Minnesota and Wisconsin managed to keep away from interrupting the most-played Soccer Bowl Subdivision rivalry this season.
Their annual battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe simply occurs to be happening somewhat later than anticipated.
When a COVID-19 outbreak inside Minnesota’s program prompted the cancellation of its Nov. 28 recreation at Wisconsin, it appeared this may be the primary season since 1906 with no matchup between the 2 Massive Ten border rivals.
However the Massive Ten introduced this week that Minnesota (3-3) and Wisconsin (2-3) would face off Saturday as a part of the league’s championship weekend occasions.
“That is the rivalry that you just dream of, particularly me being from Minnesota and being a Minnesota home-grown child,” Minnesota defensive finish Boye Mafe stated. “This rivalry means all the pieces to us, so to have it taken away from us hurts. When it occurred and the sport was canceled, we have been all harm as a workforce. All of us wished to be taking part in in that recreation. However now the truth that it’s again, it’s time.’’
Neither of those groups has lived as much as expectations.
Minnesota is attempting to keep away from ending under .500 after going 11-2 and profitable the Outback Bowl final season. Wisconsin was ranked within the high 10 earlier this 12 months however has dropped three straight video games and now’s in search of to keep away from its first shedding season since 2001.
Profitable this rivalry recreation provides every workforce an opportunity to salvage one thing from a disappointing season.
“To get that recreation canceled, it crushed us,” Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sanborn stated. “A number of us have been actually upset as a result of that’s the large one: Wisconsin versus Minnesota. That’s the sport yearly you go into, that’s the objective, to go win that recreation and preserve the Axe right here in Madison. Undoubtedly guys are pumped to play that recreation this 12 months.”
Minnesota can tie this collection at 61-61-8 by profitable Saturday. Wisconsin regained the lead by profitable 38-17 at Minnesota final 12 months. The Gophers had received 37-15 at Madison in 2018 to snap Wisconsin’s 14-game profitable streak within the rivalry.
STRENGTH VS. STRENGTH
This recreation options an intriguing matchup between Minnesota working again Mohamed Ibrahim and Wisconsin’s entrance seven on protection.
Ibrahim has rushed for 925 yards and ranks third amongst all Soccer Bowl Subdivision gamers with 154.17 yards speeding per recreation. He has 15 landing runs to tie for fifth nationally.
Wisconsin permits the third-fewest yards speeding per recreation (83.2) of any FBS workforce. The Badgers have given up the fewest whole yards per recreation (251) of anybody.
ON THE LINE
Ibrahim made a degree to reward his blockers for his profitable the Massive Ten Operating Again of the 12 months award. The offensive line obtained its share of official recognition, too, with Minnesota rating fourth within the convention in each factors and yards per recreation.
Deal with Blaise Andries and guard Connor Olson have been named third-team all-Massive Ten by the media and honorable point out by the coaches. Middle John Michael Schmitz and deal with Sam Schlueter have been honorable point out picks by each voting teams.
“That simply speaks loud to how folks take into consideration us, our o-line and the way they play, and the job that we get completed as an entire offensive unit,” Ibrahim stated.
BADGERS STRUGGLING TO SCORE
Wisconsin has scored seven factors or fewer in every of its final three video games. That is the first time since 1990 that the Badgers have scored in single digits in three straight video games. Wisconsin has an opportunity to finish that droop Saturday towards a Minnesota workforce that’s permitting 31.8 factors per recreation.
DECIMATED ON OFFENSE
Wisconsin’s troubles stem partially from not having its high playmakers accessible.
Main rusher Jalen Berger didn’t play in a 28-7 loss at No. 18 Iowa (No. 16 College Football Playoff ) final week and isn’t listed on the depth chart for Saturday’s recreation, a sign he probably received’t play. Wisconsin additionally has been lacking two of its high receivers, as Danny Davis has missed three straight video games and Kendric Pryor has sat out two of the final three video games.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst stated Thursday that Davis and Pryor “haven’t been dominated out, however they haven’t completed a ton” this week.