Wisconsin had a 14-game winning streak against the Gophers that ended in Madison on Nov. 24, 2018. Bret Bielema was the coach for half of those Badgers victories, going 7-0 against Glen Mason (one game), Tim Brewster (four) and Jerry Kill (two) from 2006 through 2012.

The Gophers are 15-point favorites to end the Bielema domination on Saturday, when he brings his new Big Ten team, Illinois, to the Twin Cities to take on coach P.J. Fleck's first-place juggernaut.

Controversy comes easy for Bielema, and he ran into another one last month when he was at his weekly news conference and lamented the manpower shortage the Illinois offensive line is facing after this season.

Bielema's answer to a question included this: "I don't believe we have a player in the two-deep that they've recruited here over the last three years that is really, significantly doing anything for us in the playing department … that's a major concern."

A local TV reporter, Bret Beherns (how's that for a name coincidence?) tweeted that quote with the introduction: "Bret Bielema not holding back on his roster today, especially OL …"

One better choice of words — specifically, not especially — by Beherns and Illini Neighborhood would not have gone after the first-year coach with such venom. Previous coach Lovie Smith had five offensive linemen in his 2019-20 recruiting classes, resulting in two third-stringers and three transfers.

Apparently, Bielema was able to convince the troops that it wasn't the indictment on the entire roster for which it was first perceived, since the Illini went to Penn State and turned it into a Sad Valley with an astounding 20-18 upset. It was advertised as the first nine-overtime contest in FBS football, although the last seven of those were simply tradeoffs of two-point conversions.

Two groups that remained unimpressed were oddsmakers and gamblers: Illinois still managed to be a 2 ½-point underdog at home to lowly Rutgers last week. Bielema's squad played down to those expectations with a 20-14 loss, putting them at 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten.

And now, if the Gophers were to put the expected thumping on Illinois and tighten their grip on Big Ten West supremacy, Bielema can expect a fair share of taunts from the home crowd.

For this much is certain: The veteran loyalists in their maroon sweaters have not forgotten the disrespect shown to Coach Brew on Oct. 9, 2010, at Camp Randall, where Bielema infamously went for a two-point conversion with the Badgers leading 41-16 and 6 ½ minutes remaining.

Brewster gave Bielema an evil point at the postgame handshake (41-23, Badgers) and complained in his postgame media season.

This was both the last moment when the maroon sweaters sided with Coach Brew on anything (he was fired two weeks later), and also gave Bielema a place of dishonor in the Ski U Mah Hall of Villains.

"It was on the card," Blake Sorensen said. "That's what Bret said. It was on his 'when-to-go-for-two card.' "

And then Sorensen, a standout senior on Bielema's first of three consecutive Rose Bowl teams, laughed slightly and said: "Bret hated that guy's guts.''

Meaning Brewster.

Most of that animosity stemmed from recruiting. Bielema had been hand-picked by Barry Alvarez, the Badgers' turnaround king, as his replacement for the 2006 season. Brewster was hired in January 2007, replacing a real head coach in Glen Mason, and leaped into recruiting with a style …

Let's just say with tactics that Bielema and other rival coaches felt managed to exceed the wide limits for offering bad information on the competition.

That didn't play with Sorensen, Eden Prairie linebacker (and also offensive contributor) and the Star Tribune's Metro Player of the Year for 2006, and not offered a scholarship by Mason.

"I originally committed to Northwestern, but then Bret became the head coach at Wisconsin, we had good conversations and he was the reason I flipped,'' Sorensen said. "Brewster came in late. I always remember him in our living room. He told me, 'You can carry the flag out for us at the Rose Bowl.' It was so over-the-top.

"The cliché fit: Used car salesman.''

And Bielema? "I can't say enough good things about Bret,'' Sorensen said. "He has some bravado, obviously, but if you played for him, he's there for you whenever you need him.

"I live in Chicago now. Bret was in town this summer and we went to a Cubs game. That was a great day.

"It didn't work out for him in Arkansas. Not the best fit. He's a Big Ten guy. Run the ball. Play defense. He'll get there, and with the wide-open transfer market … look at Michigan State, with 40 new players [recruits and transfers].

"I don't think it takes five years anymore to turn it. I think a good coach like Bret might be able to do it in three."