Talk about a slap in the face to one of the best stories in college football right now. The Gophers (8-2) are riding a four-game winning streak but the oddsmakers in Las Vegas have made them a 14-point underdog in this Saturday's game against the Wisconsin Badgers (8-2).
The 14-point spread comes as a bit of a surprise considering the Badgers will have to beat the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota is 5-1 at home with its only loss coming in the Big Ten opener to Iowa.
Why is Wisconsin favored by two touchdowns? They're 8-2 record is the same as Minnesota's, but they were arguably robbed of a win in their first loss of the season to Arizona State, and they nearly beat Ohio State, which still has dreams of reaching the BCS National Championship game.
Other than that, they've played a fairly soft schedule against teams that don't do a good job stopping the run, which happens to be Wisconsin's bread and butter.
The Badgers are sixth in the nation averaging nearly 308 rushing yards per game, but part of that has to do with the fact that they haven't been challenged by many top-notch rushing defenses. Check out where their opponents rank against the run this season.
- Game 1: Massachusetts (45-0 win) -- 111th
- Game 2: Tennessee Tech (48-0 win) -- 70th (FCS)
- Game 3: Arizona State (32-30 loss) -- 17th
- Game 4: Purdue (41-10 win) -- 110th
- Game 5: Ohio State (31-24 loss) -- 4th
- Game 6: Northwestern (35-6 win) -- 68th
- Game 7: Illinois (56-32 win) -- 121st
- Game 8: Iowa (28-9 win) -- 25th
- Game 9: BYU (27-17 win) -- 57th
- Game 10: Indiana (51-3 win) -- 120th
There are 123 teams in Division I college football, and Wisconsin has played four teams ranked 110 or worse.
Their three most challenging games of the season were losses to Ohio State and Arizona State, and a win over Iowa. All three of those teams have top 25 rushing defenses, and all three held the Badgers to 231 rushing yards or less -- nearly 80 yards from their average.
Moral of the story: Stopping, or even slowing the Badgers down on the ground will give the Gophers a much better chance to the pull the upset.
The Gophers' rushing defense ranks 38th in the country, but slowing down the Badgers will take some brute strength in the trenches. Wisconsin's starting offensive linemen weigh an average of 319.2 pounds.
The Badgers' team website says there's no way Wisconsin overlooks the Gophers, despite winning nine straight in the battle for the axe.
The game will be televised on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.