As the Wisconsin Badgers welcome the Minnesota Golden Gophers this weekend to decide who will advance to the Big Ten Championship game, here are a few game notes to keep in mind.
Wisconsin enters the game with a 9-2 record (6-1 in the Big Ten), and is ranked 14th in the AP poll. The Badgers average 37.8 points per game (15th in the nation) while giving up just 16.1 points per game (3rd in the nation). Wisconsin has losses at LSU and at Northwestern on the season.
Minnesota will bring a 8-3 overall record (5-2 Big Ten) into Camp Randall Saturday, having broken into the AP poll for the first time this season, entering at No. 22 following the win against Nebraska last week. Minnesota has scored 29.8 points a game this season (56th in the nation) while allowing 22.5 per game (31st in country). Minnesota has losses at TCU, at Illinois and home against Ohio State this year.
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It will be no surprise when Wisconsin continues to run the ball this weekend. The Badgers average 343.5 yards per game on the ground this year, and will look to better Minnesota’s average of 154.6 rushing yards allowed per game. Melvin Gordon alone is averaging more yards (191.7) per game than Minnesota’s defense typically allows.
The Gophers will also look to run the ball, as Minnesota has averaged 228.9 yards per game on the ground this season. Neither team averages even 150 yards per game through the air, as Wisconsin’s dual quarterback attack is producing 141.7 yards a contest, and Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner averages 131.4 a game.
This 124th meeting of the teams follows a streak of 17 Wisconsin wins in the past 19 tries, including 10 straight victories for the Badgers. The Golden Gophers may not have taken home Paul Bunyan’s Axe recently, but the Gophers hold a 59-56-8 series lead in the rivalry’s history. The Badgers are 32-22-6 against Minnesota in Madison.
While this may be the 124th meeting of the two teams, it will be only the fifth time they meet while both teams are ranked. Wisconsin is 4-0 in those games, to date.
Wisconsin has already earned at least a share of the Big Ten West title, but needs to defeat Minnesota to take control of the division outright. More importantly, the winner of Saturday’s contest will earn a place in the Big Ten Championship game.
Records are likely to fall Saturday, as Wisconsin’s Gordon is currently tied with Ron Dayne for the most yards in a single season for a Big Ten rusher. Gordon’s 2,109 yards lead the nation, and he became the fastest player in NCAA history last week to rush for 2,000 yards. Ironically, the carry that broke the mark, his 241st of the season, resulted in a career-high 88-yard run.Sam Arneson
is one of 18 seniors to be honored at Saturday’s game. Jim Oxley photograph
And while Gordon will likely be on an NFL roster next fall, it appears he won’t be included in this Saturday’s Senior Day celebrations. Head coach Gary Anderson was somewhat cryptic on the matter when speaking to members of the media Monday.
"“It’s crossed my mind but as far as I know right now, Melvin is coming back. Away we go. We’ll see what happens next, stay tuned!”"
The Badgers will honor 18 senior players who became the ninth-consecutive group of Wisconsin seniors to accumulate 37 or more wins in their four years at Madison.
The Badgers hope to up that number to 38 with a win Saturday against Minnesota.