2:30 p.m. Saturday, Camp Randall Stadium (ESPN2, 100.3-FM)
A look at the Badgers
Coming off a 13-1 season that included a Big Ten West title and an Orange Bowl victory over Miami (Fla.), Wisconsin entered 2018 with high hopes and was a trendy pick to make the College Football Playoff. However, a 24-21 home loss to Brigham Young in Week 3 all but ended those dreams, and a 38-13 loss at Michigan on Oct. 13 showed the Badgers’ offensive flaws. Double-digit losses at Northwestern and Penn State have followed, though the Badgers showed resolve by rallying to win 47-44 in triple overtime at Purdue. Against the Gophers, they’ll try to keep possession of Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the 15th consecutive year.
Player to watch: Jack Coan, QB
With starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook listed as questionable because of a concussion, Coan, a sophomore, is on track to start for the fourth time in the past five games. The 6-3, 211-pounder is coming off his best performance, completing 16 of 24 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns at Purdue. Though Wisconsin relies heavily on the run game and Jonathan Taylor, the nation’s leading rusher, the Badgers need a passing threat to keep defenses honest. Coan has been up and down in that regard, going 9-for-20 for 60 yards with two interceptions in a 22-10 loss at Penn State. “[Hornibook is] way more experienced, but they’re very similar passers, similar frames,’’ Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “They run the offense, both, very efficiently. They’re good in the play-action game.’’
From the coach: Paul Chryst
The Badgers went 34-7 in Chryst’s first three seasons in Madison, but they’re 7-4 this year and are trying to improve their bowl positioning with a win. Chryst believes there’s plenty still to play for, especially the rivalry against the Gophers. Wisconsin hasn’t lost to Minnesota at home since 1994, and Chryst is emphasizing what this game means to his program. “We’ll hit on it every day,’’ he said, “and what’s most powerful is when your players, those who have played in those games, hit on it. There is no question that all of our players by the end of the week will know how important this game is.’’