No. 8 Minnesota and No. 12 Wisconsin clash with one another every season, but as the two meet while the 2019 regular season comes to a close, the rivalry this year just seems a little bit more important. Well, actually, the meeting between the Gophers and the Badgers carries some monumental implications within the Big Ten Conference.
The winner of this game gets more than a trophy. It gets a Big Ten West division title and a chance to face No. 1 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. A division title for Wisconsin would be the sixth for the Badgers since the Big Ten split into divisions in 2011. It would be the first for Minnesota, which last won the Big Ten in 1967, a full 44 years before the Big Ten adopted a championship game.
So who wins this rivalry showdown in Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon? Let’s take a closer look at what to expect in this matchup and make some picks both straight up and against the spread.
Minnesota: The Gophers have been overlooked for most of the year. Their early-season success was written off as the byproduct of a soft nonconference schedule, as well as an easy opening to Big Ten play against a number of teams missing their starting quarterback. That talk was silenced a couple weeks ago when Minnesota beat No. 10 Penn State in TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers lost on the road to No. 17 Iowa a week later, but after beating Northwestern last week, the Gophers can make another statement to the country as well as the selection committee by beating Wisconsin. These are the games that P.J. Fleck promised the Gophers would be playing in when he took the job, though few could have expected it would happen this soon.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin was the favorite to win the Big Ten West before the season, and after a blistering start to the campaign, it seemed those predictions would come to fruition. But then came an unexpected loss to Illinois, and a week later the Badgers were blown out 38-7 by Ohio State. The Badgers suddenly looked mortal, but they’ve rebounded to win three straight. A win would wrap up their sixth division title, which would be the most of any Big Ten program in conference history.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 30 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: TCF Bank Stadium — Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: ABC | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Game prediction, picks
This spread is small for a reason, because these are two evenly-matched teams. What could decide the outcome is the weather in Minneapolis on Saturday. Current forecasts are calling for light rain and winds of 15 miles per hour. That wind will play a major role because while both teams run the ball a lot, Minnesota relies on big plays in the passing game to move the ball down the field. Their run game is more of a show than the engine of the offense, whereas Wisconsin wants to run the ball because that’s what its strength is. Those winds will affect Minnesota’s ability to take shots down the field, and Wisconsin’s defense ranks fifth in the nation in sack rate. It’s a combination of factors that don’t work in Minnesota’s favor, so while it’s hard to go against a home dog in a rivalry game, Wisconsin feels like the smart play. Pick: Wisconsin (-2.5)
So which picks can you make with confidence in Week 14? And which line is way off? Visit SportsLine now to see which teams win and cover the spread, all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $4,000 in profit over the past four seasons.