Last Saturday has come and gone and the Badgers were on the wrong end of a defensive battle. The Big Ten West title is likely gone, as is a spot in the college football playoff, but that shouldn’t change the complexity of this week’s contest.
It’s Axe Week.
I don’t care if both teams are winless, this game is a big one for the players, the coaches, the fans and everyone else involved. Thankfully for Badger fans head coach Paul Chryst has turned the page on last week and is fully focused on Axe Week.
"Great getting outside and starting our prep for Minnesota and battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe." - Coach Chryst, thankfully putting that putrid game behind him— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 23, 2020
One of the main questions for Chryst had to do with the offense. Last week the Badgers we’re without their top two wideouts in Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor. The lack of their presence was certainly noticeable as the Badgers offense struggled to move the football through the air. The week will be telling, but it sounds like Chryst is hopeful to at least get Pryor back, and possibly even Davis as well.
"We'll find out during the week... KP will be the first to be back. The more they do, how do they respond to it. Certainly hopeful for one if not both." - Coach Chryst, on the possible return of Kendrick Pryor and Danny Davis this week— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 23, 2020
The return of one or both of the Badgers top wideouts would be a big help as Wisconsin looks to attack a Minnesota defense that has struggled at times this year. The Gophers have been very shaky on the ground, giving up an average of 256 yards on the ground in their three losses. Despite the struggle, Chryst still sees a defensive unit that will be strong and give the Badgers a good test on Saturday afternoon.
"It's a good defense. Schematically, what they do presents some challenges... I see a good defense that we've gotta execute against. We've been challenged by this group before, I don't expect this year to be any different." - Chryst, talking about the Minnesota defense— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 23, 2020
With the Badgers taking on Minnesota Saturday the rivalry will undergo it’s 130th matchup between these two teams. Wisconsin has won 15 of the last 16, but the rivalry is still extremely close with Wisconsin winning 61 times in their history and Minnesota winning 60 (eight games ended in a tie). This time around, the important of the game is still very much there. It’s one of the oldest rivalries in the sport, and this year the importance of this game is certainly being discussed.
"It's obviously a rivalry game that means a lot... it's part of our job that the players understand the tradition of it. It's a meaningful rivalry game. I'll talk about it, coaches will talk about it, players will talk about it." - Chryst, talking about the tradition of Axe Week— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 23, 2020
There you have it folks. It’s time to focus on the Axe. Everyone reading this knows how big of a game it is so I really don’t need to write out some big rah rah speech for you. It’s Wisconsin/Minnesota. It’s the Axe. Let’s hope they win this damn thing.