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MADISON, WIS. — Good afternoon from Camp Randall Stadium, where the Gophers take on Wisconsin at 2:30 p.m. (ESPN, 100.3-FM) in the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe. The Gophers (7-4, 4-4 Big Ten) will try to finish the regular season by retaining the Axe, which they won last year 23-13 in Minneapolis. Wisconsin (6-5, 4-4) will try to improve to 5-2 under interim coach Jim Leonhard.

It's a sunny, 49-degree day in Madison, although a stiff wind could come into play, especially with the kicking game.

With their 13-10 loss to Iowa last week, the Gophers fell out of contention for a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game, so they'll try to close strong and improve their positioning for a bowl game. They'll also aim to win the Axe in back-to-back years for the first time since 1993 and '94.

Here are some story lines to watch:

1. Can the Gophers start strong?

Four times in Big Ten play, opponents scored first, and three of them – Purdue, Illinois and Iowa – won the game. With Minnesota's run-heavy offense and issues in the passing game, grabbing the lead becomes more important. The Gophers aren't built to overcome big deficits. They've done it only once this season, rallying from a 10-0 hole at Nebraska to win 20-13.

2. Mo's record watch

Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim rushed 39 times for a career-high 263 yards against Iowa last week, and he's closing in on two prominent school records. He has 1,524 rushing yards this season and needs 103 more to break David Cobb's single-season record of 1,626. Ibrahim has 4,527 career yards and needs 128 to break Darrell Thompson's program record of 4,654. The sixth-year senior from Baltimore also has surpassed 100 yards for 19 consecutive seasons, the most in FBS since 2000.

3. Pressure on Mertz

Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz has 19 touchdown passes against nine interceptions this season, and he's thrown three picks in the past two games. If the Gophers defense can pressure Mertz, they might be able to create some turnovers. Minnesota has 17 sacks this season, which is tied for 11th in the Big Ten.


Gophers safety Tyler Nubin has a cast on his right hand and was in sweatpants during pregame warmups, so he won't play against Wisconsin.

For the Badgers, running back Braelon Allen, whose 1,121 rushing yards lead the team, is out because of a leg injury. Outside linebacker Aaron Witt and kicker Vito Calvaruso also are out because of leg injuries.