Breakdown: Minnesota

Looking to best its border rival for a ninth straight year and take one step closer to Indianapolis, Wisconsin host Minnesota at Camp Randall Saturday morning. Badger Nation looks at the matchup.

Minnesota (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten) vs. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, October 20 at 11 a.m. CT

Stadium – Camp Randall Stadium (80,321/Grass)

Television – ESPNU (Tom Hart and John Congemi)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Minnesota leads 58-55-8 (Wisconsin leads 32-21-6 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 42-13, on November 12, 2011 in Minneapolis

Last week's Badger Nation game coverage

Last meeting's Badger Nation game coverage

Series Notes

Wisconsin and Minnesota will meet for the 122nd time in the most-played rivalry in the FBS, a series that dates back to 1890.

The Badgers have won eight straight games against Minnesota and can match the longest win streak by either team in the series with a win Saturday. The longest win streak by either team in the series is Minnesota's nine consecutive wins from 1933-41.

During its current win streak, Wisconsin has scored an average of 39.3 points per game against the Gophers and posted a winning margin of 15.5 points.

The winning team has scored at least 31 points in each of the last 12 meetings between the Badgers and Gophers.

Bret Bielema is 6-0 against Minnesota, including a 3-0 mark at home.

Wisconsin Notes

UW has won 11 straight Big Ten games at home, the second-longest active home conference win streak in the nation. Only Northern Illinois (14) has a longer active streak of home wins in conference play.

Wisconsin is 23-6 in its last 29 games. Each of the Badgers' six losses have come by seven points or less, with an average margin of 4.2 points (25 total points).

After averaging 16.3 points per game over their first three contests, the Badgers have scored an average of 33.2 points over their last four games.

Wisconsin had 11 plays go for at least 20 yards against Purdue, including seven runs. UW had seven runs of 20-plus yards in its first six games combined.

UW's 20-game home win streak is the second-longest in school history, trailing only a run of 25 consecutive home wins from 1900-03. Bret Bielema also directed UW's third-longest streak, a run of 16 straight home wins from 2006-08.

Minnesota Notes

The Gophers have used 76 players through six games this season. Thirty-two of those 76 players (42.1 percent) had never played a game for Minnesota prior to this season. The Gophers have used 10 true freshman this year, 10 redshirt freshman and 12 additional players who made their Maroon and Gold debut this season.

A win on Saturday would be coach Kill's first Big Ten road win and the first for the Gophers in a league road game since they won 38-34 at Illinois on Nov. 13, 2010.

The Gophers pass defense has been staunch this year. Minnesota boasts the ninth-best pass defense in the country (second in Big Ten) allowing only 162.50 yards per game. The Gophers also rank eighth nationally in pass efficiency defense (first in Big Ten) with a 98.00 rating and 17th in total defense (third in Big Ten), as they allow only 313.17 yards per game.

The Gophers have allowed 119 points this year after allowing 210 points in six games last year, which means they are allowing only 19.8 points per game compared to 35.0 points per game at this time last year.

Senior Troy Stoudermire is the Big Ten record holder in kickoff return yards with 3,233. Stoudermire is just 284 yards shy of Tyron Carrier's NCAA record. Carrier recorded 3,517 yards at Houston from 2008-11. Stoudermire recorded 1,083 return yards in 2008 and 1,057 yards in 2009. In 2010, he had 789 yards and he had 173 yards last year before missing the final eight games with an injury. He has 131 return yards this year.

Minnesota scored only 13 points in an Oct. 13 loss to Northwestern. It was the second straight game that the Gophers scored 13 points (also Sept. 29 at Iowa). Last Saturday was the 23rd time that a team led by coach Kill scored 13 or fewer points with games remaining on the schedule. Twenty of the previous 22 times, coach Kill's teams bounced back and scored more than 13 points the next game. The two games where his team failed to score more than 13 points were the two most recent games.

Prediction

As he stood 15 yards from Paul Bunyan's Axe following Tuesday's practice, redshirt freshman quarterback and Wisconsin native Joel Stave spoke passionately about the border rivalry with Minnesota; a series that Wisconsin has dominated over the last 17 years.

Growing up following Wisconsin, Stave didn't have to be persuaded to touch the trophy before and after every practice.

"It reminds us of what we're playing for," Stave said.

After six weeks of being somewhat under the microscope, Wisconsin's offense finally found its niche at Purdue, registering 645 yards of offense to pound Purdue and take a commanding lead in the Big Ten Leaders Division. A Wisconsin win Saturday combined with a Purdue loss at Ohio State would give the Badgers a 2.5-game lead over the Boilermakers, Hoosiers and Illini with four games to go.

Part of the reason Wisconsin has been put in this position is because of the play from Stave. Taking over the starting role in the fourth week, Stave, like the offense, has evolved. He leads the Big Ten in pass efficiency in conference play at 149.9 (among players with min. 50 attempts). Stave is 40-for-69 with four touchdowns and two interceptions in Big Ten play and is averaging 215.3 yards per league game.

"It's so much easier (watching your own film) because you know what you saw on the field," said Stave. "You can compare it to what you see on film (and) try to make sure it matches up, making sure I don't see different things on film than I saw on the field. If I am seeing things differently, that's not going in the right direction."

Stave is averaging 9.4 yards per pass attempt in Big Ten play, the best mark among conference QBs, and the consensus is that the redshirt freshman is still trying to find his groove. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said Thursday that Stave has to practice a lot better during the week, but says, "he's a gamer." Stave admits that he needs to start understanding coverages and playing better, as each game he makes a throw that puts his offense in jeopardy.

"I have to have the game slow down for me still," said Stave. "It continues to slow down every week, but it's not where I would like it to be. Just working at that, seeing things quicker and understanding what I need to do when this guy does something to counter.

"The game has to slow down so I can speed up."

An example would be his interception in the second half against Purdue, one of only two throws Stave attempted in the second half. Although he threw into triple coverage, a film study revealed that the pass likely would have been completed had Stave thrown the ball sooner when Chase Hammond was in single coverage.

Instead of immediately throwing the ball, Stave admitted to spending too much time looking back and forth instead of just throwing the ball. As a result, he knew he made a mistake as soon as he threw the pass.

"As a competitor, it's hard to be satisfied until I got 40 for 40 and six touchdowns," said Stave. "Until you have that type of game, it's hard to be completely satisfied with it … I don't see 40 passes coming quite yet."

Don't expect it this week either against Minnesota, a program that has the ninth best pass defense in the country (allowing only 162.5 yards per game) and the 59th rush defense (150.6 per game). A week after Wisconsin's offensive line and running game worked harmoniously to the tune of 467 rushing yards. Throw in the fact that Minnesota's offense is incredibly banged up and could be without its biggest playmaker in MarQueis Gray, the Gophers will need a miracle (a big reason they are a 16.5-point underdog).

Minnesota's defense needs to keep this game close because the Gophers' offense won't be able to keep pace. The Gophers are banged up and haven't been able to stop the run, meaning UW should make it nine in a row.

Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 17

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 6-1

Against the Spread: 5-1

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