It's here, it's finally here!! Yes, the Badgers get there shot at a decade of dominance in the Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe. What will make it sweeter? Winning the game on the turf of it's most bitter rival, and that's exactly what is at stake as Wisconsin travels to "The Bank" to take on the Gophs with a 9 game win streak in tow.
Things will obviously be a bit different this season with Gary Andersen at the helm and it being his introduction to the rivalry and all that comes with that week. It's also interesting because this is the 2nd to last game and there could be a lot riding on a win here as Wisconsin enters the game 9-1 on the season after winning over the Hoosiers of Indiana the week before – at least according to our breakdown.
So it appears 10 is the number for this game – as in a decade of dominance and a double digit win season in Andersen's 1st year at the helm of the UW program. Can it happen this upcoming season? Let's take a look at what the Gophs may present in the way of a "challenge" shall we?
2012 Record: 6-7 (2-6 B1G)
2012 Bowl Game: Loss 34-31 to Texas Tech at Meinke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Head Coach: Jerry Kill, 9-16 3rd year at Minnesota in 2013
2012 Billingsley Ranking: No. 75
2012 Team Stats:
|151.9yds – 14TD's||Rushing||172.0yds – 22TD's|
|169.5yds – 19TD's/15INT's||Passing||186.6yds – 15TD's/13INT's|
2012 Crazy Stat: 23-7: We're talking about the number of fumbles the Gophs had and the number they lost for the season. They coughed up the football 23 times last season, but got lucky enough to recover 16 of them. If that tells you anything it should tell you that this was a team lucky to make it to 6-6 last season to say the least.
What 2012 Tells Us About Minnesota: The Gophers got better in 2012, but it was honestly hard to be worse than they were in 2010-2011, right? Perhaps the biggest thing 2012 told us about the Gophs was the fact that they may have actually found a decent quarterback.
Senior MarQuies Gray started the season at QB but a series of injuries forced him out of the position and it was supposed to be Max Shortell taking the reigns, instead a traitorous Wisconsinite took the reigns – starting with the game against Wisconsin – and made it work down the home stretch of the season. Yes, Nelson's numbers overall weren't amazing (49% comp. rate, 124.7yds/game, 8TD's/8INT's), but for a freshman asked to come in to a team devastated by injuries around him he held up well – just flip on the the Border Battle from last season to see what he did against Wisconsin.
However, they need to revamp their passing attack since they'll have some major issues heading into next season with Max Shortell (QB) and A.J. Barker (WR) leaving the program via transfer. Barker was the team's leading wide receiver for the year and he only played in 8 of the team's 13 games – that should tell you all you need to know about the depths the passing attack has sunk to.
Defensively this is a team still growing into it's skin and if the Gophs want to make strides towards an actual winning season they need the experience from last year to translate into better production in 2013. All in all, things are actually looking up in Minneapolis and call it selfish, I'm actually hoping they are a better team next year. It'll make winning the axe for the 10th straight time all the much more sweeter in my book.
Series History: Minnesota Leads 58-56-8; Last Meeting – 38-13 Wisconsin Win
Key Losses: A.J. Barker, WR (30 rec, 577yds, 7TD's, transfer); MarQuies Grey, QB/WR (472yds, 5TD's/2INT's passing, 390yds, 5TD's rushing, 12 rec, 121yds receiving); Max Shortell, QB (853yds, 6TD's/5INT's, transfer); Troy Stoudermire, CB (82 tackles – led the team, 3.5tfl's, 3BU's & PD's); Mike Rallis, LB (80 tackles, 5tfl's, 1 sack); Michael Carter, CB (49 tackles, 4INT's, 15BU's & 15PD's); D.L. Wilhite, DE (2nd team all-B1G, 30 tackles, 11tfl's, 8.5 sacks)
Key Returners: Phillip Nelson, QB (stats above); Donnell Kirkwood, RB (926yds, 4.2avg, 6TD's); Isaac Fruechte, WR (19 rec, 256yds, 2TD's); Zac Epping, C; Ra'Shede Hageman, DT (HM all-B1G, 35 tackles, 7.5tfl's, 6 sacks); Brock Vereen, Safety (64 tackles, 1.5tfl's, 0.5 sacks, 2 INT's, 9BU's, 11PD's)
WAY Too Early Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 21 – There is a very interesting stat involved in this game and that's the fact that the Badgers have scored 31 or more points in every one of their nine previous victories. I fully expect that to happen again, especially playing against a Goph's defense that loses two big time playmakers in the secondary and at linebacker. To say this team was thin on talent and depth last year would be an understatement and while they are improving they aren't on the level of the Badgers just yet, so expect the "Decade of Dominance" to happen as they chop down the goalposts at TCF Bank Stadium and keep the Gophs trophy case empty again.