Flying to Minny with the Axe
Air Wisconsin (the Badger football version) flies north this week as the Badgers take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Stadium in the first Big Ten game played at the new venue. Weather permitting, this one looks like a shootout. The Badgers and Michigan State tallied 68 combined points a week ago, and Minnesota and Northwestern scored 61 in the Gophers victory at Evanston on Saturday.
The Badgers conversion to a pass-first offense has been remarkable this fall. Scott Tolzien is the surprise player of the early Big Ten season, displaying poise and accuracy not seen in a Badger signal caller since…since… since…Randy Wright? Then again, Wright had Al Toon to throw to and Tolzien has his son Nick, so maybe the explosion in the passing attack has as much to do with the Toons as it does with the quarterback play.
The running game looked better against the Spartans…not Barry Alvarez-esque but better than a week ago. John Clay looked more like Brandon Jacobs this past week and less like Chucky Davis, which bodes well for the future. Some health and continuity in the offensive line would also greatly benefit this unit.
The defense played surprisingly well against the Spartans and an equally impressive performance is needed if the Badgers are to win in Minneapolis.The defensive line appeared stout at the line of scrimmage, allowing for their talented young linebackers to make a number of tackles behind the line of scrimmage. How Ohio State allowed Borland to leave Ohio is a mystery to me. Shockingly, until the final two minutes the secondary was not exposed. The secondary’s challenge this coming week, to stop the Weber-Decker combination which is widely regarded as the best quarterback-receiver tandem in the Big Ten, will be immense.
My prediction? Paul Bunyan’s Axe has remained in Madison for a long time and I will be surprised if it makes its way back to Madison following this one. Unless Clay runs for 150 yards, I see the final 27-24 Minnesota.