Fleck on No. 5 Wisconsin: ‘We’re excited for the challenge’

The Gophers become bowl eligible if they defeat the Badgers.

Wisconsin linebacker Ryan Connelly tackles Minnesota wide receiver Eric Carter at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016.

Chelsea Gortmaker, Daily File Photo

Wisconsin linebacker Ryan Connelly tackles Minnesota wide receiver Eric Carter at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016.

Drew Cove

The Gophers are set to face the toughest opponent they’ve had under head coach P.J. Fleck.

No. 5 Wisconsin (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) plays Minnesota (5-6, 2-6 Big Ten) at TCF Bank Stadium in, potentially, the Gophers last game of the season.

“I don’t think I have to tell anybody what week it is,” Fleck said. “We’re excited for the challenge, it’s a very unique challenge that we have, not just with the rivalry.”

A lot is on the line for Fleck’s team Saturday. 

The Gophers haven’t beaten Wisconsin since 2003 at the Metrodome. In addition to the regular rivalry, Minnesota can play spoiler to Wisconsin, who remains the only unbeaten team in the Big Ten. Also, if the Gophers win, they become bowl eligible. The two teams have faced each other 126 times, and the series is tied at 59-59-8.

The task in front of Minnesota is the one of the toughest they have faced all season — beating an unbeaten team. Fleck understands what Wisconsin is all about.

“This is a team that has an opportunity to possibly be in the playoff and win a national championship here in the next couple of weeks,” Fleck said. 

Wisconsin comes with an explosive freshman running back, Jonathan Taylor, who is third in all of college football for rushing, with 1,657 yards on the ground through 11 games.

Fleck reiterated his program’s drive for service, with a turkey drive that was held Tuesday night. 

“To continue to teach philanthropy within our culture, I will continue to do that,” Fleck said. “No matter what our record is, that is not going to be the focus, we’ll continue to stay the course.”

Other notes:

-Fleck said on KFAN 100.3 FM Tuesday that wide receiver Tyler Johnson is out for the rest of the season with a broken hand.

-Center Conner Olson, who was filling in for starting center Jared Weyler, went down with an injury against Northwestern. Although he is listed as the starting center on the depth chart, Fleck indicated offensive lineman Bronson Dovich may fill in if Olson is not ready come Saturday.

-Running back Shannon Brooks is not listed on the depth chart again this week. He has missed the last three games.