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Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Wisconsin Badgers: Preview, Predictions and Prognostications

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When: Saturday, November 26 – 3:30 PM ET
Where: Camp Randell Stadium, Madison, Wisconsin
TV: BTN
All-Time Series: Minnesota leads 59-58-8
Last Meeting: Wisconsin won 31-21 (2015)
Line: Wisconsin -14.5

Wisconsin is riding high into the last week of the college football regular season. The Badgers are 9-2 overall, 6-2 in Big Ten play, and they control their own destiny in the Big Ten West division.

The Wisconsin vs Minnesota rivalry has been anything but a rivalry the past 12 years. The last time Minnesota defeated the Badgers was on November 8, 2003, when they were playing at home. Minnesota hasn’t defeated the Badgers in Madison since the 1994 season. The Gophers hold a 0-10 record in Madison since that win.

Since losing back-to-back games against Michigan and Ohio State, Wisconsin has won five consecutive games heading into Saturday’s showdown against Minnesota on Senior Day. Wisconsin can clinch the division crown on Friday if Iowa defeats Nebraska in Iowa City. If not, the Badgers will need to defeat Minnesota for the thirteenth consecutive time to punch their ticket to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game.

Saturday will be the 126th meeting between the Badgers and Golden Gophers, marking the most-played rivalry in the FBS football.

At 8-3 overall and 5-3 in conference play, Minnesota has a lot to play for themselves. Unfortunately, the Golden Gophers they can do no better than sharing the Big Ten West crown, if they can pair an Iowa win on Friday with a win of their own. In that scenario, Minnesota would still lose out on tiebreakers to go to Indianapolis. If all four teams finish 6-3 in conference, Wisconsin would get the nod to Indy based on a 2-1 record against common opponents.

In addition to the Big Ten West implications, Saturday’s matchup will have implications toward the 2016 college football playoff as well. Wisconsin currently sits at No. 5 in the AP Poll and No. 6 in the CFP rankings. With Ohio State and Michigan playing a literal elimination game on Saturday, there will be a shake up in the rankings, and Wisconsin has much to gain from an Ohio State, Clemson, or Washington loss.

If Wisconsin wants to impress the selection committee on Saturday, they will focus on the task at hand and handily defeat Minnesota on Saturday as expected (the Badgers are currently favored by more than two touchdowns). Wisconsin is clearly sitting as the top two-loss-team in the CFP rankings, but they still need one more top 5 team to lose before they can feel safe about controlling their own destiny for the playoffs.

1 BURNING QUESTION: Can Wisconsin score enough points to impress the selection committee?

Wisconsin not only needs to win Saturday’s game, but they need to win it convincingly to score some style points in the process. The knock on the Badgers right now is that they aren’t “sexy” enough offensively and wouldn’t be a true threat to defeat No. 1 Alabama if the two teams faced in a hypothetical playoff matchup.

A dominant win over an eight-win Minnesota team would give the selection committee reason to feel more confident moving the Badgers up over a weaker one-loss team such as Washington, which would be crucial in aiding the Badgers in their bid for a playoff berth.

The Badgers’ nationally elite defense has shown that it is capable of scoring points of its own (see T.J. Watt touchdown against Purdue), and Saturday’s game would be an ideal setting for the Badgers stingy defense to shut down Minnesota’s offense and possibly score some points of its own in the process.

2 KEY STATS

– 12: That’s the amount of points that Wisconsin has given up in the first quarter of games all season. Wisconsin’s defense, which ranks in the top five in scoring defense per game at 13.4, is especially dominant in the first 15 minutes of games in 2016. The Badgers have given up just 12 points in 11 first quarters so far this season, a ridiculous statistic that really shows how good the Badgers’ defense has been early in games. Minnesota’s offense will be overjoyed o come away with a first quarter field goal on Saturday.

– 22.2: That’s the average amount points that Minnesota is surrendering to opponents in 2016. Minnesota’s defense is solid in its own right. The Golden Gophers’ scoring defense is good enough to place them in the top 30 nationally. Wisconsin will need to play an efficient game on offense, as well as scoring touchdowns when the Badgers reach the red-zone instead of settling for field goals. If Wisconsin can put up more than three touchdowns on Saturday, expect the Badgers to ultimately win the game.

3 KEY PLAYERS:

Mitch Leidner, Minnesota QB: Minnesota will need its senior quarterback to play the best game of his career if they want to score enough points to have a chance at scoring the huge upset in Madison on Saturday. Leidner has developed from a run first QB into a pass first QB, but accuracy issues remain a problem at times. Look for Wisconsin to control their pass rush to make Leidner beat tight coverage from inside the pocket instead of on the edges where he likes to play.

