Schedule Tour: Minnesota

With a little over a month to the start of the 2010 Wisconsin football season, Badger Nation goes game by game for an early breakdown of the opposition. The fifth game is Wisconsin's homecoming match-up against long-time rival Minnesota, a school that would only recognize Paul Bunyan's Axe by a picture in a history book.

MADISON - When Tim Brewster first stepped to the podium at Big Ten Meeting Day in Chicago, he was a fiery go getter, anxious for his first head coaching job. Many in Gopher land felt that Brewster, considered a top recruiting salesman in college and a X's and O's man in the NFL, would be able to build on the Glen Mason run game identity and return Minnesota to the top of the conference.

After a program worse 1-11 record his first year, Minnesota has gone to bowl games in each of the last two seasons. But losing back-to-back Insight Bowls isn't what people had in mind when they built the lavish TCF Bank Stadium.

Is Minnesota ever going to turn a corner? When will Minnesota break through against Wisconsin? It's been seven years since the Badgers last lost the Axe, making UW's six-game win streak the longest such streak by either team in the history of the oldest college football rivalry. Don't be surprised if the streak gets increased to eight.

Minnesota returns only 11 starters from a 6-7 2009 team, meaning it was already going to be dicey for Brewster's defense. So it made matters worse when senior and former Wisconsin defensive back Kim Royston broke his leg in spring drills and senior Kyle Theret (the only two returning starters) was cited for DUI, a big blow seeing as he made 73 tackles with a team-leading three interceptions and four broken up passes.

It gets better. The middle linebacker situation was supposed to be solid, but Gary Tinsley was charged with drunk driving and fleeing the police, while linebacker Sam Maresh was ruled academically ineligible after battling through open heart surgery and another surgery to remove a tumor in his calf. Lots of pieces need to be fitted in place for Minnesota to be successful.

Even Minnesota's most experience player – Adam Weber – is short on weapons. Returning for his senior season, Weber – the school's all-time leading passer after throwing for 2,582 yds, 13 TD, 15 INTs last season - won't have the luxury of throwing to Eric Decker or listening to a familiar voice, as he will be on his fourth offensive coordinator in four seasons with former UW quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton taking over.

With the offense being short on firepower, expect sophomore MarQueis Gray to see his role increased in the offense. A quarterback by trade, Gray has a wealth of talent that can be used to run, pass or catch the ball on any offensive series. That could be beneficial for the Gophers, seeing as running back DeLeon Eskridge (once labeled the next Laurence Maroney) can't stay healthy.

The receivers are decent with juniors Da'Jon McKnight (17 catches for 311 yards over the last five games) and Troy Stoudemire (team's leading returning receiver with 26 passes) and the Gophers return all five starting offensive linemen, providing some semblance of protection.

Credit Brewster for being aggressive in his non-conference scheduling, welcoming USC to Minneapolis this season, but this could be his last season if he doesn't turn things around. The Gophers haven't won in Madison since 1994. No person can honestly say that streak will end here.

If you go

Date/Time - Saturday, October 9 at 11 a.m.

Arena – Camp Randall, Madison

Series – Minnesota leads 59-52-8

Last Meeting – Wisconsin beat Minnesota, 31-28, October 3, 2009 in Minneapolis

Early Prediction - Wisconsin 35, Minnesota 17


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