SnoTapWI Badgers Preview: Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe always means something. I do not know if it has ever meant this much. What’s on the line this weekend is a Big Ten West title and a shot against Ohio State next week in Indianapolis. Wisconsin gaining the axe back after losing it for the first time in over a decade. Minnesota trying to say they’re now the top dogs in the Big Ten West, a place that Wisconsin has held since the inception of Big Ten East and West.
THREE STORYLINES TO WATCH
1. The first quarter is the biggest one of them all – I’m not trying to sound like a John Madden here, but the way these teams come out will make the ultimate difference. If Wisconsin asserts their will on offense with Jonathan Taylor, they survive the storm of what will be a rowdy TCF Bank Stadium. If Minnesota comes out hot and punches them squarely in the mouth< Wisconsin will be similar to what Penn State was a few weeks ago. It could go either way honestly. 2. Can Wisconsin's defense come back to life - Jim Leonhard had a ton of buzz at the beginning of the year, and that has quieted down some with Wisconsin's poor defensive effort over the last few weeks. Now, Tanner Morgan throws from the pocket and is more of a pocket passer than any quarterback Wisconsin faced this year. I do think this works to the Badgers' advantage. Zach Baun, Chris Orr, and Jack Sanborn are all great at rushing the passer, and they can frustrate Morgan. 3. The weather favors Wisconsin - If you want to add another element to this game, how about that it is supposed to dump snow all over the place on Friday and Saturday. They're projecting three to five inches of snow with gusts of wind around 19 to 20 mph. Wisconsin has the advantage there. They like to run the football and keep the ball out of Jack Coan's hands. This is a weather game where you run the football. Minnesota, on the other hand, likes to move it through the air. That will be very tough if the weather holds. PREDICTED PLAYER OF THE GAME Zack Baun - Badgers winning this game comes down to the defense in my opinion. The offense will score some points, but the defense is going to need to stand tall. Zach Baun is my guy to do it. He is great off the edge and made some significant plays this season. Baun will frustrate Morgan and lead to one bad pass in this game that could change the outcome. PREDICTION I'm going with Vegas here. Honestly, this feels like a Minnesota win, but the fact they're not favoring at home tells me the sharps think this will be a win for the Badgers. You have to trust that sometimes. The weather will play a role in Wisconsin finding a way to win this game. Taylor continues his big year on the ground and puts an exclamation point on the season. Badgers 23 Gophers 17 Charlie.