MINNESOTA in WISCONSIN
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Camp Randall Stadium
Radio: KFAN, 100.3 FM
Weather: 52 degrees, sunny, 22 km/h south wind
Betting favorite: Wisconsin, minus-3
Records: Minnesota (7-4, 4-4 Big Ten) dashed its Big Ten West Division title hopes in a 13-10 loss to Iowa last week. Wisconsin (6-5, 4-4) was knocked out of this race a while ago but bounced back from a 24-10 loss to Iowa with a 15-14 comeback win in Nebraska last week.
Story: The Gophers will be seeking their first straight win over Wisconsin since 1993-94. Minnesota has captured Paul Bunyan’s ax in two of their last four matchups, including a 23-13 win in Minneapolis last year.
key match: Both teams against the forward pass. Minnesota and Wisconsin are each outside the top 110 in passing yards per game, while their passing defenses are within the top 25. A close game will come down to which side can create more explosive plays through the air. Last week it was Iowa with two class drives.
Who is ahead?
Gophers Attack vs. Wisconsin Defense: RB Mo Ibrahim posted a career-best 263 rushing yards against Iowa and is on the verge of other records, including 127 yards shy of the program’s all-time rushing record (Darrell Thompson’s 4,654 in 1989). But Wisconsin hasn’t conceded more than 112 yards in its last six games, including four that have been held under 100. … Gophers OC Kirk Ciarrocca said the Wisconsin defense has new names and the same kind of standout players. Ciarrocca said they “definitely clicked” in the last month. LB Nick Herbig has 11.5 sacks this season but he will be suspended for the first half on Saturday after missing a well-placed penalty against Nebraska last week. … The Gophers have had one passing touchdown in their last seven games and haven’t thrown for more than 175 yards in that 3-4 stretch. Last week, Minnesota didn’t throw a pass past 20 yards until the final minute of the final ditch of the game. … QB Athan Kaliakmanis has started back-to-back games for Minnesota; Head coach PJ Fleck said Monday that Tanner Morgan (upper body injury) may return to training this week. … A match of all Big Ten: C John Michael Schmitz vs. DT Keeanu Benton. RAND: Wisconsin
Gophers Defense vs. Wisconsin Offense: Like Minnesota, RB Braelon Allen put the Badgers on their backs. The bleeding 6-foot-2, 235-pound jam has 1,126 rushing yards and 10 TDs. But he’s been struggling with a shoulder injury for some time and appears to have injured his right leg against Nebraska. RB Chez Millusi, the speed to Allen’s power, returned after four games to rush for 98 yards against the Cornhuskers. Gophers defense coordinator Joe Rossi called them an “impressive duo.” Allen had a monster freshman season a year ago, but Minnesota’s scheme and swarming to the ball kept him at 47 yards on 17 carries. … QB Graham Mertz is playing 57 percent of his passes this season but has completed 41 percent in the last three games, including three interceptions in that span. … WR Chimere Dike leads the Badgers in receptions, yards and touchdowns but had no grip against Nebraska. … An Achilles heel for the Gophers defense has been guarding tight ends. Iowa and Penn State meet Minnesota for explosive plays, but Wisconsin rarely throws at that position. …Minnesota is plus-3 in revenue range, but is plus-48 points down in revenue. EDGE: Ground Squirrel
Special teams: K Matthew Trickett has scored 12 of 14 field goals, but his two misses have resulted in crucial losses to Purdue and Iowa. …K Dragan Kesich has touchbacks on 53 of 61 kickoffs. … Wisconsin kickers are 8 of 13 on field goals, including three misses within 30-40 yards. EDGE: Ground Squirrel
Forecast: With dreams of winning the Big Ten West dashed, the Gophers end the regular season on a high. They make a few more passes in the passing game to get to the other side of the razor blade. Minnesota, 21-20