When the Wisconsin Badgers (8-2, 5-1) and Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-2,4-2) take the field this Saturday in college football’s oldest rivalry game, more than Paul Bunyan’s Axe will be on the line.
On the line for the Badgers is a BCS bowl game berth. For the Gophers, a continuation of an unbelievable season and a possible (albeit slim) shot of playing in the Big Ten championship game.
Let’s start with those surprise Gophers. The season started as most Gophers’ seasons do: Start undefeated after a soft non-conference schedule and then get off on the wrong foot come Big Ten play. Check and Check.
This season seemed like it would be a disappointment once again for the Gophers faithful. After starting 0-2 in conference Minnesota has reeled off four straight wins, including victories over Northwestern Wildcats and Nebraska Cornhuskers. This leaves the Gophers coming into Saturday’s tilt against Wisconsin with a slim chance to possibly play in their first Big Ten championship game. If Michigan State gets upset by Northwestern this weekend and the Gophers knock off both the Badgers and Spartans, that means Minnesota will be playing for a conference championship December 7.
On to the Badgers who, if not for Pac-12 officiating, would already be in the hunt for a BCS bowl game. Unfortunately this is the reality we live in and Wisconsin has to scratch and claw their way back into the hunt. The Badgers must win this game and in impressive fashion as the Gophers, ranked 25 in the latest BCS standings, are the last quality opponent Wisconsin faces this season. Sitting at 19 in the rankings, Wisconsin will need to use this game to impress the voters and move up to that coveted 14 spot to earn an at-large bid.
The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe is always a big game every year. With both teams fighting for something extra, this year’s battle has that special feel to it. This game has all the makings to be an instant classic.