Big Ten preview: Gophers vs Badgers

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It's the biggest game in a decade for the Gophers (8-2, 4-2) who host their chief rival the Wisconsin Badgers (8-2, 5-1) Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: A New Year's Day bowl game could be at stake for both teams. The latest projections from Sports Illustrated have Minnesota playing Ole Miss in the Gator Bowl, and the Badgers against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in the Capital One Bowl, both of which are scheduled for Jan. 1.

BIG TEN STANDINGS: Minnesota and Nebraska are tied at 4-2 in the Big Ten Legends Division with Michigan (7-3, 3-3) and Iowa (6-4, 3-3) just one-game behind. Every team is chasing the red-hot Michigan State Spartans (9-1, 6-0). The best case scenario for the Gophers this weekend includes a win over the Badgers and a Michigan State loss at Northwestern. That would set up a monster showdown between the Gophers and Spartans to close the regular season.

SERIES HISTORY: The Gophers lead the all-time series 57-55-8. The first game was played back in 1892. The series is so close that the 115 meetings have been decided by a grand total of just 17 points. Incredible.

LINEUP NOTES: The Gophers will be down two of their regular starters. Offensive linemen Jon Christensen and Caleb Bak will both miss their second consecutive game, and wide receiver Derrick Engel is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

THE LATEST LINE, OUR PREDICTION: The spread keeps getting bigger in favor of the Badgers. It started at -14 before moving to -15... now it's all the way up to -17. That's a slap in the face to Gophers nation.

Forget about the line, as we pointed out earlier this week, the Badgers haven't faced a lot of solid rushing defenses. Minnesota's rushing defense, although it hasn't been great in the last couple of weeks, is more than capable of holding its own. Will it happen? Maybe, but in a cold-weather game at home we'll take the inspired Gophers. Prediction: Minnesota 20, Wisconsin 17.

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