Wisconsin blew its chance.
To win the Big Ten West, all the 14th-ranked Badgers needed to do was go into Minneapolis and beat Minnesota on Saturday. Wisconsin was favored by nearly a touchdown, but the Gophers had other ideas.
Minnesota played the role of spoiler and stymied the Wisconsin offense in a 23-13 upset victory. With freshman Braelon Allen in the starring role, Wisconsin has been running the ball down its opponents’ throats over the last two months. But in this game, Allen was limited to just 47 yards on 17 carries as the Badgers could not get anything going on offense whatsoever.
In all, Wisconsin mustered only 233 yards of offense with Graham Mertz going just 21-of-38 for 171 yards and an interception. That interception came early in the third quarter and led to a Minnesota touchdown. It was the touchdown that gave Minnesota a 13-10 lead early in the third quarter.
Wisconsin would tie the score at 13-13 on the ensuing drive, but Minnesota drove 74 yards on its next possession to take a 20-13 lead on a Tanner Morgan touchdown pass to Chris Autman-Bell. It was a lead the Gophers would never relinquish.
Minnesota would tack on a field goal at the 6:08 mark, and it was too much for the Badgers to overcome. Along the way, Wisconsin would punt, miss a field goal and turn it over on downs twice on its remaining possessions.
And those struggles resulted in a disappointing end to the regular season for the Badgers.
Wisconsin's loss gives Big Ten West title to Iowa
Wisconsin started the season 1-3, but entered Saturday's game on a seven-game winning streak. It was a streak that put the Badgers on the precipice of their fourth division title in the past six seasons.
Instead, Minnesota's win gives the Big Ten West title to the Iowa Hawkeyes, who overcame a 21-6 late third quarter deficit to defeat Nebraska 28-21 on Friday.
Wisconsin beat Iowa 27-7 back on Oct. 30, but Iowa's win on Friday gave it a 10-2 overall record with a 7-2 mark in Big Ten play. Wisconsin finishes the regular season 8-4 overall and 6-3 in conference play.
The No. 16 Hawkeyes will meet No. 5 Michigan, the Big Ten East champions. Michigan upset Ohio State earlier Saturday and can lock up its first outright Big Ten championship since 2003. On top of that, Michigan would almost certainly lock up a spot in the College Football Playoff with a victory over Iowa.
Iowa, though, can play the role of spoiler for Michigan. Iowa hasn't won an outright Big Ten championship since 1985, though it has won a share of it twice during Kirk Ferentz's 23-season tenure in Iowa City. Those came in 2002 and 2004.
Before 2021, Iowa last won the Big Ten West title in 2015.