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Opponent Watch: Minnesota hates you

Minnesota is a plucky underdog no more, checking in at No. 25 in the BCS standings this week. But are the Gophers really any good? Plus, a quick look ahead at teams you shouldn't be thinking about yet.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports






@ Minnesota (8-2, 4-2), Nov. 23

Last week: BYE

What happened: Now back to your regularly schedule frantic worry session.

Minnesota didn't do anything this week, but voters and computers alike were apparently so impressed by a' PUSH against BYE that they gave the Gophers a spot in the BCS standings.

This is a good thing for Wisconsin, because a popular refrain of the Plucky Underdog is "we get no respect" and a No. 25 ranking is an indication that Minnesota does, indeed, get some respect. There are people in this world who think you are a good team, Minnesota. Don't go spouting trumped-up narratives for motivation if they ain't true.

The bad news for Wisconsin is that Minnesota may actually be as good as some people believe. They've won four straight, after all. Those wins were against Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State teams mired in ennui, and they they only won by three against an Indiana team that Wisconsin just de-pantsed, but whatever. Minnesota has confidence. Confident teams are dangerous. Especially when they hate you a lot.

Why you should be afraid: They're Wisconsin lite. They are well-coached, well-prepared, and will very happily ram the ball down your dumb throat if they get the chance. Minnesota welcome battles of attrition. They're good for at least one or two mind-bending 10-minute trudge-march touchdown drives a game, and they've played reasonably sound defense of late.

Minnesota will be hyper coming off an extra week of rest, and everything with a mouth will be drunk for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff in Minneapolis. Here's what the weather looks like.


This is going to be a cold, delirious game away from the friendly confines of Camp Randall. Intangibles advantage: Gophers.

Why you shouldn't: They're not good, just ask science:

MINNESOTA 48 59 50

Hubris: Wisconsin has been running like a well-greased machine for several weeks now, so perhaps they're past due to play down to the knuckle draggers.

It makes me queasy to feel confident heading into any matchup, but there are more reasons to feel good than not.

Ten straight. (I hope).

Penn State (6-4, 3-3), Nov. 30

This week: vs. Nebraska

Last week: Penn State 45, Purdue 21

What happened: Purdue scored a total of 21 points in their previous four games combined, so no way in heck am I chalking this up as a positive for Penn State. The Nittany Lions gave up touchdown marches of 74 and 84 yards, and a 100-yard kickoff return, all while the result was very much in doubt. The Boilermakers fumbled away another promising drive in the fourth quarter.

Penn State ran for 289 yards, which is a very nice sum against a lot of teams, but is nearly meaningless against a defense that gives up 230 rushing yards per game at 5.25 yards per carry.

Why you should be afraid: Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak are fine. Allen Robinson is pretty darn good.

Why you shouldn't: Penn State soooooo just wants this season to be over.

Hubris: Writing about a team in an existential funk has now put me in an existential funk. I'm going back to being excited about this weekend.


UMass (1-9, 1-5 MAC)

Lost by one point to Akron, who lost by four points to Michigan, who beat Minnesota by 29. Wisconsin beat UMass by 45. Because the transitive property in college football is bulletproof, Wisconsin will beat Minnesota by 69 points this weekend.

Tennessee Tech (4-7, 1-6 OVC)

Had a bye. Still a bad team, but at least one win better than last season! The Golden Eagles close the year against Austin Peay this weekend.

Arizona State (8-2, 6-1 Pac-12)

So far, the Sun Devils are doing everything the Badgers need them to. Wisconsin's SOS looks better as long as ASU keeps winning. They'll have a chance to knock off No. 14 UCLA on the road this weekend, then commit seppuku in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Purdue (1-9, 0-6)

Lost to Penn State. Is Purdue.

Ohio State (10-0, 6-0)


Northwestern (4-6, 0-6)

Seriously ...


... I want to hold you Northwestern and never let go.

Illinois (3-7, 0-6)

Their 25-point loss was considered a moral victory.

Iowa (6-4, 3-3)

Took the week off. Could do Wisconsin a lot of good by beating Michigan and Nebraska the next two weeks.

BYU (7-3)

Took out their anger from the Wisconsin loss by pounding Idaho State, 59-13. They have a chance to do Wisconsin's SOS even more good by beating Notre Dame this weekend.


Clemson (9-1, 7-1 ACC)

Jason Kirk is still projecting Wisconsin to the Orange Bowl. Thankfully, the projected opponent is no longer Florida State, but a Clemson team that has actually looked mortal this season. A game against the Tigers could be a lot of fun. Tajh Boyd is one of the best passers in football, and Sammy Watkins is easily one of the most exciting wideouts. Allowing 3.9 yards per carry with 31 sacks on the season, Clemson's front seven is athletic but susceptible to getting manball'd to death.

The highwater mark of the season is still a Week 1 win over a then-healthy Georgia team. Since, the Tigers have looked meh-to-good against mediocre opponents, and were smooshed by Florida State. This would be a healthy test for the Badgers on both sides of the ball.

South Carolina (8-2, 6-2 SEC)

Clemson's bitter rival. This happens if Wisconsin wins out but gets jobbed out of a BCS berth, which is still very much a possibility. Wisconsin either goes Outback or Capital One in that case, and either way the Gamecocks are in play. James White is shaped a lot like Vincent Smith, and I'd hate to subject him to Jadeveon Clowney. That said, a full month of Steve Spurrier quotes about Wisconsin would be incredibly fun.

Texas A&M (8-2, 4-2 SEC)

I'm still rooting for a BCS berth, obviously, but there's no question that Texas A&M is my dream opponent. Johnny Football is exciting. James White and Melvin Gordon against bad defenses are exciting. The whole world would be watching, and I think Wisconsin would win.

Ole Miss (7-3, 3-3 SEC)

If Wisconsin drops a game or two, they'll be in Gator Bowl territory. Playing Ole Miss would be obnoxious, because it would probably mean seeing Marshall Henderson's face again on TV. Let's not lose again.

Georgia (6-4, 4-2 SEC)

The next SEC team down a rung. The Bulldogs would presumably be healthier come Jan. 1. I like Aaron Murray a whole lot. Watching Mark Richt blow a bowl game would be neat. If Wisconsin does drop this far, at least they'd play an opponent they can get excited for.

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