Campus is alive and abuzz and this dreary Saturday morning has turned into quite a scene as the Gophers and Badgers prepare to battle for the Axe. I expect this game to be close, and here are a few matchups that may decide it:
Minnesota defensive line vs. Scott Tolzien – Behind a stout offensive line, Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien has quietly put up impressive numbers, like a Big Ten-leading 164.3 passer rating. Perhaps more important than the secondary’s performance will be whether the Gophers’ defensive line can put some pressure on Tolzien and shake his confidence in the pocket.
Eric Decker vs. Everyone – The Badgers will throw everything they have at Minnesota’s star wide receiver, but everything may not be enough because Decker will undoubtedly be playing like a man possessed. Not only have he and his fellow seniors never hoisted the Axe, Decker missed the Wisconsin-Minnesota game a year ago with an ankle injury and could do nothing but watch as the Badgers beat the Gophers 35-32 at Camp Randall.
Wisconsin fans vs. Minnesota fans – Not a cage fight or anything (although wouldn’t that be interesting to see?)… This is Minnesota’s best shot at a true home field advantage in some time, but as usual, plenty of Wisconsin fans have made the trip from Madison for this game. Can the Gopher faithful finally make this feel like an away game for the Badgers? We’ll have to see. Most of the red looks to be relegated to the upper corners of the horseshoe, good sign for Minnesota.
Other things to watch: Minnesota’s run game vs. Wisconsin’s run game (Badgers will most likely win this matchup but can the Gophers keep it close?), Minnesota’s special teams, Wisconsin’s defensive line.
We’re about to get under way, enjoy the game and check back often for Marco Lanave’s live blog.