Week 12 at Minnesota
Minnesota may be yet another rival on the rise, but I refuse to believe that Wisconsin will end up Axe-less for the second year in a row. As someone who was in the stands that fateful day last fall and felt the overwhelming sense of dread and embarrassment permeating within Camp Randall throughout that entire nightmarish afternoon, I have zero doubts that this will be the most motivated a Wisconsin team has been to get a win in recent memory (perhaps aside from the Big Ten Championship against Ohio State two years ago).
That being said, it would be wrong to not acknowledge the level of talent P.J. Fleck has on this roster, particularly on offense, where the Gophers return a group of nine starters that includes a couple of stars on the outside in Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman. If Fleck can find a reliable starter at quarterback to get them the ball, and running back Mohamed Ibrahim builds on his impressive 2018 campaign, Jim Leonhard will really have his hands full.
However, despite what Wisconsin’s performance may have led you to believe, Minnesota’s defense was not good last season, and the Gophers lost their top two tacklers from that unit. With the improvement I’m expecting from Wisconsin’s offense this year, I’m not envisioning a particularly difficult game for the Badgers on that side of the ball.
The Gophers continue to close the gap, but this year, Wisconsin puts Minnesota back in its place in this rivalry and chops down the goalposts at TCF Bank Stadium.
Wisconsin 28 – Minnesota 24
FINAL REGULAR-SEASON RECORD: 10-2
This is the game I think the Badgers are looking most forward to. After dominating this rivalry for the past decade, the Badgers lost at home to the Golden Gophers last year, who took the Axe back to Minnesota. I think it really bothered the Badgers last year and they’ve had this game circled on their calendar since.
Last season the Gophers went with two freshman quarterbacks for most of the season, Zack Annexstad and Tanner Morgan. Annexstad suffered an apparent foot injury in camp and it isn’t clear how long he will be out, so it looks like Tanner Morgan will be leading this offense. They are also returning their running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who ran over 1,160 yards and 9 touchdowns last season and top receiver Tyler Johnson, who had 1,169 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns.
I think this will be a good game. Last year’s loss was good for the rivalry, it was getting a little stale when Wisconsin would win every year. I think it brought new life to this game and should make it even more exciting to watch. In the end, I think Wisconsin wins and brings the Axe back to Camp Randall where it belongs.
Wisconsin 24 – Minnesota 20
FINAL REGULAR-SEASON RECORD: 9-3
All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.