The Wisconsin Badgers (6-5, 4-4 Big Ten) will take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-4, 4-4 Big Ten) in the battle for the Axe on Saturday.
The Badgers are coming off a victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers. After an excellent final drive, Wisconsin got above .500 just before the rivalry match against Minnesota.
The Gophers are coming off a loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes, losing 13-10. Minnesota has had a productive season and is looking to hold on to Paul Bunyan’s Axe for another season.
Here are some key items to watch for in Saturday’s rivalry game:
Can the Wisconsin Badgers slow down Mohamed Ibrahim?
Ibrahim has been one of Minnesota’s most impactful players on offense. The fifth-year senior has posted a remarkable stat line in 2022, rushing for 1,524 yards and 19 touchdowns. Ibrahim has run for over 100 yards in every game this season and is coming off an impressive performance against Iowa, where he ran for 263 yards and a touchdown.
The Badgers have been a top defense against the run this season. Wisconsin has allowed an average of 108.4 rushing yards per game, ranking as the #14 rushing defense. The Badgers have held their own on the defensive end but now face a challenge going against one of the Big Ten’s best running backs.
Ibrahim is one of the most dynamic running backs in the nation, and seeing how the Badgers contain him will be a key item to watch on Saturday.
How will the Wisconsin Badgers offense fare against one of the nation’s best defenses?
The Golden Gophers have been one of the most consistent defenses in college football this year. Minnesota ranks at #6 in yards allowed, allowing only 274.5 yards per game. Additionally, Minnesota has allowed only 13.1 points per game, the 3rd best in the country.
The Badgers offense had its fair share of struggles against a top defense in their matchup against Iowa in week ten. In that matchup, the Badgers couldn’t get their run game going. However, with Chez Mellusi in the backfield, the Badgers could get their rushing attack up to snuff.
Wisconsin will need a big game from all their offensive weapons to regain control of the Axe, making their offensive performance an item to watch.
Will the Badgers wide receivers bounce back?
Although the Badgers came away with a victory last weekend, it was not pretty. The offense looked discombobulated at times, and the play of the wide receivers was one of the biggest reasons.
Graham Mertz struggled to connect with his favorite target Chimere Dike. The junior receiver dropped two passes last weekend, and Keontez Lewis also had a ball go right through his hands. Against a stout defense, the Badgers receivers must have a bounce-back game.
The Badgers have struggled in recent weeks through the air. If there were ever a time to turn it around, it would be now against their rivals.
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