NCAA Week 13: Previewing the Minnesota-Wisconsin Match-up

November 25, 2016 • Jon Lowe • Big Ten, Front Page, NCAA

As far as being Big Ten Champions and having a chance to play Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State next week is guaranteed just with a Nebraska loss at Iowa on Friday. But, it’s always better to just take care of business, especially with National Championship implications on the line. A loss by Washington or Clemson almost guarantees Wisconsin a spot in the final four assuming they are Big Ten Champions. So would a Michigan win at Ohio State, and the Badgers winning out. Minnesota is the last game on the schedule, and this team is tougher than they were supposed to be this year.

The Gophers’ season highlight so far is probably their dominant win over Northwestern last week, and this game essentially is their biggest game of the season. They’ll likely get a chance to play some SEC team like Auburn or Georgia in an irrelevant bowl game, but knocking out the Badgers from the College Football Playoff while winning the Paul Bunyan’s Axe Trophy for the first time in 12 years has to be more appealing. That’s why the Badgers can’t take this game easy, and just assume victory. (It’s okay if I do it, I’m not playing and have almost no connections with the team).

As far as the Badgers are concerned matchup-wise, both sides of the ball favor Wisconsin. Intangibles also favor Wisconsin, with home-field and better coaching in favor of the Badgers.

Offensively, the Badgers should just run until Minnesota is capable of stopping them, which is harder than it seems. Minnesota’s defense is no slouch, and they are much better against the run than they are against the pass. It’s strength vs. strength, but the Badgers have the intangibles, plus the benefit of a much tougher schedule. Minnesota is 8-3, but their best win is Northwestern, and their losses are to Penn State, Nebraska and Iowa. Their best non-conference win is a toss up between Oregon State (who is the Illinois of the Pac-12) or Colorado State out of the Mountain West. The Badgers have five better wins than Minnesota’s best, hence why the Gophers still are unranked.

Minnesota’s 26th ranked defense in the nation should be enough to prevent the Badgers from a scoring outburst like the one at Purdue or against Illinois, but the Badgers eighth-ranked defense should be able to stop Minnesota’s 100th best offense. And we all know that the Badgers are probably better offensively than their eighth-best ranking (based off yards per game) shows. If Minnesota gets more than 20, the Badgers have a realistic chance of losing.

Overall, the fact that this game is in Camp Randall Stadium, and the Badgers have loads more experience against quality competition should give the Badgers the edge alone, but this defense is better than last year’s. And on top of that, the offense is starting to get going, and should provide enough scoring to give the Badgers a two score win. Badgers win and head to Indianapolis. Final score: Wisconsin 24, Minnesota 10.

Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

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