Five Keys to Victory: Minnesota

Paul Bunyan's Axe and border bragging rights are on the line Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium when Wisconsin and Minnesota meet for the 122nd time in its storied history. Badger Nation looks at the five keys to victory.

First let's review our prediction for the Purdue game. Though we correctly identified the keys (PU third-down completion rate based on a poor running game, UW secondary making a big play, UW O-line coming to life, UW defensive ends disrupting the pass game) I failed to correctly estimate how well UW would perform in those key areas. Thus my game prediction was a poor one. I regret the error.

On to Minnesota.

1, Start Early

Wisconsin has had big early leads in five of the last six home games against the Gophers, with 2008 being the exception. In order for the Badgers to run their current winning streak to nine games against rival Minnesota, an early lead will help. In two conference games to date, Minnesota has allowed only seven second-half points. Both of those games were losses for the Gophers in large part because of first half defensive collapses.

2,The Badgers Running Game

No surprise here. After getting into fourth gear against the Illini, the Badgers shifted into fifth gear against Purdue, running the ball for 467 yards. With Minnesota ranking 59th nationally against the run, the Badgers establishing a running game early will help open up the passing attack.

3,The Gophers Run Defense

In scoring 21 first half points, Northwestern ran the ball for 6.1 yards per carry and finished the game with 208 rushing yards. Iowa tailback Mark Weisman ran for 155 first-half yards against the Gophers the week before as Iowa scored 24 first half points. Weisman ran for only 22 yards in the second half.

4, MarQueis Gray's health

Gray is not certain to start against the Badgers. In fact, reports surfaced Friday that true freshman Philip Nelson will get his first career start. Nelson was a three-star quarterback ranked No.46 in the country by coming out of Mankato (MN) West High School. Minnesota released its depth chart Friday, and Nelson was listed as the No. 2 quarterback alongside Gray, with Max Shortell still as the starter. Shortell has struggled in Big Ten games, completing 29-of-52 passes for 300 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. No matter who actually starts between Shortell and Nelson, the Badgers won't have to deal with Gray, who is Minnesota most dangerous offensive weapon.

5, Stopping the Run

If the Badgers defensive line and linebackers can take advantage of a weak Gopher offensive line (85th in the nation with only 3.9 yards per attempt) it will force Minnesota into precarious down and distance attempts, yielding turnovers for the Badgers.

Fearless Prediction

They Keys to the Game are short this week as the path to victory should be very basic - run the ball, stop the run, pressure the quarterback. Wisconsin will score early on long runs and bad tackling from the Minnesota secondary. Minnesota's offense will not get going as the O-Line will struggle to make any running room against a stout Badgers defense. It is important to note that the Gophers do not give up under Coach Jerry Kill. Just how much of a factor Kill's recent hospitalization for on-going concerns for seizures affects Minnesota is yet to be seen.

Badgers score enough early points for a comfortable victory, 34-13.

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