Oct 20, 2012; Madison, WI, USA; The Wisconsin Badgers celebrate with the Paul Bunyan Axe following the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 38-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Gophers Football: What will it take for Minnesota to reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Axe?


Oct 20, 2012; Madison, WI, USA; The Wisconsin Badgers celebrate with the Paul Bunyan Axe following the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 38-13. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

There’s something about losing to Wisconsin that makes my blood boil. Like watching this. Speaking of which, does anyone have a spare package of razors? Asking for a friend.

Look, a lot of fan bases can be obnoxious, over the top, boastful, annoying, you name it, but there’s not a fan base in the country as arrogant as BADgers fans. Collectively, they’re the absolute worst. Buckeyes fans are probably the most sensitive, but Badgers fans are over the top arrogant. I should say that I’ve met some great Badgers fans out there who have class and dignity, but a great majority are obnoxious. Those Badgers fans give the rest of them a bad name.

It’d be great to make Badgers fans miserable this weekend like handing them a loss they didn’t expect and ruining their weekends. A Gophers win coupled with a Michigan State loss to Northwestern would also set up a battle for the Legends Division crown in East Lansing next weekend and a chance for Minnesota to advance to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. Needless to say, there will be a lot on the line.

OFFENSE

Minnesota Offense: Don’t look now, but the Gophers have found their workhorse running back and No. 1 quarterback. Back in the beginning of the season when the Gophers offense was struggling, there was no feature running back or a clear cut quarterback. However, during the Gophers four game winning streak, David Cobb and Philip Nelson have asserted themselves at running back and quarterback, respectively. Wide receiver Derrick Engel is questionable due to a knee injury but if Engel is unable to go, look for true freshmans Donovahn Jones and Drew Wolitarsky to step up in Engel’s absence.

Wisconsin Offense: This is a potent offense. The Badgers have the top running back tandem in the conference if not the country in James White and Melvin Gordon. Meanwhile, quarterback Joel Stave has done more than enough on his own completing 63 percent of his passes for 1948 yards and 16 touchdowns to only eight interceptions. Let’s not forget about Jared Abbrederis, who gives the Badgers a true #1 wide receiver, something that the Gophers lack.

Offensive Edge: Wisconsin

DEFENSE

Minnesota Defense: It’s senior day during a dream season and I couldn’t think of a better opportunity for Ra’Shede Hageman to have the game of his life. Hageman has never beaten the Badgers during his career at Minnesota. The game will be televised on ESPN and Hageman has an opportunity to carry the axe and improve his draft stock in front of friends, family, and a national television audience. His partner in crime along the defensive line - Theiren Cockran — leads the team and is third in the conference in sacks with 6.5 will also have opportunities to get into the Badgers’ backfield. Also, linebackers Damien Wilson and Aaron Hill will be counted upon heavily. The Gophers will have to force turnovers if they want to win on Saturday.

Wisconsin Defense: Wisconsin’s defense has been stunning this year. The Badgers are second in the conference allowing just 288.3 yards per game. I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong when I said the Badgers would be weak defensively, especially in the secondary. That’s been far from the case. In fact, the Badgers’ pass defense is second in the conference in pass defense, surrounding just 189 yards per game and allowing opponents to complete just over fifty percent of their passes. Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense has been a smashing success, to say the least.

Defensive Edge: Wisconsin

SPECIAL TEAMS

Minnesota Special Teams: Punter Peter Mortell is third in the Big Ten in punting averaging with a 42.8 yards per punt average. He’s been without a doubt the best special teams performer this year for Minnesota. On the other end of the ball, return man Marcus Jones could be the wildcard in this game with big play ability.

Wisconsin Special Teams: Wisconsin has a small dog kick field goals. Yep, Jack Russell is their kicker. He’s connected on 5-of-7 field goal attempts and all 26 of his PATs which is not bad for a little pooch. Returner Kenzel Doe leads the conference in kick return average at 26.9 yards per game.

Special Teams Edge: Minnesota

COACHING

Minnesota Coaching: If the Gophers win one of their next two games, I believe Jerry Kill and/or Tracy Claeys should win Big Ten Coach of the Year honors. Nobody thought the Gophers would be sitting at 8-2 after they started the conference season 0-2. It’s a credit to Kill and his staff that the Gophers are in this position because they really are a year ahead of schedule. I didn’t think the Gophers would have their breakout year until 2014 and a win over the Badgers would solidify this as a breakout year.

Wisconsin Coaching: Gary Andersen is another Big Ten Coach of the Year candidate. His Badgers are 8-2 and their only losses were on the road to Ohio State and Arizona State. The players have really bought into Andersen and his staff and the Badgers are a really good, well coached football team.

Coaching Edge: Minnesota

PREDICTION

Minnesota 24, Wisconsin 21: On paper, this is a horrible match up for the Gophers. But, as famous ESPN GameDay host Lee Corso likes to say: “Not so fast my friend!”

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