It’s Ax Week for the Wisconsin Badgers. They take on their arch rival Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Paul Bunyan Ax and a trip to the Big Ten Championship game is on the line. Here is what the Badgers need to do to clinch the West.
Establish The Run Game
Minnesota knows Wisconsin will run the ball. Viewers will know Wisconsin will run the ball. It’s okay this isn’t a secret. The Badgers have a stud running back in freshman Braelon Allen. They should use him and use him a lot.
What does concern me is Minnesota’s defense. The Golden Gophers have leaned on their defense and their run game as much as the Badgers. Minnesota is tied for 12th in the country with Iowa in rush defense. This won’t be a Northwestern or Nebraska defense where the run game won’t be challenged. I expect this to be a battle in the trenches.
Which Quarterback Plays Better
If both teams struggle to run the ball, they will have to have their quarterback throw the ball in high pressure situations, especially late in the game. Will the Badgers trust Graham Mertz more than Minnesota will trust Tanner Morgan?
I have always been a believer in not sleeping on Tanner Morgan. Morgan had a great 2019 season throwing the ball, statistically one of the quarterbacks in the country that year. However, he was throwing to Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman, both who are on NFL rosters.
I do like Chris Autman-Bell and think he can be a good weapon in the receiving game. At the same time, Graham Mertz has been playing a lot better in the last few weeks, He is playing good at the right time. I do believe he needs to make some throws against the Golden Gophers defense.
Use Your Experience
In 2019, the Big Ten West came down to the last week of the regular season. Wisconsin was able to take the Ax back from Minnesota and cliched the Big Ten West division. A good amount of players in this gamed played in the 2019 game. Fortunately, Wisconsin came out victorious.
A lot of Badger players have also played in a Big Ten Championship game. This team knows how to get the job done and what it takes. Experience does play advantage to the Badgers. Will they win the time of possession and turnover battle will be crucial.
Wisconsin is playing their best ball of the season. They are also playing it at the right time. Minnesota did bounce back to take care of Indiana last week, but they have still lost two of their last three games. There is no doubt head coach P.J. Fleck will have the Golden Gophers fired up and ready to play. I also expect the crowd in Minneapolis to be loud and active all game.
It’s really hard to pick against what the Badgers are doing. At the end of the day, I trust Jim Leonhard and this defense. Nebraska went down the field on them last week and I expect them to make the necessary improvements.
On offense, Minnesota will need Tanner Morgan to make plays he’s not use to doing. They run the ball really well and I do expect Wisconsin to dare him to throw. The secondary needs to hold up on their end and I believe they do.
I believe the Badgers go on road, win the West, and play in Indianapolis next weekend.
Wisconsin- 24 Minnesota- 17