The Minnesota Golden Gophers have been the pleasant surprise of the season in the Big Ten, entering today’s game with a chance at a ten-win season still alive. To do that, however, they will have to beat the team in the Big Ten playing better than anyone else right now in the Wisconsin Badgers. If the Golden Gophers can pull off the upset they will have improved their BCS at-large resume significantly.
Minnesota must first keep doing what has brought it success. The Golden Gophers are averaging 218 yards rushing per game, good for 20th in FBS and have the third best red zone scoring percentage in the nation. The combination of that running game and having the 11th fewest penalties in the country have combined to give Minnesota the eighth-best time of possession average in college football. Those are the levels of execution that the Golden Gophers will need today on offense.
Defensively is where Minnesota will have to step it up to beat Wisconsin today. The Golden Gophers’ 38th ranked rush defense has the tall order of trying to slow down the Badgers’ seventh-best running attack today. If the Badgers get to their averages of 307 yards and 38 points today in Minneapolis, Minnesota’s chances of winning this game go exponentially down. Even if the Gophers are able to contain Wisconsin’s running attack, besting the Badger defense will be another challenge.
Wisconsin boasts the sixth best defense in the country coming into play today, ranked 7th against the run. The challenge for Minnesota is large, but so are the potential rewards if it is met. If the Gophers can pull off this upset then another upset could open up a whole new realm of possibilities for Minnesota.
A Gopher win plus Northwestern upsetting Michigan State today would put the Gophers and Spartans in a winner-take-all battle for the Legends division title in East Lansing next week. A win there would send Minnesota to the Big Ten championship game where a win would then send the Gophers to the Rose Bowl. Losing today’s game, however, would likely knock Minnesota back out of the BCS rankings for good.
Pasadena or a BCS at-large is still a possibility for this Gophers team. The likelihood may not be high, but after losing their first two conference games even being in this position is something not many would have seen coming for Minnesota.