Players to Watch: Minnesota vs Wisconsin

The battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe needs no hype. Every year, the Gophers and Badgers seem to be involved in an all-time classic. The last three meetings between the teams have been separated by a combined 13 points...

To add to the storyline, Minnesota is trying to stop a four-game skid while the Wisconsin will try to come out strong after last week's loss to Michigan St. Each team has one player who could help bring home the Axe to their team.

Minnesota's defense has obviously been struggling throughout the season, giving up and average of 30.6 points, 221.1 passing yards and 185.6 rushing yards per game. All three categories rank in the bottom third of the Big Ten. Despite the poor numbers, one player who has been one of the most consistent players on the team has been senior safety Kyle Theret. Despite missing two games due to suspension, Theret has racked up 25 tackles, one for a loss, an interception and a forced fumble. Theret is calming force and great leader on the field. He does well in coverage but can also close ground for a solid hit in the running game.

As a senior, Theret has yet the win the Axe. In last week's post-game press conference, Theret described the teams' dislike for the Badgers by saying, "nobody hates red and white more than us." If the Gophers want to be able to control the Badger offense they will need production and leadership from Theret if they want to bring the Axe back to Minnesota for the first time since 2003.

One player who has flown under the radar this season has been Wisconsin running back James White. White is a 5-10, 198-pound freshman who has torched defenses the past two weeks. Against Austin Peay, White ran wild, gaining 145 yards on just 11 carries as well as four touchdowns. Last week in the loss to Michigan St, White carried the ball 10 times for 98 yards and two scores.

White is a speedster who is a great compliment to the rumbling style of starting back John Clay. White has been able to utilize the big Wisconsin offensive line to get through holes and take off. Containing Clay is no easy task by itself. Throw in the speedy running style of White and the task becomes nearly impossible. The Gophers rush defense has looked sloppy every game thus far and will need to come up big against Wisconsin if the Gophers want to slow down the Badgers.

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