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GAME THREAD: No. 14 Wisconsin at Minnesota

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Paul Bunyan’s Axe is on the line. The Big Ten West Division title is on the line. A trip to Indianapolis is on the line. LET’S FREAKING GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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

It’s kind of a shame that Wisconsin/Minnesota doesn’t get as much national coverage as some of the other big time rivalry week games. The battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe has everything you would want in terms of storylines!

The two teams play in close proximity to each other, the two teams don’t like each other, the fans definitely don’t like each other (despite being basically the same), the game has been played forever, there is a killer trophy involved, it snows during the game sometimes, recently it has Big Ten West implications...what more could you want?!?

Anyways, none of that really matters to the players or the fans. I mean, we’re still going to have fun (hopefully) watching the game and the players are certainly going to be giving 100% on the field, right? Right.

So, on Saturday afternoon, the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers (8-3 overall, 6-2 Big Ten) are in Minneapolis to once again do battle with their ancient rivals, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten). With Iowa’s win on Friday, the Gophers have been eliminated from division title consideration, but still have plenty to play for. UW needs to beat Minnesota to win the Big Ten West and earn a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game. If they lose, the Hawkeyes go.

Win and in. Simple as that.

These two teams have remarkably similar statistical profiles. Both teams love to run the ball, both teams love to dominate time of possession, both teams don’t give up many points and both teams don’t give up many yards.

One key area that the Badgers should focus on is having success on first and second downs because UW has been good at that so far this season, while Minnesota’s defense has been bad. On the flip side, the Gophers are good at stopping teams on third and fourth downs while the Badgers haven’t been very successful on those downs.

Another aspect of the game that could tilt the odds in UW’s favor is their pass rush. The Badgers will get after Tanner Morgan and, if history is our guide, they should sack him a couple of times and force a turnover. Wisconsin also gets a lot more tackles for loss than the Gophers do. It wouldn’t be crazy to assume that will continue as Braelon Allen doesn’t get tackled behind the line of scrimmage very often and gains a ton of yards after contact.

I have received multiple texts from friends who will be in town this weekend and according to other media arriving in the Twin Cities, it sounds like there are plenty of Badgers fans in the area getting ready for the game. Should be a great atmosphere around and inside the stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Let’s get excited, folks...it’s game time!

Here are the staff predictions for the game:

Badgers are seven point favorites per DraftKings (Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)

Tyler: 27-13, Wisconsin

Owen: 34-17, Wisconsin

J.J.: One gazillion-0, Wisconsin

Belz: 24-20, Wisconsin

Rock: 38-9, Wisconsin

Kevin: 28-14, Wisconsin

Ryan:

Bremen: 35-17, Wisconsin

Drew: 31-17, Wisconsin

Jake:

Neal: 20-17, Wisconsin


Here is the depth chart for Wisconsin:

The cowardly Gophers did not release a depth chart ahead of this game because they are not an honorable organization.

And here is the updated injury/availibility report: