Good afternoon from Camp Randall Stadium, where the Gophers take on Wisconsin (2:30 p.m. ESPN2) and will try to end the Badgers’ 14-game winning streak in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Also on the line for the Gophers (5-6, 2-6 Big Ten) is a chance to earn bowl eligibility with a sixth win.
Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who has missed three of the past four games because of a concussion, will return to the starting lineup. That will enable the Badgers to redshirt sophomore backup Jack Coan, who has played in four games this season. A fifth appearance would use a year of eligibility.
Badgers right tackle David Edwards, an AFCA first-team All-America selection last year, is out because of an arm injury. Redshirt freshman Logan Bruss is behind Edwards on the depth chart.
Gophers defensive tackle O.J. Smith, who missed the past six games because of a concussion, and defensive back Terell Smith, who missed last week's game because of a leg injury, were suited up and participating in warmups, a sign that will return today.
If the Gophers lose and finish 5-7 for the second consecutive season, they almost certainly will not go to a bowl. Through Friday night, there were 75 bowl-eligible teams (counting three head-to-head matchups of five-win teams on Saturday) to fill 78 slots, and it’s likely that all 78 will be filled by teams with six wins. Wake Forest (5-6) was leading Duke 44-7 in the third quarter and if the Demon Deacons held on to win, they would be the 76th team to gain bowl eligibility with six wins. That would bump a 5-7 Gophers from consideration to fill any vacant bowl spot because two other five-win teams – Air Force (993) and Kansas State (984) – have higher Academic Progress rate scores than the Gophers’ 983 and would be in line to fill any vacant bowl spots before Minnesota. Vanderbilt (993) also has a higher score, but the Commodores (5-6) could reach six wins with a victory over Tennessee (5-6) later Saturday. The Gophers used that APR route in 2015 to play in the Quick Lane Bowl.
Some player notes:
Gophers junior wide receiver Tyler Johnson will try to build on an outstanding season. He leads the Big Ten in receiving yards (1,036 yards), receiving yards per game (94.2), is tied for first with 10 touchdown catches and ranks second with 70 receptions. He is 89 yards behind Ron Johnson (1,125 yards in 2000) for the Gophers’ single-season receiving yards record and one TD from tying Johnson and Omar Douglas in 1993 for the program’s single-season TD catch record.
True freshman wide receiver Rashod Bateman has 47 catches for 648 yards and six touchdowns. His catches are a team record for a freshman, and he needs 7 yards to break Ernie Wheelwright’s freshman record 654 yards in 2004 and one TD to tie Wheelwright’s mark.
Redshirt freshman running back Mohamed Ibrahim has rushed 145 times for 815 yards in eight games. His rushing yards are the third most for a Gophers freshman, trailing Darrell Thompson (1,376 in 1986) and Laurence Maroney (1,121 in 2003).
Wisconsin sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor has rushed for a nation’s-best 1,869 yards this season and can reach 2,000 with 131 yards today. He has 3,846 rushing yards this year with two games to play, and that ranks as the eighth-highest two-year rushing total in FBS history.