Four Things to Watch: Minnesota-Wisconsin
Wisconsin Badgers enters Saturday afternoon a Big Ten West champion. They will face off against their rival Minnesota. Badgers have won 13 straight against Golden Gophers, and they have won 20 of their last 22. Paul Bunyan Ax has applied for residency in State of Wisconsin at this point. But as I’ve been saying for awhile now, Minnesota will love nothing more than to spoil this party for Badgers.
The battle of the trenches decides this game
Wisconsin runs the ball really well especially in the last couple of weeks. Minnesota also runs the ball really well with their two-headed attack of Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith. Something has to give. I’d like to favor Wisconsin here. It feels like their offensive line is really gelling right now, and that’s a great thing. Additionally, it’s Corey Clement’s last game at Camp Randall Stadium, and that means something even if you think it doesn’t. Don’t be surprised if the combination of Clement and Bradrick Shaw eat again.
Which quarterback will make the big play
As mentioned both teams like to run the ball, but both teams struggle to pass the ball. That being said, one team could easily flip this game with a big pass play. Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook have made a couple big throws in the past few weeks against inferior competition, and it seems like whenever Wisconsin needs a big pass, they get it. Don’t be surprised if Paul Chryst takes a couple shots down field early in the game. Minnesota has gotten beat deep a couple times this season. Mitch Leidner, who Todd McShay once said was a potential first round pick, looks awful in the past month. He isn’t doing anything for Gophers offense.
First half interception crew back?
As we just talked about Minnesota doesn’t throw the ball much, but Wisconsin’s defense has seven first-half interceptions in their last two games. It’s how Wisconsin blew out both Illinois and Purdue by halftime. Does it happen again? Not sure, but in a game that’s expected to be close and low-scoring, it would be huge for Wisconsin to get one or two first half turnovers.
Minnesota can’t start out tight
When a game like this where a team has lost 13 straight to their rival, there is a ‘oh shit’ complex when something bad happens early in the game and that one error builds to another error and so on. We know how badly Minnesota wants this game, and sometimes, that causes a team to make more mistakes than they should. Golden Gophers want to pull off this upset, they have to play damn near perfect. If mistakes happen early on, and Wisconsin takes advantage, it could be another year of the axe staying in Wisconsin.
Badgers win this game in a close, slog of a football game. This is going to feature a ton of defense, and turnovers will prove to be key for Wisconsin winning this game. Andrew Endicott proves to be a difference maker as field goals will matter greatly in this one. UW 13-9