Corey Clement, Wisconsin RB: The senior running back went over the 1,000-rushing yard mark last week for the first time in his career. Clement and the Badgers rushing attack has been reaching its collective stride recently. Look for that to continue Saturday. If Wisconsin has their way running the football, it will go a long way toward the Badgers’ chances of defeating the Golden Gophers for a thirteenth consecutive time.

T.J. Watt, Wisconsin OLB: In his first season as a starter at linebacker, Watt has performed better than anyone could have realistically imagined coming into the 2016 campaign. Watt has led the Badgers in sacks, tackles for loss, and he even intercepted a pass for a touchdown against Purdue last week. No one knows what J.J.’s younger brother has in store for the college football world this week, but one thing we do know for sure is that Watt’s role will play a significant impact on the overall outcome of Saturday’s game.

STAFF PREDICTIONS:

Andy: Wisconsin 28-10
Dave: Wisconsin 59-0
Phil H.: Wisconsin 27-10
Philip R-R.: Wisconsin 24-14
Zach: Wisconsin 28-13

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What the Badgers need to work on in the bye week

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Two games, two victories, two shutouts and two record-setting performance. It would be easy to think the 2-0 Wisconsin Badgers football team is riding high in to its early bye week.

But, with the challenge of the Michigan Wolverines just around the corner things are not exactly going to go as planned.

So, with a week off to prepare what are some of the areas of concentration and concern heading in to the matchup with the Wolverines?

Get Healthy

I feel like this is a mantra of any team on a bye week, but after only two games it shouldn’t be that bad. But, guess what, Wisconsin is two games in to the season and the injury gods have not been kind to this team.

On Sunday, we learned that starting safety Scott Nelson will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.

Late last week we knew that five other players were going to miss the Central Michigan game, with two of those being starters on defense in Bryson Williams and Izayah Green-May.

Now luckily, the depth of this team showed up as true freshman Keeanu Benton (1 TFL) played well in place of Williams and Noah Burks (2 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 pass break up) made it seem like there was nothing missing at outside linebacker.

But, there’s no question that playing with a full group of players against Michigan will be advantageous. Let’s see if the Badgers can get Williams and Green-May healthy and my guess is that they will be able to do just that with nearly three weeks of treatment and testing.

Stay Hungry

One of the things that has been clear so far about this team is that they have been playing with a lot of emotion and edge to them. It’s almost as if they spent an entire offseason stewing over a less-than-stellar performance in 2018 and are bound and determined to not let that happen again.

Whatever was bottled up in the offseason was certainly unleashed in the first two weeks of the season. Can UW find a way to continue to play with that edge and fire now that they have no game this week?

Sometimes the bye week can mess with a team, especially one that is rolling like the Badgers are. But, I have a distinct feeling that motivation and focus are not going to waver at all with this coaching staff in place.

Wisconsin also has the advantage of being the underdog in the matchup with Michigan (at least on paper it will) and has a ton of hungry young players looking to make a name for themselves.

What better way to do that than against Michigan with the whole college football world watching you?

This idea of staying hungry doesn’t worry me in the least, but it would be something to watch coming out of the gate against Michigan. If the Badgers look flat or out of sorts, I’d be worried. If not, then look for Michigan to be in some serious trouble on Sept. 21.

New Wrinkles?

Early on this season, we’ve already seen a lot of Jonathan Taylor the running back, but we’ve also seen a lot of JT23 the receiving back and it has produced glorious results.

Even better is the fact that the Badgers coaching staff hasn’t had to get exotic with the play calling early on this season either. There’s been few sightings of Aron Cruickshank end arounds or double running back sets or anything crazy.

Wisconsin has lined up, punched the opposing defense in the mouth up front and done the basics needed to put points on the board.

It will be interesting to see what wrinkles will be added with the extra time and the opponent at hand. Will the Badgers break out a few things that Michigan won’t be ready for or will they stick to the tried and true and just see what happens?

Pass Protection

If there’s one thing we know about Michigan’s defense is that it is nearly the Badgers equal in aggressiveness. Through two games the Badgers have allowed four sacks on the quarterback.

It may not seem alarming, but last season, UW allowed a total of 24 through 13 games for an average of 1.85 per game and that was a bit of a problem in bigger games. Furthermore, 12 of the 24 sacks came in Wisconsin’s five losses last year.

The good news seems to be that UW is going to get some help for the quarterback spot in avoiding some of those sacks this year. Jack Coan may not be a world-record sprinter, but he has shown to be more comfortable stepping up in the pocket and taking off if needed.

But, the Badgers were not really tested so far in terms of overall talent and did give up three sacks against USF in the opener. On the flip side, the offensive line looked much better against CMU and only one sack happened on the day.

Does that indicate improvement or just how bad the Chippewas were? With an extra week to work on things, lets see how the Badgers offensive line works through any potential issues and any adjustments that may be needed.

