Minnesota–Wisconsin football rivalry
|First meeting||November 15, 1890|
|Latest meeting||December 19, 2020|
|Next meeting||November 27, 2021|
|Trophy||Paul Bunyan's Axe (current)|
Slab of Bacon (former)
|All-time series||Wisconsin leads, 62–60–8 (.504)|
|Trophy series||Wisconsin leads, 44–25–3 (.632)|
|Largest victory||Minnesota, 63–0 (1890)|
|Longest win streak||Wisconsin, 14 (2004–2017)|
|Current win streak||Wisconsin, 2 (2019–present)|
The Minnesota–Wisconsin football rivalry is an American college football rivalry between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers. It is the most-played rivalry in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, with 130 meetings between the two teams. The winner of the game receives Paul Bunyan's Axe, a tradition that started in 1948 after the first trophy, the Slab of Bacon, disappeared after the 1943 game when the Badgers were meant to turn it over to the Golden Gophers. Minnesota and Wisconsin first played in 1890 and have met every year since, except for 1906. Wisconsin leads the series 62–60–8 through 2020. Wisconsin took the series lead for the first time after defeating Minnesota 31–0 in the 2017 game; Minnesota had led the overall series since 1902, at times by as many as 20 games.
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The rivalry was first played in 1890 on Minnesota's campus, in Minneapolis, resulting in a 63–0 Minnesota victory. Theron Lyman led Wisconsin to its first win over Minnesota in 1894. The game became a conference rivalry with the creation of the Western Conference (later the Big Ten Conference) in 1896. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt suspended college football rivalry games for safety concerns, due to player injuries and fatalities on the field. It was the only time that the two teams had not played each other. It is the longest uninterrupted rivalry in FBS Division 1 college football.
From 1933 to 1982, it was traditionally the final game of the regular season for both schools. It has resumed being a season finale as of 2014, following the Big Ten's new divisional alignment and schedule for the final weekend of conference play. The Big Ten has decided that it will not be the regular season finale during the 2021 season, but it will return to its place as the final game of the season for both teams in 2022.
The 2014 and 2019 games decided the Big Ten West champion; Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 34–24 to go to the 2014 Big Ten Football Championship Game against Ohio State. In 2019, Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 38–17 to go to the 2019 Big Ten Football Championship Game against Ohio State. The last time the rivalry determined a Big Ten Conference champion was in 1962 when #3 Wisconsin defeated #5 Minnesota for a berth to the 1963 Rose Bowl.
Wisconsin won 14 straight meetings against Minnesota, from 2004 to 2017, before the Gophers beat the Badgers in their 2018 matchup. It ended the longest losing streak for either team in the history of the rivalry.
Slab of Bacon
The rivalry's first trophy was the "Slab of Bacon", in use from 1930 to 1943. Created by R. B. Fouch of Minneapolis, it is a piece of black walnut wood with a football at the center bearing a letter that becomes "M" or "W" depending on which way the trophy is hung. The word "BACON" is carved at both ends, implying that the winner has "brought home the bacon." The trophy's tenure ended when Minnesota's 1943 victory in Minnesota led to the fans rushing the field. Wisconsin student Peg Watrous was to bring the trophy to a Minnesota representative after the game, but could not find her in the commotion, and subsequently lost track of the "bacon". Reportedly, the trophy was sent to Minnesota's locker room, but coach George Hauser refused it, suggesting such traditions be held off until after World War II. It was subsequently lost; a new trophy, "Paul Bunyan's Axe", was introduced in 1948.
The trophy was "lost" for over 50 years. In 1992, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez joked that "we took home the bacon, and kept it." In 1994, Wisconsin intern Will Roleson found it in an old storage closet at Camp Randall Stadium. It had evidently been maintained for some time, as game scores through 1970 were painted on the back. It is now displayed at the Camp Randall Stadium football offices.
Paul Bunyan's Axe
The Paul Bunyan Axe was created by the Wisconsin letterwinners' organization (the National W Club) and would be instituted as the trophy in the series in 1948. The scores of each game are recorded on the axe's handle, which is 6 feet long. A new axe was created in 2000. The original axe was donated to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
Until 2014, when the game ended, if the team holding the trophy won, they would run to their own sideline, take the axe and carry it around the field and "chop down" one or both goal posts. If the team not holding the axe won, they were allowed to run to their opponents' sideline and "steal" the axe. The tradition was changed in 2014, with the Axe now kept off the field until the game is over. This change was in response to a near skirmish in 2013 in which the Minnesota players surrounded their goal post and would not permit the Wisconsin players to ceremonially chop it down. The usual tradition was restored in 2015, with Wisconsin winning again 31–21.
Trophy record: Wisconsin, 45–25–3 (.637) [Through 2020]
Accomplishments by the two rivals
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|Claimed national titles||7||1|
|Unclaimed national titles||0||3|
|Postseason bowl record||8–12||17–15|
|BCS bowl appearances||0||5|
|CFP playoff appearances||0||0|
|CFP NY6 bowl appearances*||0||3|
|Rose Bowl Game appearances||2||10|
|Rose Bowl Game record||1–1||3–7|
|Conference titles||20 (2 IAAN)||14|
|Consensus All-America players||28||32|
|Heisman Trophy winners||1||2|
|All-time program record||673–506–42||715–496–53|
|All-time win percentage||.568||.587|
|Minnesota victories||Wisconsin victories||Tie games|
- List of NCAA college football rivalry games
- List of most-played college football series in NCAA Division I
- Packers–Vikings rivalry
- Minnesota–Wisconsin ice hockey rivalry
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