With one game left in the regular season, the Wisconsin Badgers have put themselves into a spot their fans should be happy, especially considering they started the season 1-3. After Saturday’s thrilling 35-28 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Badgers improved to 8-3 overall and 6-2 in Big Ten play.

Wisconsin is tied with the Iowa Hawkeyes for the top spot in the B1G West division with the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Purdue Boilermakers just a game behind.

To close the season, Wisconsin will head on the road for a matchup with Minnesota with plenty on the line as the Badgers will look to chop down the goal posts for the 16th time in the last 17 Paul Bunyan’s Axe matchups. More importantly, Wisconsin would wrap up the West with a victory. The Badgers are the only program in the division guaranteed to reach the B1G Championship Game with a victory no matter what happens in the other games.

There is also a scenario in which the Badgers can still qualify for Indianapolis even with a loss. If Wisconsin comes up short against Minnesota, the Badgers would need Nebraska to beat Iowa on Friday and Indiana to beat Purdue on Saturday to win the West.

Nebraska rewind

Nebraska gave Wisconsin all it could handle as the result was in doubt until to the final seconds. The Badgers have not been in that position much during a 7-game winning streak that featured plenty of blowouts. Wisconsin never trailed on Saturday, but Nebraska moved the ball consistently all game long and it took a missed pass interference call at the goal line late to seal the Badgers victory.

I’m not going to pretend I understand anything about coaching a college football defense, but Wisconsin will need to figure out how to cover the middle of the field because Nebraska tight end Austin Allen was wide open throughout the game. Maybe this is something the Badgers will have a better time with against Minnesota when they don’t have to focus on a running quarterback like Adrian Martinez.

Wisconsin looked helpless on defense for the first time all season but continued its recent surge of forcing turnovers as Collin Wilder picked off 2 passes in key moments.

While Nebraska moved the ball down the field consistently with chunk plays, Wisconsin finished with three touchdowns that went for more than 50 yards. Braelon Allen continued the annual tradition of the Badgers star running back playing the game of his life against Nebraska. He scored a 71-yard touchdown late in the first quarter and added Wisconsin’s final go-ahead TD on an impressive 53-yard run with less than 4 minutes to go. Allen carried the ball 22 times for 228 yards with 3 touchdowns.

Graham Mertz played another solid game, completing 12 of 18 passes for 145 yards with a touchdown. Jake Ferguson was his top target with 8 receptions for 92 yards. After dropping an easy deep pass that would’ve set Wisconsin up with a first-and-goal early, Kendrick Pryor caught a 17-yard touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter, one of his 2 receptions for 45 yards.

The game began with a 91-yard kickoff return for Stephan Bracey, who played in his first game all season.

Rapid Minnesota preview

If the Badgers can stretch their winning streak to 8, they will be back in the conference title game for the fifth time in the eight years since the East and West divisions were formed. The opponent would be whoever wins next week’s matchup between the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Badgers are in a great position to come away with a victory on Saturday afternoon. Wisconsin has a clear mismatch as the best unit on the field is the Badgers defense by a large margin, while the worst group will be the Minnesota offense.

The Badgers rank No. 2 nationally in yards per play allowed to FBS opponents (3.9-yard average) even after allowing 452 yards of offense to Nebraska, which was by far Wisconsin’s worst statistical performance of the season. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s offense ranks No. 81 in yards per play at 5.4.

The Gophers’ best asset is their run defense, but Wisconsin can negate that with a rushing attack that is playing at an extremely high level. Allen is leading the way behind an offensive line that has gotten a whole lot better as the season has progressed. The Badgers rank No. 5 in yards per rush attempt over the last three weeks (6.6 ypc). Wisconsin’s passing game went from an embarrassment to a strength of the team in recent weeks, which should open up plenty of opportunities for more big gains from Allen.

If Wisconsin can avoid costly mistakes, the Badgers should be in position to cap off an undefeated run against their B1G West schedule and get back to Indianapolis, where they would look for their first conference championship since 2012.