The University of Minnesota football team hosts Wisconsin Saturday, needing a victory over the No. 5-ranked Badgers to earn bow eligibility. The Badgers are seeking their 15th straight victory, an undefeated regular season and consideration for the College Football Playoff.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Wisconsin’s lack of victories against other College Football Playoff contender could make perfection its only path to the final four. Ohio State will be a daunting opponent in the Big Ten title game next week, but the West Division champion Badgers must be careful not to get caught looking past Minnesota, which has lost 13 straight in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
Minnesota QB Demry Croft running read-option plays against Wisconsin’s front seven. After trampling Nebraska with 10 rushes for 183 yards and three touchdowns, Croft took nine carries for minus-17 yards against Northwestern. The Badgers are even tougher to move the ball on the ground against, leading the FBS with an average of 79.4 yards rushing allowed per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Wisconsin: RB Jonathan Taylor. The Heisman Trophy candidate leads the Big Ten and ranks third nationally with an average of 150.6 yards rushing per game. With 12 touchdowns on the ground, he leads all freshmen in the FBS. He needs 269 yards over the Badgers three or four remaining games to break Adrian Peterson’s freshman rushing record set at Oklahoma with 1,925 yards.
Minnesota: LB Thomas Barber. The sophomore is second in the Big Ten with 108 tackles in his first year as a starter.
FACTS & FIGURES
This is the 127th edition of the rivalry, the most-played series in the FBS. Wisconsin has won 20 of the last 22 matchups and, with a win, would take the all-time lead for the first time in history. … The Badgers have won 14 straight regular season Big Ten games, the longest streak in program history. … Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck coached against Wisconsin last season with Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl, losing 24-16. … The Gophers have given up 243 points, their fewest allowed through 11 games since 2008.
No. 5 Wisconsin (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten, CFP No. 5) at Minnesota (5-6, 2-6), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Line: Wisconsin by 17.
Series record: Tied 59-59-8.
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