Believe it or not these are two very similar teams. Both rank top 3 defensively in the Big Ten for total yards, rushing and passing yards allowed. On offense they are both are top 3 in rushing while being bottom 3 in passing. Top of the league in time of possession, near bottom of the league in red zone defense. There are similar stats between these two teams all over the Big Ten stats pages.
Both have quarterbacks who have been great at times and pretty ugly at others while relying heavily on the ground game for offensive rhythm.
Here is a test, guess which quarterback belongs with which stat line...
- QB-A - 1,650 yards, 59% completion, 9 TD, 9 INT
- QB-B - 1,735 yards, 59%, 9 TD, 7 INT
Pretty similar eh?
There are 21 other guys on the field. So can the Gophers beat the Badgers? Here are the keys to a huge Gopher win.
- Good Tanner, Bad Graham - This may be the one and only key to the game. I know I said there are 21 other guys on the field, and both teams really rely upon their running game, but if one of these quarterbacks performs significantly better than the other, that should be all the difference. So for Tanner...no picks, complete about 70% of your passes and make a few key conversions.
- Stop the run - Captain Obvious back with another key that is a painfully obvious. Which ever defense can slow the run is going to have a significant advantage. This was a 2-man rushing attack until Chez Mellusi was injured and out for the season. Braelon Allen is the primary ball-carrier now. But like Minnesota, this is a deep stable of backs with a very good offensive line. Regardless of who is getting the carries, stop the run and make Mertz pass.
- Fewer mistakes - Iowa beat the Gophers by doing what Iowa does. They are not that impressive but they will make fewer mistakes, waiting for you to make them. Whatever that may be in this Badger game, turnovers or penalties or stupid plays called, make fewer mistakes than your opponent.
OPPOSING PLAYERS TO WATCH
- #5 QB - Graham Mertz - So much rides on whether or not Mertz has a good game or decides to do that thing where he throws the ball to the other team. The latter would be really nice of him.
- #5 LB - Leo Chenal - Very well could win the Butkus award for the nation’s top linebacker along with possible All-American honors. He’s just very good. I won’t want to hear his name much after they announce the defensive starters.
I really don’t know what to think about this game. A win here to keep the Axe and earn an 8-win season change the outlook of this 2021 season dramatically. Do I think we are going to win? No. Do I think Wisconsin is really going to win? Not really.
I’m going to ride optimism and hope for the best.
Minnesota - 21
Wisconsin - 17