The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers will battle the Minnesota Golden Gophers this Saturday in the Boarder Battle between the two states. The Gophers will be trying to reclaim Paul Bunyan’s axe for the first time in 12 years, which is the longest winning streak in the rivalry. This will be the 119th rivalry game between the Wisconsin Badgers and The Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The two teams played for the first time in 1890, but the match became a rivalry game in 1896. The two teams have hashed it out on the gridiron every year since that, except in 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt banned rivalry games because he was concerned with player safety in these types of hard fought games. The boarder battle is the longest rivalry in D1 football. It runs deep and hopefully it will continue to do so for many years to come.
Wisconsin controls their own destiny, and a win this weekend will give the badgers a berth for the Big Ten championship game where they will either play Ohio State, Michigan, or Penn State. Obviously, a big ten championship game will have major implications for the College Football Playoff. A win would also allow to tie the series with Minnesota at 59 wins a piece.
From 1930 to 1943, the teams played for The Slab of Bacon, rather than Paul Bunyun’s axe. The Bacon was a slab of wood that is has a “M” or a “W” depending on which way it is turned. The letter is half white and red, and half maroon and gold.
In 1943, tragedy struck. The Bacon was lost after Minnesota won and a Wisconsin student lost it. According to legend, The Bacon was found and sent to Minnesota but it was refused because World War Two was happening and Minnesota’s head coach believed it would be in bad taste to continue the tradition at that time. In 1948 a new tradition started with the development of Paul Bunyan’s axe.
Fifty-one years after The Slab of Bacon went missing, it was found in a storage closet in Camp Randall Stadium. However, someone apparently knew where the trophy was hidden, because all the game scores through 1970 have been painted on the back of it. Today The Slab of Bacon spends its days in the football office at Camp Randall Stadium.
Since the introduction of Paul Bunyan’s axe, every score of each game has been recored on the handle. In 2004 the old axe was retired and a knew one was made. The new axe only has scores where Wisconsin won because the badgers have dominated the series since then. The winner of the game has the honor of continuing the tradition of “chopping” down the opposing teams goal post.
The history between the two teams sets the tone for the game. Both teams are looking to expand their run game this weekend, while continuing to focus on defense. For the Golden Gophers, they need to rely on Rodney Smith, a sophomore who has rushed for 1,000 plus yards and 15 touchdowns. Wisconsin will need to lean on the combination of seniors Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale, along with freshman Bradrick Shaw. As usual, Wisconsin is expecting big plays from their defense.
The stage is set for the Border Battle, and hopefully, Wisconsin can come out with a big win over a solid Minnesota squad.