Wisconsin Badgers (4-0)(2-2 ATS) v. Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-1)(2-2 ATS) 12pm ET, October 3, TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, ESPN
by Evergreen of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Wisconsin +2/Minnesota -2
One of the oldest rivalry games in all of college football takes place this weekend when the Wisconsin Badgers travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Gophers in the first Big Ten conference game in the new TCF Bank Stadium.
The Badger/Gopher series is the longest running rivalry in the NCAA, dating back to 1948 and is also the most played series in college football. Wisconsin owns a 34-24 all time series record with three ties and the current trophy up for grabs is Paul Bunyan’s axe which has the tallies of every game in this rivaly etched in the handle. Previously, the winner of this game earned a slab of bacon or a wood trophy witha W or M depending on how you held it.
This game was also a pseudo home game for the Badgers when it was played in the Metrodome as many Sconnies made the trip to the twin cities and many Minnesota students didn’t travel off campus to see games. The new outdoor facility on campus in Minneapolis should give the Gophers a true home field advantage in this or any other game.
Both teams are sitting atop the Big Ten conference at 1-0 with Wisconsin tied with Iowa and Michigan at 4-0 overall and Minnesota one behind at 3-1, tied with Ohio State. The game opened with Minnesota as 1.5 point favorites, but most online sportsbooks have the Gophers at -2 or -3 currently. Wisconsin is +120 on the money line with Minnesota at -140 and the over/under total for the game is at 52.
Wisconsin has exceeded expectations in going 4-0 to start and now look to threaten the top teams in the conference. The Badgers clipped Michigan State last week to open the conference season and although they were tested in the non conference portion of their schedule, they did earn good wins over Northern Illinois and Fresno State. They travel for the first time this year to meet a Gopher squad that has looked good overall with wins over Syracuse, Air Force and Northwestern and pushed No.8 Cal for most offour quarters before falling 35-21. The winner this week will remain a sneaky contender for the Big Ten title and a possible New Year’s day bowl game.
The Badgers have won the last five meetings in this series, squeaking out a 35-32 victory last year and are 5-2 against the spread in the last seven against Minnesota. The over has hit in the last nine games between these teams including the last four played in Minnesota.
Offensively, Wisconsin has gone from a very run heavy unit in years pastto a very balanced one in 2009. The Badgers still run it well, ranking 30th with 197 rush yards per contest, but the 230 yards per game through the air have given opposing defenses fits as they stack the box and pay for it over the top. Wisconsin ranks 22nd in points scored at 36 per game and have a better time of possession average than Minnesota. On defense, the Badgers do just enough to keep the offense from having to bail them out and rank in the middle of the NCAA pack in yards and points allowed.
Scott Tolzien has taken over under center for UW and enters the weekend as the most effiecient passer in the Big Ten. Tolzien has thrown for 884 yards with 8 scores and his two picks came in the same game. John Clay is the leading rusher for Wisconsin, amassing 398 yards and four touchdowns, but has battled fumbling issues. Garrett Graham is a touch matchup for Minnesota as the tight end leads the Badgers with four touchdowns and the WR combo of Isaac Anderson and Nick Toon have nearly 500 receiving yards between them with three scores. Wisconsin has also been penalized less on both sides of the ball than Minnesota.
The Gophers are balanced on offense as well, throwing for 221 yards per game and rushing for another 105 on average. Those numbers, along with points per game, dorank lower than Wisconsin’s averages, but Minnesota has had the tougher schedule to this point. The Gopher defense is slightly better than the Badgers, but are statistically the weakest against the run which could pose a problem if they get behind early.
Individually, Minnesota is all about the pitch and catch combination of Adam Weber and Eric Decker.Weber has thrown for 879 yards on 58% completions with 5 touchdowns and 5 picks. Decker is second in the country with 499 yards on 35 grabs with four scores and has a touchdown throw as well. Decker missed the game against Wisconsin last year, so most of the Badger defense will get their first taste of the talented wideout this Saturday.Duane Bennett leads the team’s rushing attack with 210 yards and four touchdowns.
Weather will be an issue for the first time in Minnesota as TCF Bank Stadium is an outdoor facility. The forcast for Saturday is very fall like with highs in the low 50’s and a chance of afternoon showers.
The injury reports for both teams are pretty clean, but both teams have players ineligible due to suspensions. Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter remain suspended indefinately by the Badgers with Cedric McKinley and Tim Dandridge out for two weeks for the Gophers.
Evergreen’s Pick: Living near Madison, this game is one of my favorite of the year. I think the new passing attack of the Badgers should eventually put up enough points to let the run seal the deal. This should be close all the way, but the bet here is the over as both defenses are average at best. Wisconsin 30 - Minnesota 27.