The Call: Gophers vs. No. 16 Wisconsin

  • Updated: November 11, 2011 - 11:12 PM
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Montee Ball is a big, strong part of Wisconsin’s powerful offense

THE OPPONENT

Take away two big plays, and the Badgers might be ranked second in the nation right now. Their title hopes are gone, but the fearsome offense remains.

GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. WISCONSIN DEFENSE

The only way to beat the Badgers, judging by their first nine games, is to outscore them. It can be done; Michigan State threw for 290 yards on the Badgers, and Ohio State rushed for 268 yards, keeping them in games in which Wisconsin scored 31 and 29 points. The Badgers are only so-so at stopping teams in the red zone, where Gray's scrambling will come in handy. Advantage: Wisconsin

GOPHERS DEFENSE VS. WISCONSIN OFFENSE

The Badgers' numbers are frightening, and their talent is, too. The Big Ten's biggest offensive line blocks for perhaps the league's best quarterback, Russell Wilson, who has thrown for 21 touchdowns, and best tailback, Montee Ball, who has run for 21 more. Advantage: Wisconsin

SPECIAL TEAMS

Minnesota's punting has been inconsistent this season, but its punt coverage has been nearly perfect. That will be put to the test this week, however, because Badgers sophomore Jared Abbrederis is the Big Ten's most electrifying punt returner, averaging 16.9 yards per return. Advantage: Wisconsin

INTANGIBLES

The Gophers' confidence has recovered from their awful start to the Big Ten season, and motivation won't be a problem with Paul Bunyan's Axe at stake. On the other hand, with two losses already, the Badgers are no longer taking any game lightly. TCF Bank Stadium should be packed, but who knows how many will be Badgers fans. Advantage: Minnesota

PREDICTION

MarQueis Gray should be able to find some weaknesses in Wisconsin's defense, and the Gophers should be competitive early. But the Badgers offense is relentless, enormous and mostly mistake-free. Eventually that firepower, driven by Ball's big gains, overwhelms a game but overrun Gophers defense.

Badgers 45

Gophers 24

NUMBERS TO KNOW

84

Tackles by Gophers safety Kim Royston, who played two seasons for Wisconsin.

11.1

Yards per pass attempt by QB Russell Wilson, tying Ty Detmer's 1989 NCAA record.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT

Brandon Kirksey

Gophers DT has job of taking on Big Ten's biggest offensive line.

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