2011 Wisconsin Badgerrs Football

Big Ten football fans

Wisconsin Badgers @ Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Preview


Minnesota's football team has already won one trophy game, the battle for Floyd of Rosedale against Iowa. If Wisconsin's football team doesn't watch out, the U of M could claim a lumberjack's favorite wood-chopping tool.

College football’s longest tenured rivalry resumes Saturday in Minneapolis when the Golden Gophers host the Badgers in the annual battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. The rivalry dates back to 1890.

Wisconsin (7-2) snapped a two-game losing streak with a 62-17 win over Purdue last week in Madison. Montee Ball ran for a career-high 223 yards and two touchdowns. Russell Wilson completed 15 of 20 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 76 yards and a touchdown.

The Badgers bounced back from heartbreaking road losses at Michigan State and Ohio State, both decided on long touchdown passes in the waning seconds, to hammer Purdue. Wisconsin rolled up 605 yards of total offense. Wilson leads the nation with a 196.7 passer rating, although that statistic is clearly overvalued and embellished. Wisconsin romped against inferior opponents in the first five weeks of the season, allowing Wilson to pad his stats. He has thrown 21 touchdown passes and just three interceptions this season, but his picks came in the conference clashes that mattered, especially the Oct. 22 loss at Michigan State which changed the trajectory of the Badgers' journey through autumn.

Minnesota (2-7), for its part, has shown signs of life after a terrible start to the season. Two weeks ago, the Gophers came back in the fourth quarter to shock Iowa in Minneapolis, 22-21, for their first conference win. The Gophers led Michigan State in the fourth quarter last week, but couldn’t hold off the powerful Spartans, losing 31-24.


Da’Jon McKnight scored all three Gopher touchdowns against Michigan State, all on passes from MarQueis Gray. McKnight finished with 173 yards on nine receptions against a Spartan pass defense that was ranked first in the nation entering the game. Gray threw for a career-high 295 yards. His three touchdown passes is also a career-high.

The Gophers could struggle against Ball and the Wisconsin rushing attack. Minnesota ranks 11th in the Big Ten (yes, it's so odd to write that sentence, but this is the new reality of college sports...) in rush defense, allowing 191.1 yards per game. On paper, Wisconsin should roll, but Minnesota has shown a lot more backbone the past two weeks than a lot of pigskin pundits were prepared to accept. If the Golden Gophers can stay in the conversation for two and a half quarters or so, an unnerved Wisconsin team - which has lost hold of its season over the past few weeks - might panic just enough for Minnesota to make this contest a four-quarter fight to the finish.

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By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer