The Big Ten recognizes the Axe’s significance. With the Gophers and Badgers both moving to the West division next year, they’ll square off in the regular season finale every year from 2014 to 2019 — at least.
“To me,” Conzemius said, “there’s nothing more important than beating Wisconsin.”
Big Ten short takes
• Michigan State can clinch the Legends Division title Saturday with a win at Northwestern, but if the Spartans lose that 11 a.m. game, the Gophers’ division title hopes will still be alive for their 2:30 p.m., kickoff against Wisconsin.
The Gophers actually would control their own destiny, since they close the regular season at Michigan State. The Spartans’ defense looked surprisingly vulnerable in last week’s 41-28 win at Nebraska.
•- To reach the BCS title game, Ohio State likely needs to finish undefeated and have someone knock off both Alabama and Baylor. Florida State already has passed its toughest tests, but Auburn could be dangerous for Alabama, and then the Crimson Tide would have to survive the SEC Title game.
Baylor still has to play at Oklahoma State and TCU before playing host to Texas in the regular season finale.
• Iowa isn’t enjoying the same national attention Minnesota is getting for its turnaround this season, but after finishing 4-8 last year, the Hawkeyes are 6-4. Their three Big Ten losses came to the conference’s top three teams – Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin.
Iowa has the nation’s 12th-ranked scoring defense at 18.7 points per game. The Hawkeyes are favored to beat Michigan on Saturday and finish the regular season at Nebraska.
Big Ten power poll
1. Ohio State (10-0, 6-0): Running back Carlos Hyde is blossoming into a potential first-round draft pick.
2. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1): Gophers coach Jerry Kill said Chris Borland might be the best linebacker in the country.
3. Michigan State (9-1, 6-0): Jeremy Lankford has reached the 100-yard rushing mark in five consecutive games.
4. Gophers (8-2, 4-2): Jerry Kill is 17-18 at Minnesota. A win over Wisconsin would move him back to .500.
5. Iowa (6-4, 3-3): Kevonte Martin-Manley averages 18.8 yards per punt return, ranking third in the nation.