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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Camp Randall Stadium (80,321) -- Madison, Wisconsin. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Minnesota 3-1, Wisconsin 4-0. Away Record: Minnesota 1-1, Wisconsin 1-2. Neutral Record: Minnesota 0-0, Wisconsin 0-0. Conference Record: Minnesota 0-2, Wisconsin 2-1. Series Record: Minnesota leads, 58-55-8.
GAME NOTES: The Wisconsin Badgers will try to keep their perfect record at Camp Randall Stadium alive on Saturday afternoon, as they entertain the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a Big Ten Conference showdown.
Minnesota started off the season red hot with four consecutive wins, but things have taken a turn for the worse since Big Ten play got underway. The Gophers have dropped back-to-back games at Iowa (31-13) and at home versus Northwestern (21-13), and they have won just four of their last 20 games against conference opponents overall.
Head coach Jerry Kill apparently suffered another seizure after the Northwestern game, but is expected back on the sidelines this Saturday.
Wisconsin is coming off two straight conference victories over Illinois (31-14) and Purdue (38-14) after losing its Big Ten opener to Nebraska, 30-27. The Badgers have had an incredible home field advantage over the last few seasons, having won 20 in a row in Madison dating back to the 2009 season, the second-longest active such streak in the country.
In the storied all-time series, Minnesota holds a narrow 58-55-8 lead over Wisconsin. With this being the 122nd meeting, it is the most-played rivalry in the FBS. Wisconsin claimed last year's matchup, 42-13, in Minneapolis.
Minnesota is fresh off a sluggish 13-point effort last week against Northwestern, and on the season it ranks in the bottom half of the conference in both scoring offense (24.2 ppg) and total offense (375 ypg).
The Gophers have been alternating their two quarterbacks, with Max Shortell (.571 completion percentage, 791 yards, six TDs, four INTs) taking most of the snaps, but MarQueis Gray (60.0, 464 yards, five TDs, two INTs) having a higher efficiency rating. Neither Shortell (9-of-19, 103 yards) nor Gray (7-of-11, 66 yards, INT) were sharp in last week's defeat.
Donnell Kirkwood has more than four times as many carries as any other running back on the team, having amassed 467 yards and three touchdowns on 111 rushes. Gray is also strong running threat with 320 yards and three scores.
A.J. Barker (22 receptions, four TDs) is sixth among receivers in the Big Ten in yards with 406, but no one has stepped up opposite him in the receiving game.
The UM defense has been an asset, allowing less than 20 ppg on 313.2 ypg, although the unit has given up 27 points or more in both road games it has played.
Derrick Wells has two of the team's seven interceptions and also has a club- best 37 tackles. More than half of the Gophers' sacks have come from D.L. Wilhite (4.5) and RaShede Hageman (three).
Wisconsin's offense has been only slightly better than Minnesota's (26 ppg, 374 ypg), but it is coming off 645-yard output in last week's win over Purdue, the second-best offensive day in school history.
With 29 carries for a career-high 247 yards and three touchdowns, Montee Ball was a huge reason for the victory, and he became the Big Ten's all-time leader in career touchdowns with 72. The monster performance added to an already stellar season for the workhorse back (172 carries, 816 yards, 11 TDs).
The Badgers have also lacked continuity under center, with Joel Stave (54- of-92, 871 yards, five TDs, three INTs) and Danny O'Brien (47-of-75, 479 yards, three TDs, INT) both seeing time. Stave got the start last week, completing 12-of-21 passes for 178 yards, with both a touchdown and a pick.
Jared Abbrederis has been able to produce big numbers regardless of who's throwing him the ball. Despite missing a game, he leads the team with 31 catches and five touchdowns and is tops in the conference with 559 receiving yards.
Wisconsin's defense (18.4 ppg) has been solid against the run, surrendering just 116.6 rushing yards per game. The unit has also tightened up on third down, allowing opponents to convert only 29 percent of its attempts (32- of-110).
Mike Taylor has been a tackling machine with 72 stops, including nine behind the line of scrimmage, and Chris Borland has a team-high four sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Despite how well the unit has played at times, it only has six takeaways through seven games.
Wisconsin is certainly not a team without question marks, especially at the quarterback position, but its success at home is nothing to sneeze at. Against one of the weaker teams in the Big Ten, Ball and company should have no problem winning once again.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 17
10/17 10:43:24 ET
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