Breakdown: No.16 Wisconsin at Minnesota

Needing to win out in order to have a chance at making a BCS bowl and winning a fourth straight Big Ten championships, No.16 Wisconsin heads across the border to take on an eight-win Minnesota squad. Badger Nation breaks down the matchup.

No.16 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) at Minnesota (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, November 23 at 2:30 p.m. CT

Stadium –TCF Bank Stadium (50,805/FieldTurf)

Television –ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, Tom Luginbill)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas), Sirius 138, XM 194

Series –Minnesota leads series 58-56-8 (Minnesota leads 37-23-2 in Minneapolis)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 38-13, on Oct.20, 2013 in Madison

Last week's Badger Nation game coverage

Last meeting's Badger Nation game coverage

Series Notes

During its nine-game win streak over the Gophers — which includes four wins in Minneapolis — Wisconsin has averaged 39.1 points while holding Minnesota to an average of 15.2.

The Badgers' nine-game win streak vs. the Golden Gophers matches the longest in the history of the rivalry. Minnesota also won nine straight over the Badgers from 1933 to 1941.

The Badgers are 18-5 vs. Minnesota since Barry Alvarez became UW's head coach in 1990.

The Badgers lead the series 38-24-3 since the introduction of Paul Bunyan's Axe in 1948.

Wisconsin Notes

Few teams have been able to combine as effective units on both offense and defense this season than Wisconsin. The Badgers rank fifth nationally in scoring defense (14.0) while ranking 19th in scoring offense (38.5). That average scoring mar- gin of +24.5 points is seventh-best among FBS teams.

Of Wisconsin's 15 plays of 50-plus yards, 10 have gone for touchdowns. Wisconsin tied for second nationally last season with 15 offensive plays of at least 50 yards (trailing only Utah State's 18).

The Badgers racked up seven runs of at least 30 yards vs. Indiana. That's more runs of 30-plus yards than 64 FBS teams have recorded this season.

Minnesota Notes

Prior to their current four-game Big Ten win streak, the Gophers' last such streak came in 1973 when they won at Northwestern, against Purdue, at Illinois and against Wisconsin. The Gophers' most recent five-game conference win streak in the same season came in 1962.

Minnesota has played 23 games since the start of the 2012 season. In those 23 games, the Gophers are 14-9 overall. Minnesota was 5-18 in its previous 23 games from Sept. 11, 2010 to Nov. 26, 2011.

Minnesota is one of 18 schools that return all nine assistants from 2012 to 2013. The Gophers and Northwestern are the only schools that have had the same nine assistants for three straight years.

Minnesota is No. 20 in the nation in rushing offense, having run the ball 466 times for 2,185 (average 218.5 yards per game, 4.69 yards per carry). The 2,185 yards is the most for Minnesota since it rushed for 3,277 in 2005 (first time with more than 2,000 yards in a season since 2006 when it had 2007 yards).

The Gophers have eight interceptions this year (by eight different players, with two going for touchdowns) and now have 21 interceptions in their last 23 games. In Minnesota's prior 23 games, it recorded 13 interceptions.

Breakdown

To say the Wisconsin defense has been stellar throughout the first year of head coach Gary Andersen would be an understatement. The Badgers – thanks in part to a somewhat watered down Big Ten – rank fifth nationally in scoring defense (14.0 points per game) and sixth in total defense (287.8 yards per game).

UW also is in the top 12 nationally in rushing defense and passing defense, have played arguably its best football over the past three weeks and virtually have nothing to complain about, unless you are Sojourn Shelton.

"We just got to get the ball out," said the true freshman, who leads the team with four interceptions. "The coaches have stressed and emphasized it in drills, but as players we just have to make plays. We put ourselves in position and we'll get it or two, but we have to keep going at it. As a team, we need to have a knack for the ball and go for the rip attempts."

The Badgers have checked off a number of their in-game defensive goals off throughout the season, but the one area Wisconsin has yet to check off is generating three turnovers a game. UW is tied for 83rd in the country – with 15 other teams – with 15 turnovers on the season and is 37th in the country with a plus-4 turnover margin. It's not necessarily a bad thing, considering they are tied with BCS No.1 Alabama in both categories, but the Badgers are expecting much more.

"We're solid tacklers and when it's one guy on the ball and another guy comes in, that's the shot we have to take," said Shelton, as UW has generated two turnovers in six games this season, including two in the first two minutes last weekend against Indiana. "We have to have more attempts to strip the ball when we have somebody wrapped up. It's something that has to happen and I think it will happen because we emphasize it too much."

Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's 3-4 defense is based on pressure, deception and turnovers. In 2010, Aranda's Hawaii defense led the nation in turnovers caused (38), while ranking second in the nation in interceptions (23) and ninth in fumbles recovered (15), as well as tying the school record for most defensive touchdowns with five.

While secondary coach Bill Busch wants more turnovers like everyone else, especially with the opportunity to get the ball back into the hands of the Badgers' red-hot defense, he's made it a point to not over emphasize making interception. "If we do that, that's when stupid stuff happens," he said. "I tell the guys you have a chance to make one interception each game, and those are the ones we have to make." He also noted the Badgers have gone against a bunch of veteran quarterbacks this season – Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, Ohio State's Braxton Miller, Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase to name three – who simply don't give defenses the opportunity to make many plays. "We've played really, really good quarterbacks, especially in the conference," said Busch. "We've played great quarterbacks. They don't give you layups." Sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson might not be considered an elite quarterback yet in the Big Ten, but the Minnesota signal caller has made plenty of strides since debuting last season against the Badgers in Camp Randall. Throwing for 1,128 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year compared to nine interceptions, Nelson set career marks in completions (16), yards (298) and touchdowns (4) in a 42-39 win at Indiana.

Minnesota is tied with Wisconsin with only 15 takeaways on the season, but the Gophers have only committed more than one turnover once this season (two at Iowa).

"The more opportunities you get to play, the better you are going to get, and he's certainly a lot better than he was a year ago," said Minnesota coach Jerry Kill. "He's playing at a very high level right now with a lot of confidence. When you play your first game and now you play with where he's at now, you can't put a price on experience."

This is going to be, as Kill said, "a good old-fashioned Midwest football game," especially with temperatures expected to be bone-chilling cold.

Playing the No.25 team in the BCS on the road is another opportunity for a statement on the voters, who only have two more chances to view Wisconsin and three weeks to move them high enough to get into the top14.

Wisconsin is favored to win by 15 in a rivalry that has been mostly irrelevant outside the Midwest the last eight years, so doing so would put another halfway decent win on the resume. Gary Andersen doesn't want to publicly gripe about where his team is ranked, but he might not have to after a big road win over the Gophers that should be full of style points.

Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 21

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 9-1*

Against the Spread: 8-1-1

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