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Sunday Morning Hangover: What to make of Coan’s confident start

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By now, Jack Coan isn’t a total newcomer to the starting quarterback role for the Wisconsin Badgers. But, on Saturday he was making his first career start inside Camp Randall Stadium.

All five of his previous starts would come on the road or in a bowl game.

So, how did Coan handle the home crowd and it being a season opener at Camp Randall nonetheless? Judging by his record-setting numbers it was safe to say it was home, sweet home for the junior quarterback.

After passing for over 200 yards for the first time in his career last week against USF, Coan set personal records for passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdown passes in a single game.

It’s hard to get much better than that.

On the day, Coan would go 26 of 33 for 363 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers were the catalyst to the Badgers 61-0 blanking of the visiting Central Michigan Chippewas.

His 363 yards were the fifth best in a single game by any Badgers quarterback. Coan also became just the 11th Badgers QB to throw for 300 or more yards in a game.

Additionally, his 276 yards in the first half were the most ever by any Badgers quarterback in a single half.

That’s some historic territory for anyone to reach.

However, after sleeping on it, I am still left wondering if this is a sign of things to come or a blip on the radar and we’ll never see this again.

Maybe it’s because I can still remember being there in person to witness Coan fumble and bumble his way to a loss at Northwestern last year.

Maybe that’s the Hornibrook affect in me too? After all, we got totally burned by thinking Hornibrook had turned a corner with his great performance in the bowl win over Miami two years ago.

Instead, Hornibrook reverted right back to the inconsistent and at times terrible version that his more extensive body of work told us was likely who he was.

But, here’s why I think we aren’t seeing a blip on the radar with Coan. It’s his confidence and the fact that we’ve seen him go out and do better each and every week he’s been a starter.

We are seeing progress, which we never really did with Hornibrook under center. If you can’t see that Coan is improving, then you aren’t paying attention.

Last week, despite the first ever 200-yard day for Coan, a lot of attention was paid to the missed wide open receivers on vertical routes. What did Coan do about it? He went out this week and showed he could confidently and accurately hit those deep balls.

“I think it’s important, and certainly we’ve got to be able to — we thought coming into the year we’ve got to do a better job of attacking the whole field, and so when you can do that, it’s good, but I think guys have had confidence in it,” said head coach Paul Chryst after the CMU win.

“I know last week we were 0-2 for those “chunk” plays, but he wouldn’t have cut ’em loose today if he didn’t have confidence in it. So I don’t know that doing it in a game makes you more confident, but it was good to see. It’s nice to be able to hit a couple of those, obviously.”

Additionally, Coan’s relationship early on this season with Quintez Cephus has been something special to watch. With virtually no playing time and no extensive practice time together, the duo has seemed totally in sync to start the season.

Cephus has nine receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns through two games. He also is averaging 84.5 yards per game, good for fifth in the Big Ten in this early season.

Just to put the difference between Coan and Honribrook in to some perspective for you. Through two games last year, the Badgers had just 26 receptions as a team. This year, UW already has 50.

Wisconsin also has a total of 16 passes for 15 or more yards on the season. That is a quarter of what the Badgers had (64) all of last year and we’re only two games in to the season.

A.J. Taylor (8), Danny Davis (6), Kendric Pryor (6) and Jake Ferguson (6) have all had major impacts in the pass game too.

It means a diverse and talented group is producing quickly this season.

Of course, the challenge of Michigan’s defense awaits the Badgers offense and it certainly will be a step up in competition from the likes of USF and Central Michigan.

However, the Wolverines also won’t be seeing the same old Wisconsin offense they did for the past few years either.

What Coan has brought to the table through two weeks of play should make Michigan think twice about stacking the box against the run all game long.

Wisconsin finally has an outwardly confident quarterback and it feels so very good.

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WATCH: Recap of Badgers 61-0 victory over Central Michigan

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If you were to draw up a perfect game, well, it would be hard to top what the Wisconsin Badgers put on film on Saturday against the Central Michigan Chippewas.

UW ran, passed and dominated on defense en route to a 61-0 win. What should we take away from this game? What were the highlight moments?

Well of course, Jonathan Taylor scoring four touchdowns in back-to-back games was impressive. But, let our Publisher, Andrew Coppens, get in to the detail in this week’s talkinBadgers recap.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube page, so you don’t miss any of our video work as the season goes on!

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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Central Michigan Chippewas: Preview, Predictions and Prognostications

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We’re back with more in our video work for the Badgers 2019 season. As per usual, our Publisher, Andrew Coppens, is here to give you the lowdown on the matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Central Michigan Chippewas.

That means, key players to watch, key stats to keep an eye on and the weekly prediction.

He is 1-0 after nearly nailing the full score last week, so what does this matchup look like?

Let’s get in to the video.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube channel so you don’t miss a single prediction or post-game reaction for your pleasure.

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