After Nebraska's choke job against Iowa on Friday, there isn't extra incentive for Minnesota to win Saturday. The Big Ten West title is no longer within grasp.
But that doesn't mean there's plenty of motivation.
Facing Wisconsin needs no extra juice. Beating a longtime rival -- and claiming Paul Bunyan's Axe -- is its own sweet reward. Of course, costing Wisconsin its chance to claim the division crown would be a nice side benefit.
It surely won't be easy. The Badgers have one of the top defenses in the country and have won seven consecutive games.
The Gophers have had an up-and-down season. In the regular-season -- and home -- finale, perhaps there's one more "up" remaining.
Here’s this week’s predictions from around the web:
The Associated Press' Ralph D. Russo: Wisconsin 23, Minnesota 17.
Pete Fiutak of Collegefootballnews.com: Wisconsin 26, Minnesota 16. "It won’t be anything pretty, but Wisconsin will grind its way to a slew of field goals, and just enough third down conversions to tip the time of possession scale its way.”
Bill Bender of The Sporting News: Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 21. “The Badgers can clinch the Big Ten West championship with a victory against the Gophers, who are 2-4 ATS at home and have been inconsistent this season. Wisconsin hasn't lost in Minneapolis since 2003, and that streak continues.”
Mike Bainbridge of Athlon Sports: Wisconsin 24, Minnesota 14. “This should ultimately end up being a close, competitive contest given what is at stake for both teams. But the Badgers get the edge here, as they possess the best unit on the field with the Wisconsin defense, facing the worst unit in the Minnesota offense. The Gophers will struggle to run on the Badgers' top-ranked run defense, and we don't have evidence this season that the Minnesota passing offense is good enough to win a game by itself.”
Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller: Wisconsin 24, Minnesota 13. “Minnesota's defense has been mighty good as of late, holding each of its last five opponents below 280 yards of total offense. However, the Golden Gophers did allow the opposing team to score at least two offensive touchdowns in each of those games, and that might be enough for Wisconsin to win this one, as the Badgers are leading the nation in total yards allowed per game and have forced multiple turnovers in five consecutive games. For a team whose season seemingly went up in flames by early October, Wisconsin has been on a mission with seven consecutive wins. My preseason pick of the Badgers in the College Football Playoff doesn't even look that misguided anymore. They stretch the winning streak to eight games behind another big performance from freshman running back Braelon Allen.”
Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Leader: Wisconsin 21, Minnesota 14. “This game has grown in importance and interest since P.J. Fleck arrived in Minneapolis. He has the better QB, the better offensive skill players, and perhaps the better offensive line. But the Badgers have the superior defense and the 'been there, done that' psychological edge. UW in pinch.”
Chad Leistikow of the Des Moines Register: Minnesota 22, Wisconsin 21. "Minnesota, with the nation's No. 4 defense, has enough 1) girth up front and 2) Badgers hate to bring a formidable shot.”
Saturday Tradition’s Ryan O’Gara: Wisconsin 24, Minnesota 21. “One of the hottest runners in the country against one of the top run defenses in the country, with a West title on the line. Sure, no West team has beaten Wisconsin (8-3, 6-2) yet, but is Minnesota (7-4, 5-3) the team to do it? Unlikely, even at home. The Golden Gophers are 3-3 at home and 4-1 on the road, while the Badgers are 3-0 in true road games.”
Bruce Feldman of The Athletic ($): Wisconsin 9, Minnesota 3. “Good matchup of stout defenses. The Badgers have more going for them on offense right now and should be able to squeak out a close road win.”
Stewart Mandel of The Athletic ($): Wisconsin 24, Minnesota 10. “Credit to Badgers coach Paul Chryst for staying the course after a troubling 1-3 start to win seven straight and put Wisconsin in position to reach the Big Ten championship game for the seventh time in the game’s 11-year existence. Minnesota’s 87th-ranked offense doesn’t inspire much hope against Wisconsin’s No. 2 defense.”
Mark Hasty of Go Iowa Awesome: Wisconsin 34, Minnesota 20. “Let me just say that I think Wisconsin is on an entirely different level than the chicken-wire-and-bubble-gum Gophers. Like Ohio State, Wisconsin had a shaky September. Also like the Buckeyes, the Badgers have done nothing but get better since. So it’s only fitting that they should be the ones to go to Indy and find out they don’t belong at the grownups table after all.”
Bob Dunning of Davis Enterprise: Wisconsin.
Trent Knoop and Isaiah Hole of Wolverines Wire: Knoop – Wisconsin 27, Minnesota 14; Hole – Wisconsin 24, Minnesota 20.
Bill Connelly of ESPN: His S&P+ projection has it Wisconsin 27, Minnesota 19.
Joe DiTullio of GameHaus: Wisconsin.
Six seven analysts at USAToday.com pick Wisconsin to emerge with a victory. Dan Wolken is going with Minnesota.
All three Athlon Sports analysts are picking Wisconsin to win.
All seven CBSSports.com analysts think Wisconsin will win.
All four analysts at FootballScoop.com predict a Wisconsin victory.
All five analysts at SI.com think Wisconsin will win.
Ten of 11 over at The Spun are selecting Wisconsin.