The national perception of Wisconsin remains the same in that it still hasn’t beaten a good opponent this season and that comes after handling Michigan. Beating Minnesota isn’t going to change that this weekend, but the Gophers are fighting for a bowl Game, so this Game may not be as easy as some think. The Badgers were -17 point road favorites as of Monday at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
But given how Minnesota has finished the season, it’d be a stretch to suggest it can win this Game. The Gophers were just held scoreless against Northwestern last weekend and now face a defense that ranks among the best in the country, giving up 13.1 points and only 80 rushing yards per contest. Going in Minnesota’s favor is that it has been better at home, winning its last two against Nebraska and Illinois, while taking Michigan State to the wire. But it may be best not to go crazy about those results. This is a team that struggles to Scoreand will be facing a defense that doesn’t allow points.
If the Gophers Scoremore than 10 points against the Wisconsin defense, it’d be a surprise. Quarterback Demry Croft’s numbers are extremely worrying, coming off a 2-for-11 passing performance with minus-17 rushing yards (sacks included). He managed 183 rushing yards against Nebraska, but other than that Game, hasn’t been a major rushing threat. With little expected of him in the passing Game, they’ll lean on running back Rodney Smith as much as possible. But again, the Badgers are allowing just 2.7 yards per carry and if that ground Game doesn’t work, Minnesota may have trouble reaching 100 total yards.
Covering Games for Wisconsin has fallen to the offense this season and in recent weeks, that hasn’t been a problem. That’s mostly due to freshman running back Jonathan Taylor, who could firmly put himself in the Heisman conversation with a huge Game. He has a respectable 1,657 yards and 12 touchdowns, but a 200-plus yard Game and a couple touchdowns would help his chances. Minnesota’s defense isn’t bad, allowing 22.1 points per Game, but it’s been mediocre against the run, allowing 4.6 yards per carry. ACCording to the numbers, Taylor should run all over the Gophers, but again, this could be a tricky spot. With a bowl Game on the line, P.J. Fleck will undoubtedly have his team motivated, although that may not mean anything in the end.
Whenever Taylor can’t find running room, Wisconsin is usually in trouble because Alex Hornibrook is not a good quarterback with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season. The good news is that Taylor has found room in every Game and Hornibrook has rarely been needed. The only reason to bet Minnesota in this Game is that it’s playing for a chance to stay alive and get a bowl Game.
The Badgers are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 road Games, while the Golden Gophers are 9-1-3 ATS in their last 13 following an ATS loss and 1-3-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The over is an incredible 15-2 in the last 17 meetings, while the underdog is 7-2-1 ATS in the last 10.
Our Pick – Wisconsin -18