P.J. Fleck confirms he’s taken head coaching job at Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS — P.J. Fleck confirmed Friday morning that he would be taking the head coaching job offered to him this week by Minnesota.

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Despite an appearance by former LSU head coach Les Miles on Thursday, KSTP-TV’s Joe Schmit reports that Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck will instead be named the Gophers’ new head coach.

Fleck reportedly met with Minnesota’s Athletic Director Mark Coyle and school president Eric Kaler on Wednesday afternoon in Chicago.

The hiring process comes just days after Minnesota football coach Tracy Claeys was fired, despite posting a 13-7 record in his year-plus leading the program. He finished the 2016 campaign with a 9-4 record and a Holiday Bowl win over Washington State.

Because of contract details, Minnesota would have to pay Fleck somewhere in the range of $21 million over six years for an average salary of $3.5 million. Claeys was making $1.5 million annually.

Fleck led the Broncos to a 13-1 record and a Cotton Bowl appearance where they fell to Wisconsin 24-16.

Cotton Bowl: Wisconsin defense vs Western Michigan offense

ARLINGTON, Tex. — Monday afternoon, Wisconsin and Western Michigan will battle in the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl from AT&T Stadium.

It’ll pit the Big Ten runner-up (10-3) against an unbeaten (13-0) MAC champion in a game fans have shown little interest in. But for the 65,018 fans who attended the Big Ten championship game against Penn State, this game could have a similar makeup. Wisconsin ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense, allowing 15.5 points per game. On the flip side, Western Michigan’s offense ranks eighth in scoring offense, putting up 43.5 points per game.

So which team has the advantage?

Western Michigan offense

The Broncos are led by quarterback Zach Terrell, who’s only thrown three interceptions this season, compared with his 32 touchdowns and 70.8 percent completion rate. His favorite target is receiver Corey Davis, who ranked ninth nationally with 1,427 yards this season. He also ranked second with 18 touchdowns.

Western Michigan is also adept at avoiding turnovers as a whole. Their first turnover of the season didn’t come until week seven in a 41-0 win over Akron. They have just seven as a team all year.

Wisconsin defense

It’s been another great year for the Badger defense, despite losing defensive coordinator Dave Aranda this offseason. Taking over was Justin Wilcox, who’s led Wisconsin to the No. 7 defense in terms of yards allowed at 303 per game. As mentioned earlier, the Badgers also rank among the nation’s stingiest, giving up just 15. points per game.

Then there’s the secondary, full of ball hawks that have secured 21 takeaways by interception this season. That ranks third in the nation.


Trying to remove all bias, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Wisconsin’s schedule has proven them to be battle tested. The Badgers have faced six Top 10 teams in 2016, while the Broncos of Western Michigan will go up against their first defense ranked inside the Top 50.

Badgers take in the sights after arriving in Dallas

ARLINGTON, Tex. — The Wisconsin football team touched down in Dallas in time to schedule some sight-seeing around their Tuesday practice.

That practice held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington was attended by some 40 area high school coaches, as well as former Badgers and current Cowboys center Travis Frederick. The Cowboys had just beaten the Lions 42-21 the night before.

“You want them to enjoy the bowl experience,” said coach Paul Chryst. “We’re lucky to be playing in Dallas in the Cotton Bowl. They do so many things for the whole bowl experience. You want them to enjoy that. But, they also need to get on that bus, come over to practice, lock in and make sure they get their work done.”

PHOTO: @BadgerFootball on Instagram

After Tuesday’s practice, the team watched former Wisconsin basketball standout Sam Dekker and the Houston Rockets beat the Dallas Mavericks 123-107 from the American Airlines Arena.

PHOTO: @BadgerFootball on Instagram

PHOTO: @UWBadgers on Twitter

The Badgers continue practice with helmets and shells late Wednesday morning ahead of the 81st Cotton Bowl versus Western Michigan Monday at 12:01 p.m.

A look at who the experts are picking in the Cotton Bowl

MADISON | The Wisconsin football team will go for win No. 11 on Jan. 2 when they take on Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl. It’s a game that doesn’t have a lot of hype around it, with tickets going for as little as $3. And though the Badger are 7.5 point favorites, the Broncos are unbeaten – one of just two FBS schools that can say that right now.

With the game just 9 days away, here’s a look at who the experts think will come out on top at AT&T Stadium in North Texas.

NCAA.com: Wisconsin
Gabriel Baumgaertner (SI): Western Michigan
Colin Becht (SI): Wisconsin
Dennis Dodd (CBS Sports): Wisconsin
Bruce Feldman (Fox Sports): Western Michigan
Pat Forde (Yahoo! Sports): Wisconsin
Tom Fornelli (CBS Sports): Wisconsin
Brian Hamilton (SI): Wisconsin
Robby Kalland (CBS Sports): Western Michigan
Ben Kercheval (CBS Sports): Western Michigan
Stewart Mandel (Fox Sports): Wisconsin
Joan Niesen (SI): Wisconsin
Jerry Palm (CBS Sports): Western Michigan
Chip Patterson (CBS Sports): Western Michigan
Adam Rittenberg (ESPN): Wisconsin
Mark Schlabach (ESPN): Wisconsin
Lindsey Schnell (SI): Wisconsin
Jon Solomon (CBS Sports): Western Michigan
Andy Staples (SI): Wisconsin
Pete Thamel (SI): Wisconsin

Final tally:
Wisconsin: 12
Western Michigan: 7

No. 8 Wisconsin to play No. 15 Western Michigan in Cotton Bowl

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin football program’s 15th-consecutive bowl bid will come in the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

The Badgers will face Western Michigan in the New Year’s Six matchup, which is set for noon (CT) on Jan. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and airs live on ESPN. The game marks UW’s first appearance in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, which dates back to 1937.

The Big Ten West Division champion, No. 8 Wisconsin (10-3 overall, 7-2 Big Ten) enters the game coming off its fourth appearance in six seasons in the Big Ten Championship Game, while No. 12 Western Michigan (13-0, 8-0 MAC) carries an undefeated record and the Mid-American Conference championship to its credit.

The game will mark Wisconsin’s seventh matchup this season with a team ranked among the top 12 of the Associated Press poll.

“I’m excited for our players to have the opportunity to be a part of a game with the long and storied history like the Cotton Bowl has,” UW head coach Paul Chryst said. “This game has featured a number of great programs and great players throughout the years and we are proud to now have a chance to be a part of that history.

“I appreciate what our players have done to earn the right to play in this game. Western Michigan has had a tremendous year and will present a terrific challenge for us. I look forward to starting our prep and having one more opportunity with this great group of players.”

The Badgers’ run of 15 straight bowl games is the longest active streak in the Big Ten and is tied for the sixth-longest active run in the FBS. Wisconsin has ended each of the last two seasons with a win, downing Auburn in the Outback Bowl to close the 2014 season and topping USC in the Holiday Bowl to finish off the 2015 campaign.

Wisconsin and Western Michigan have met four times, with the Badgers owning a 3-1 mark vs. the Broncos. The teams last met in 2000, when No. 4 Wisconsin scored a 19-7 win at Camp Randall Stadium.

This marks the third-consecutive season – but just the fourth time ever – that the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic will include a Big Ten team. Michigan State played in the Cotton Bowl in each of the last two seasons, including when the game served as a College Football Playoff semifinal last year. Ohio State made the league’s first appearance in the Cotton Bowl in 1987.

Maryland, Nebraska and Penn State also have participated in the Cotton Bowl, though prior to joining the Big Ten.

Information on tickets and travel is available at UWBowlCentral.com.