Gophers, Badgers, A Slab of Bacon & an Axe… Border Battle Edition


The Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin will meet each other on the gridiron for the 133rd meeting on Saturday. The rivalry is in a dead heat, with the all-time series tied at 62-62-8. While the series currently sits at a stalemate, the Gophers have won back-to-back meetings for the first time since they did so in 1993 and 1994.

The Tale of the Tape

The Gophers and Badgers first met on the gridiron in 1890. The first matchup ended in a 63-0 victory for the University of Minnesota (not a big deal). Since, the series has been the longest uninterrupted rivalry in college football, playing 132 consecutive times. To begin the rivalry, they played 39 times without any trophy. With both programs having varied levels of success over the years, the series has seen a lot of streaks in both directions. Wisconsin’s longest streak was 14 games, which ended in 2018. The longest streak for the Gophers was nine games from 1933-1941, in which Minnesota combined for five of their seven national championships.

Slab of Bacon Trophy

There was another trophy in the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry before Paul Bunyan’s Axe. They initially played for a slab of bacon trophy. There are many obscure trophies in college football and this should be considered one of them. From 1930 to 1943, the Gophers posted an 11-3 record in matchups playing for the slab of bacon trophy. The trophy went missing after the Gophers last victory over Wisconsin in 1943.

The Axe

After the mysterious disappearance of the slab of bacon trophy, the rivalry went nearly five years without playing for a trophy. Then, in 1948, there was the introduction of the Paul Bunyan’s Axe trophy. In my opinion, this is the best trophy of any college football rivalry. The Gophers play the most trophy games in college football, so it only makes sense that the best one involves Minnesota.

What’s Next?

With conference realignment, we’ve seen a few casualties to traditional rivalries. Oregon & Oregon State, Bedlam (Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State), etc. However, Minnesota and Wisconsin will continue to play even in the new-look Big Ten conference. Minnesota & Wisconsin is among the list of twelve traditional Big Ten matchups on the list of guaranteed protected matchups as the conference expands. Nothing is a certainty in college football. But, on the current trajectory, it looks like the Gophers and Badgers could be on schedule to play their 150th consecutive matchup in the year 2040.