The Minnesota Golden Gophers host the Wisconsin Badgers this Saturday in a game that seems very lopsided on paper.
Wisconsin has been dominant all season long against weak teams like Minnesota, but have yet to win on the road.
This is their chance to get a win away from Camp Randall, but Minnesota is hoping to extend that losing streak for them.
It should be a good one as these Big Ten rivals clash for the 121st time in history.
Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
When: Saturday, Nov. 12 at 3:30 p.m. EDT
Watch: Big Ten Network, BTN2Go
Listen: 100.5 ESPN Madison, 100.3 KFAN
Betting Line: Wisconsin -27 (via Sportsbook)
Key Storyline: Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
Wisconsin has held the prestigious axe of the mythical giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan since 2004.
Who Will Win?
Each year these teams square off to earn the axe on the field, and it seems that Wisconsin can’t lose in recent years.
It is one of the oldest rivalries in sports and has been played since 1890 in some capacity. They have been playing for the Axe since 1948 and played for the "Slab of Bacon" until it was lost in 1943.
It would be a huge coup for Minnesota to steal it back this season and could be considered the biggest highlight of their dismal season.
Who Might Not Play for Wisconsin (via CollegeInjuryReport.com)
DE Dave Gilbert, QST (Foot): Gilbert hasn’t seen the field since the Michigan State loss and was supposed to come back against Ohio State. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and he is questionable for Saturday.
WR Fred Willis, QST (Ankle): This true freshman wide out has not played in the last three games and is a member of the Wisconsin special teams unit. He has missed time earlier in the season as well.
Who Might Not Play for Minnesota (via CollegeInjuryReport.com)
CB Troy Stoudemire, QST (Arm): This kid tried to play with a fracture in his left arm, but struggled and has been deactivated. It will probably remain that way against the Badgers.
K Chris Hawthorne, DBT (Leg): Hawthorne hasn’t played the last two weeks with an unspecified leg injury and has been replaced by Jordan Wettstein.
OT Tommy Olson, QST (Ankle): Olson missed last week with an ankle sprain and probably won’t play this week because of it. It’s another injury to a decimated offensive line that has been terrible all year.
BCS/Top 25 Implications
Wisconsin has gravely hurt their BCS chances by losing against Ohio State and Michigan State this season.
Can Wisconsin Still Win the Big Ten?
They got a solid win last week over Purdue, but they still haven’t won on the road this season.
A win against Minnesota this week and Illinois next week would put them at .500 on the season on the road. They still have a chance to catch Penn State, who is rocked with a scandal right now, and Ohio State to win the Leaders Division of the Big Ten.
Minnesota is playing for nothing but pride at this point and is in the basement of the Legends division.
What They're Saying
Madison.com’s Tom Hulhern is reporting that the new Badgers running backs coach Thomas Hammock knows he needs to keep Paul Bunyan’s Axe with his program.
Just because the Badgers are so accustomed to seeing the Axe around doesn't mean they take it for granted heading into Saturday's game at Minnesota.
"You don't take anything for granted in football, because it's so hard to win games," Hammock said.
Joseph Gunther of the Examiner notes that the Golden Gophers came very close to upsetting the Michigan State Spartans last week.
“The Gophers (2-7 overall, 1-4 conference) took a big step forward with a win last week over the Iowa Hawkeyes and nearly took an even bigger step with a road-upset in East Lansing.
The Gophers got great play from its offensive line and good things from its defense.
The one bad play, a stiff-arm missed tackle by Christyn Lewis, came on the game-winning touchdown”
Wisconsin Player to Watch: Russell Wilson
This guy has been superb all season, but failed to make good throws against Michigan State and could not get anything going on the ground against Ohio State. Those were both losses.
If he plays a solid all-around game, Wisconsin usually wins.
Minnesota Player to Watch: Da’Jon McKnight
The 6’3”, 210-pound beast had a helluva game against the Spartans. He went off for 173 yards and three touchdowns against them, and will need a repeat performance if the Gophers want a chance at the upset.
Key Matchup: Minnesota Rushing Defense vs. Wisconsin Ground Game.
If the Gophers can handle and contain the vaunted Wisconsin rushing attack, they would put themselves in position to win.
If they cannot, Wisconsin will punish them on the ground and easily run away with the victory.
Wisconsin 57, Minnesota 21