After winning its first three games this season all at home Minnesota is in a must-win situation to become bowl-eligible. The Gophers (5-6, 2-6 Big Ten West) have a formidable task to achieve win No. 6, facing Wisconsin in Madison on Saturday.
"If we're ready to go to a bowl game, we'll go to a bowl game," Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said. "If we're not ready to do it, we're not. If we're ready, it would be tremendous. Obviously, everybody wants to do it. But wanting to do it and going to do it are two different things."
The Badgers are coming off a thrilling 47-44 triple-overtime road win over Purdue in which Jonathan Taylor carried the ball 33 times for 321 yards and scored three touchdowns.
The Gophers enter their final regular season game with 14 straight losses to the Badgers. Second-year Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck didn't need to see the scouting report or the game film to realize Wisconsin's offensive game plan.
"They're going to put everything behind Taylor," Fleck said. "They're going to make sure he leads them in everything pass game, play-action game. He's a tremendous, tremendous football player. Wisconsin is exactly who Wisconsin is. They're going to run the football."
The Gophers' defense, though, has shown big improvement since defensive coordinator Robb Smith was fired. In the last two games under Joe Rossi, Minnesota has allowed just 34 points, holding Big Ten West champion Northwestern to 24 points in last week's loss and giving up just 10 points to Purdue in a 41-10 triumph on Nov. 10.
In all, the Gophers have allowed just 558 total yards in their last two games. Before Rossi took over, the Gophers were giving up 43.2 points and 507.7 yards per game in league play.
Slowly but surely, the luster off Fleck's shine is starting to wear off for Gopher fans, especially considering the program is two years removed from winning nine games and landing a bowl game for the fifth straight season. Fleck is 10-13 overall and 4-13 in conference play, and despite bringing in several high-profile recruits, the Gophers have yet to make any noise in the conference.