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Badgers, Gophers vie for Axe, spot in Big 10 title game

Associated Press

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No. 13 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten, No. 12 CFP) at No. 9 Minnesota (10-1, 7-1, No. 8), Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (ABC).

Line: Wisconsin by 2 1/2.

Series record: Tied 60-60-8.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Wisconsin: After back-to-back losses on the road in October to Illinois and Ohio State pushed them two games behind in the West Division race, the Badgers have ably recovered to set up what has become a play-in for the Big Ten championship game against their oldest rival. They’re seeking their sixth appearance in the title game in the nine years since it was initiated. They’re also aiming to take back Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the trophy that resided in Madison for 14 straight seasons until the Gophers repossessed it with a 37-15 victory at Camp Randall Stadium a year ago.

Minnesota: Having hit the rare air of seven Big Ten wins for the first time in program history, the Gophers would be division champions for the first time if they beat the Badgers for the second straight year. They haven’t done that since 1993-94. Getting to Indianapolis would also keep the Gophers in the picture for the College Football Playoff, another height they have never reached.

KEY MATCHUP

Wisconsin DBs vs. Minnesota WRs Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman. The Badgers are sixth in the FBS in passing yards allowed, but the Gophers have one of the best pass-catching tandems in the country. Johnson needs 108 receiving yards to set the Gophers career record.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wisconsin: RB Jonathan Taylor. With three straight 200-yard games, his 5,856 career rushing yards and counting are the most in FBS history for a player’s first three years. He’s seventh on the all-time list.

Minnesota: QB Tanner Morgan. With a 14-3 record as a starter, he has already set the single-season program record with 26 touchdown passes.

FACTS & FIGURES

For only the seventh time in the most-played series in major college football history, which started in 1890, both teams are ranked in the AP poll, which began in 1936. The others were 2014, 2005, 1999, 1962, 1954, and 1942. … Wisconsin has held the Axe, which has been awarded to the winner since 1948, in 21 of the last 24 years. … Minnesota is one of two FBS teams with two 1,000-yard receivers (Johnson and Bateman) and one 1,000-yard rusher (Rodney Smith). The other is LSU, the top-ranked team in the AP poll.


More AP college football coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25