22 Points. That's the anticipated margin of victory for Wisconsin as predicted by gambling experts this evening. That's a hefty spread. As discussed by Jeffrick yesterday, Brewster's Gophers have lost to Wisconsin the last three years by a combined 13 points.
I'm not saying that Minnesota should be favored to win this game. They shouldn't. But 22 points? Don't bet against the Gophers on that spread.
Michigan State was able to stuff the Wisconsin running game and slow down John Clay to just 80 yards rushing. If Cosgrove's defense can play at the same level as the Northwestern game, they can prevent Clay from running wild. Scott Tolzien is one of the more efficient quarterbacks in the Big Ten, but Wisconsin is a run-first-pass-second team. Slow the Badger run, and their offense won't be firing on all cylinders.
Minnesota's offense put up over 20 points against both USC and Northwestern, both quality opponents. If the Gopher offense performs in a similar fashion to those games, Wisconsin would have to score nearly 50 points to beat the 22 point spread. That's quite a few points for a run-first team that eats up the clock.
Now, I'm not going to predict that Minnesota will win this game. The odds, and history, are against them leaving Camp Randall victorious. Yet this isn't any game. This is the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe. The Gophers should be fired up to face their border rival.
Historically, Kevin Cosgrove's defenses have had a difficult time defending teams with a spread offense. Wisconsin doesn't run a spread offense, and they usually don't try too many trick plays. They prefer smash-mouth, in-your-face physical football. Cosgrove's defenses usually hold up well against run-first teams. The Badgers will rack up some yards and tally some points, but I doubt the game will be a lopsided blowout.
If Minnesota is to score an upset this season, Wisconsin could be the victim. I'd still bet on Wisconsin to win the game, but only by about 12 points. If Wisconsin wins, I'll be very surprised if they cover that 22 point spread.