team in sacks (nine) and second in tackles for loss (14) behind Cashman. Listed as a linebacker, it appears he has also played as an end during this season as well. Four of Minnesota’s top six tacklers are linebackers.

The unit has only intercepted eight passes this season. Senior defensive back Jacob Huff leads the team in that category with two, but is also second on the team in tackles (75) and pass break-ups (six). Freshman defensive back Terrell Smith leads the team in the latter category (seven).

Special Teams

Wisconsin native Emmit Carpenter has connected on 12 of 16 field-goal attempts this year,, including hitting both attempts from 50-plus yards with a long of 53. Jacob Herbers has averaged about 41.4 yards per punt this season, with 18 going inside the 20.

Redshirt freshman Demetrius Douglas has averaged 24.75 yards per return with a long of 87.