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Wisconsin Football vs. Minnesota: Three Things to Watch For

Here are three things to watch for in the clash between Wisconsin Football and Minnesota.



Wisconsin Badgers Football vs Nebraska
Nov 18, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers safety Preston Zachman (14) celebrates with defensive end Ben Barten (68) following the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s finally Axe Week, Wisconsin football fans. The Badgers are set to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday as UW looks to regain possession of the Axe after two straight losses in the series. 

Here are three things to watch for in Saturday’s rivalry showdown.

Will the Wisconsin Football Defense Limit Minnesota’s Rushing Attack?

Mike Tressel and the Badgers defense are coming off a solid performance against Nebraska. As usual, UW struggled to make stops in the first half but had a quick second-half turnaround that kept Wisconsin in it. The run defense wasn’t anything special — as has been typical with this group — but the Badgers will need to shore it up for this weekend’s matchup. 

Minnesota has several options at running back. Darius Taylor and Jordan Nubin have both logged over 100 carries and 400+ yards on the season while also having Zach Evans and Sean Tyler, who have registered 50+ carries and 200+ yards. The Gophers’ running back room is as versatile as they come, and they’ll likely spread the workload among each guy. 

Wisconsin had plenty to clean up this week after allowing 195 rushing yards, including a 55-yard quarterback touchdown run. If the Badgers can limit chunk plays, they’ll have a shot at this one. If there’s any game this run defense is going to figure out, it needs to be this one. 

Will the Badgers Continue to Feed Will Pauling?

Minnesota’s pass defense is currently ranked 67th in the nation, allowing an average of 225.9 passing yards per game. They’re far from the best pass defense Wisconsin has faced, but this pass defense isn’t terrible.

Regardless, the Badgers have Will Pauling

The former Cincinnati transfer has burst onto the scene in his first season with Wisconsin, logging 64 catches for 675 yards and three touchdowns. The sophomore is averaging 10.5 yards per catch and has solidified himself as Wisconsin’s WR1. Pauling has led in receptions for each of UW’s last seven games, and good things happen when he gets the football. 

Pauling is currently dealing with an injury, and his status is up in the air. However, Luke Fickell told reporters that Pauling and other players are “positioning themselves not just to play, but deliver a performance.” If Pauling is able to go, getting him the ball early and often will be crucial.

Can Wisconsin Football Play Spoiler to Minnesota?

The Badgers lifted a huge weight off their shoulders with a win over Nebraska. Wisconsin reached bowl eligibility for the 22nd consecutive season, extending the third-longest active bowl streak in the NCAA. The focus is all on the Axe for Wisconsin now, but Minnesota has some work to do. 

The Gophers are 5-6 on the season, one win short of bowl eligibility. With a victory on Saturday, UW can end their rival’s season and reclaim possession of the Axe. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the story couldn’t be better if the Badgers can pull it off. 

Though it’s been a turbulent season in year one of the Luke Fickell era, getting a win over Minnesota would put a nice bow on the regular season and would certainly help change the outlook of the season. Let’s see what this Badgers team is made of. 

The Wisconsin football program and Minnesota will kick off Saturday’s matchup at 2:30 PM CST.

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Jake Maier is the managing editor and publisher at He has provided coaching and editorial support to numerous writers in his role, contributing significantly to the platform's growth. His expertise extends to Wisconsin Badgers football, basketball, and recruiting coverage. Jake's previous bylines can be found at Fansided and Wisconsin Sports Heroics.