The math remains a bit murky for No. 4 Wisconsin and its goal of finishing in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, but all it can do is win the rest of its games. A loss would almost certainly doom the Badgers, who will try to avoid an upset and finish out a perfect regular season when they visit Minnesota on Saturday.
Wisconsin is the lone undefeated team left in the Big Ten and has already wrapped up its spot in the Big Ten Championship game by winning the West Division, but a lackluster non-conference slate and a conference schedule that didn’t feature any of the top three teams from the East division — Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State — in the regular season leaves the team with a questionable resume. “We always talk about focusing on the now,” freshman wide receiver Kendric Pryor told reporters after a 24-10 win over Michigan last week. “So, week one we were just focusing on Utah State and now since we’re closer to the end of the season we have those goals in the back of our minds, but each week we just try to focus on who our opponent is and what we need to do that week to beat them. Last week, our focus was just Michigan, not worrying about Minnesota, Big Ten championship or College Football Playoff.” The Golden Gophers are sixth in the seven-team Big Ten West and followed up their best win of the season - a 54-21 triumph over Nebraska - with their worst loss while getting shut out 39-0 by Northwestern last week. “It’s unfortunate. It hurts. It’s not pretty, whatsoever,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck told reporters. “There’s no excuses for it, and it 100 percent falls on my shoulders.”
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Wisconsin -17.
ABOUT WISCONSIN (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten): The Badgers lead the Big Ten in scoring defense (13.1 points) and are second in the Big Ten in rushing offense at an average of 239.3 yards, led by freshman running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor, who is third in FBS with 1,657 yards, recorded 87 of his 132 yards after the break on Saturday, and Wisconsin takes pride in being a strong second-half team. “We’re a team that’s going to fight no matter what and definitely during the second half we know it’s time to tighten up,” Taylor told reporters. “So, we go in at halftime and say it’s time to play Badger football, that’s one thing that we really harp on.”
ABOUT MINNESOTA (5-6, 2-6): The Golden Gophers committed five turnovers in the loss to Northwestern as sophomore quarterback Demry Croft threw three interceptions and finished with 43 yards on 2-of-11 passing. Croft is at his best when the Minnesota running game is working, and he ran for 183 yards and three scores on just 10 carries in the win over Nebraska. The Golden Gophers scored 20 of their 29 offensive touchdowns on the ground with Rodney Smith (895 yards, three TDs) and Kobe McCrary (476 yards, eight TDs) leading the way but will be going up against a Badgers run defense that leads FBS with an average of 79.4 yards allowed on the ground.
1. The Badgers are winners of a school-record 14 consecutive Big Ten games.
2. The Golden Gophers have dropped the last 13 in the series, evening the all-time rivalry at 59-59-8.
3. Wisconsin CB Nick Nelson became the first player to return a punt for a TD for the Badgers since 2012 when he ran one back 50 yards last week.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 41, Minnesota 10