The Wisconsin vs. Minnesota rivalry is the most played game in college football history. The Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe is one of the best in the Big Ten, and this year's matchup is right around the corner.
Minnesota is reeling following losses to Northwestern and Iowa, while Wisconsin has turned their season around following a massive win against Purdue.
Here is the complete game preview for this year's battle for the Axe.
Wisconsin has dominated this series as of late, winning 8 straight against Minnesota, with the last two by a combined 47 points. Impressively, the Badgers have won every game but two since 1995.
Coming into the game, Wisconsin and Minnesota are on two divergent paths. Minnesota started strong, going undefeated in non-conference play before being blown out by Iowa and losing to Northwestern.
On the other hand, Wisconsin limped through non-conference play, losing to Oregon State and barely beating Utah State. Bret Bielema benched Danny O'Brien, and with Joel Stave starting, Wisconsin has turned it around.
Both teams come into the game banged up, with multiple important players questionable for the game.
Minnesota's star quarterback, Marquise Gray was injured in the Northwestern game and is doubtful for the Wisconsin game. If Gray is unable to play, it will be a huge blow to the Gophers chances in Madison, as he is Minnesota's most dynamic player on offense. His ability to challenge defenses with his legs provides an explosive and uncertain element to the Gopher offense.
Wisconsin also has two starters who might miss Saturday's game, as both Ricky Wagner and Ethan Armstrong suffered knee injuries in Wisconsin's win against Purdue. Both are listed as starters, but the loss of either would be a significant loss for the Badgers. Ricky Wagner is one of the Badgers most talented offensive linemen, while Ethan Armstrong is the unsung hero of the Wisconsin linebacker corps.
These injuries bear watching in the lead up to Saturday's game.
Montee Ball is coming off his best game of the season, setting career highs in rushing yards against Purdue. Additionally, the Badger offensive line turned in their best game as a unit, blasting holes for the Badger tailbacks.
Conversely, Minnesota's defense has been terrible against the run in Big Ten play, getting shredded in loses to Iowa and Northwestern. However, the Gophers have a very talented defensive line, led by DT Ra'Shede Hageman and DE D.L. Wilhite, who definitely have the talent to wreak havoc along the Badger offensive line.
Whichever team wins the battle in the trenches is the team that will win the game.
Minnesota will win if their defensive line bottles up the Badgers rushing attack, forcing Stave and the offense to go to the air. Also, star safety Derrick Wells and his cohorts in the secondary will have to force multiple turnovers to even the playing field.
On offense, A.J. Barker, the star wide receiver, has to dominate the Badgers secondary, while Marquise Gray keeps the front seven guessing.
If so, the Gophers will win 23-14.
Wisconsin will win if Travis Frederick and the rest of the offensive line are able to control the battle up front, allowing the Stave time to throw while opening up holes for the Badger backs.
On defense, Chris Borland and Mike Taylor will have to contain Marquise Gray, while the defensive line pressures the quarterback. Additionally, the Badgers secondary must shut down A.J. Barker, limiting the Gopher's explosiveness.
If so, Wisconsin will win 31-14.
The Minnesota Gophers enter this year's battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe in a precarious position. Their star quarterback is injured and their defense has been shredded in Big Ten play.
Wisconsin comes into the game following their best performance of the season. The Badgers offense broke out, rushing for over 400 yards and steam rolling the Purdue defense.
The Badgers are going to be too tough for Minnesota, and Wisconsin is going to win their ninth straight in this storied rivalry.