Back in The Top 25

Wisconsin entered this season with high expectations, but a midseason slump cost it any chance of a BCS berth or Big Ten title.

The 24th-ranked Badgers are back in the Top 25 for the first time in more than a month, though, and look to close out the regular season with a victory over a longtime rival when they visit Minnesota on Saturday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Wisconsin -14 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 80% of bets for this game have been placed on Wisconsin -14 (View College Football bet percentages).

Following last week's 37-21 upset victory over then-No. 13 Michigan, Wisconsin (8-3, 4-3) cracked the Top 25 for the first time since being ranked No. 19 in the Oct. 7 AP poll.

The Badgers were ranked seventh in preseason, but losses in three of their previous five games before beating the Wolverines knocked them into fourth place in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin, though, enjoyed one of its most complete games of the season last week as it gained 477 yards of offense, and held the Wolverines to just 47 rushing yards.

"This is what we're capable of,'' Badgers cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu said. "We really beat them pretty good. That's the way we should have been playing all year.''

Fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Donovan passed for 245 yards and a touchdown and ran for 49 yards and another score last week, as he shouldered the offensive load with running back P.J. Hill nursing a leg injury.

Hill had just five carries for 14 yards against Michigan after sitting out Wisconsin's 38-17 loss to then-No. 1 Ohio State on Nov. 3, but is expected to play on Saturday. Hill, who is tied with Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall for second in the Big Ten with 14 rushing touchdowns, ran for 164 yards and two TDs in the Badgers' 48-12 victory over the Golden Gophers last Oct. 14.

This will be the 117th meeting between Wisconsin and Minnesota, making the rivalry the most-played among Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The schools have met every year except one dating back to 1890, with the Badgers winning the last three meetings and 10 of the last 12.

The schools have been playing for Paul Bunyan's Axe every year since 1948.

"Because of the proximity and because of the border battle that we have, there's probably an added stake when you're dealing with kids that are recruited by both schools," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said.

In the last meeting in the Metrodome on Oct. 15, 2005, the Badgers won 38-34 behind 21 fourth-quarter points.

The Gophers (1-10, 0-7) conclude their schedule Saturday, as they try to avoid their first winless season of league play since 1988.

Minnesota lost to Iowa 21-16 last Saturday, to drop 10 games in a single season for just the second time in school history - the other time was 1983.

The Gophers pulled within 21-16 with 1:38 left in the fourth quarter, but failed to recover an onside kick. Freshman quarterback Adam Weber passed for 190 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for a team-high 70 yards on 11 carries.

"I asked them in the locker room after the game, 'Who feels like they've been stuck in the gut with a searing knife?'" Minnesota first-year coach Tim Brewster said. "Everybody did, and I said that's good. That means we've got a chance."

The Gophers are last in the Big 10 in both total defense (525.5 yards per game) and scoring defense (36.3 points per game), although they allowed season lows in yards (296) and points last Saturday.

Minnesota has lost both of its games against ranked opponents this season, and nine straight games to Top 25 teams since a 42-35 double-overtime victory over Purdue on Sept. 24, 2005.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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