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USATSI

Minnesota beat No. 14 Wisconsin 23-13 Saturday night, winning both Paul Bunyan's Axe and the satisfaction of knocking its chief rival out of the Big Ten Championship Game race. The result means No. 16 Iowa wins the Big Ten West Division and will face No. 5 Michigan in the conference championship game next week in Indianapolis. 

The Gophers used a lot of defense and just enough offense to get past the Badgers, amassing only 274 yards with quarterback Tanner Morgan passing for 199 yards and a touchdown. No Gophers running back or receiver managed to reach 100 yards, but that doesn't matter as much when you hold your opponent to 233 yards and zero offensive touchdowns.

In fact, Wisconsin's only touchdown came in the second quarter when Scott Nelson picked off Morgan's pass and returned it 25 yards to put the Badgers ahead 10-3. That moment would serve as the high point for the Badgers, which were a win away from a Big Ten West Division title and trip to the Big Ten title. 

The Gophers would cut the lead to 10-6 before halftime, however, before taking the lead early in the third quarter with a two-yard touchdown run by Ky Thomas. Wisconsin managed to tie the game with a field goal later in the third quarter, but when Morgan found Chris Autman-Bell for a 27-yard touchdown to end the quarter, it was lights out for Bucky.

The Badgers had a couple of chances to get back in the game, but the offense struggled to move the ball all day long. QB Graham Mertz completed only 21 of his 38 passes for 171 yards. The 38 passes by Mertz were the most he's thrown in a game since attempting 41 passes against Notre Dame in a 41-13 loss earlier this season. This probably wasn't Wisconsin's offensive game plan, as it stormed to the top of the Big Ten West heading into this weekend on the strength of its run game and defense. However, the rushing attack didn't muster much. Freshman phenom Braelon Allen was held to only 47 yards on 17 carries, and Wisconsin averaged only 2.8 yards per attempt as a team.

While Minnesota is thrilled to finish the regular season with a win over rival Wisconsin, it's somewhat bittersweet. While it was a long shot, Minnesota had a chance to win the division for itself. All it had to do was beat Wisconsin (check), have Purdue beat Indiana (check), and have Iowa lose to Nebraska. So the Gophers were just a fourth-quarter comeback away from Indianapolis themselves.

Iowa pulled out a miraculous victory on Friday, storming back from a 21-6 deficit at Nebraska with 22 points in the final 16 minutes of game time to win 28-21. The Wolverines topped No. 2 Ohio State earlier on Saturday 42-27 to punch their ticket to Indianapolis.