Coming off a massive win in the home finale last week against Nebraska, Wisconsin football concludes the regular season on the road against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. This game always has Paul Bunyan’s Ax on the line. The Badgers have lost the last two game sin this series. A win would likely knock the Gophers out of a bowl game. Kick-off is 2:30 PM on FS1. Here is a preview of tomorrow’s game.
How Healthy Will Wisconsin Football Be?
There’s no doubt it was an emotional win last week against Nebraska. After trailing 14-0 early in the first quarter, the Badgers rallied back to win 24-17 in overtime. This was a game Wisconsin football could have folded and moved on to this game. Credit to the Badgers for fighting the entire game and getting the win.
However, the win came at a price. The Badgers lost Hunter Wohler near the end of the first half. Braelon Allen, who surprised many by playing last week, was clearly not 100%. It is unclear if both will play tomorrow. It would be a huge loss if two of Wisconsin’s most important pieces are unable to go. If they can’t, look for Minnesota to try and expose that.
A Chance to End Minnesota’s Season
Winning the Ax is and will always be the most important part about this rivalry. It just so happens that a Wisconsin win would hurt even more for the Gophers. At 5-6, a loss would take Minnesota out of bowl eligibility, They could still make a bowl game, but it no guarantee and it will depend on how many 6-6 teams they are.
The good news for Wisconsin football? They don’t have to worry about this. They already have six wins on the year. The Badgers know they will be headed to a bowl game. I thought the win was important last week to take the doubt away, You are asking for trouble of you have to rely on a trophy game on the road in your rival’s house to get a postseason birth.
Minnesota should probably have only three wins right now. They were fortunate to beat Iowa and needed a late game meltdown from Nebraska in week one to get that win. I know the Big Ten West as a whole isn’t very good, but Minnesota is not very good.
The Wisconsin defense needs to make quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis beat them tomorrow. He has thrown for less than 2,000 yards with a 52% completion percentage and an average throwing distance of 6.3 yards. Kaliakmanis did enough last year in Madison to help them win that game, but it’s clear Minnesota is not comfortable throwing the ball when they don’t have to. They want to run the ball and limit possessions from the opponent.
I also think the Wisconsin offense is getting Minnesota at a good time. While the Gophers have a good defense, they are giving up an average of 36 points a game during their three game losing streak. It’s a struggling unit as well.
I have to think Wisconsin is coming in this game with some confidence. They were able to gut out a win without some of their top players last week.
At the end of the day, this comes down to if Wisconsin football can get off the field on third down The Gophers are not built to come from behind. Outside of Daniel Jackson, there isn’t much of a pass catching threat in this offense.
This game seems to be toss up and I have gone back and forth on this pick all week. We will see quick of the Badgers can bring some swagger, juice, and confidence. It’s game that is everything to Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck.
This game will come down to the last few minutes and we will see if it comes down to a field goal. It;hard winning on the road and ever harder to win in your rival’s house. I lean towards UW because they are coning in with a good feeling. I’m not sure I can say the same thing about the Golden Gophers.
Wisconsin 17 Minnesota 13
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