Usually when one college football team is favored by better than three touchdowns over another, the outcome is predictable. The annual rivalry game between Wisconsin and Minnesota, however, rarely is.
The Badgers are clearly t better team on paper this year, and have put a better product on the field, though it has been a long way from perfect. Each game, though, brings something new to the battle for bragging rights between these neighboring states, which enters its 120th edition Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
One element of this rivalry that is not new is Wisconsin's commitment to running the football, which should again be on display come 11:00 a.m. Saturday. While junior standout John Clay repeatedly turns in rock solid performances, freshman James White continues to grab attention with his ability to run to open space and make tacklers miss.
""He's just playing fast,"" senior tight end Lance Kendricks said. ""I'm able to be on the field and watch him, and it's good to see a young guy being able to play fast and be confident out there.""
After breaking out with four touchdowns against Austin Peay Sept. 25, White made his Big Ten debut last week by carrying the ball 10 times and accumulating 98 yards and two scores. He has earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors each of the last two weeks.
""If he continues to put up those kind of numbers, it's going to be hard to keep him off the field,"" running backs coach John Settle said. ""It's one thing to see a guy on film, it's another thing to try to tackle him.""
On the defensive side of the ball, Wisconsin has seen plenty of film on Gophers senior quarterback Adam Weber. The four-year starter has yet to beat the Badgers, but has turned in productive performances in the past—including a three-touchdown day last time Minnesota came to Madison—and earned high praise from UW players and coaches.
""I have a tremendous amount of respect for [Adam] Weber,"" defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said. ""Seeing him all these years and seeing his ability to throw the ball, run and lead his team. I know they have had some tough breaks this year but we have a tremendous amount of respect for what he can do.""
""He has no conscience,"" senior strong safety Jay Valai said. ""He'll throw that ball deep on you in a second.""
Weber owns a career 0-3 record against the Badgers, who have now beaten Minnesota six consecutive times. That means that no player currently in Wisconsin's program has lost to the Gophers. For seniors like Valai and linebacker Blake Sorensen, a chance at the career sweep is something to cherish.
""It would be a big thing to say that I've never lost the Axe in my career, Sorensen said. ""That's what we're working for this week.""