Wisconsin vs Minnesota: 10 Little-Known Facts About CFB's Longest-Played Rivalry

Thomas ChristianContributor IIINovember 8, 2011

Wisconsin vs Minnesota: 10 Little-Known Facts About CFB's Longest-Played Rivalry

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    Saturday's game will mark the 121st time that the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers will play.

    Unfortunately for Minnesota, Wisconsin has been the dominant team over the past two decades, as they are 16-5 vs. Minnesota since 1990 and have won the last seven meetings.

    Can Minnesota end the trend and upend the dominant Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday?

    Here are ten facts about the nation's longest rivalry... 

Close Games in Minneapolis

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    This year's meeting for Paul Bunyan's Axe will be hosted by the Gophers in TCF Bank Stadium. 2011 has been a struggle for Minnesota, and Wisconsin has had no trouble blowing out mediocre opponents.

    However, could Minnesota keep this game close to the end? The last time Wisconsin beat Minnesota by more than a touchdown in Minneapolis was in 1983.

Before Paul Bunyan's Axe

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    Before the creation of Paul Bunyan's Axe, Wisconsin and Minnesota commemorated their rivalry by playing for a trophy called the Slab of Bacon. The symbol in the middle is a 'W' or an 'M', depending on which way the trophy is oriented.

    After a Gophers victory over Wisconsin in 1943, Gophers coach George Hauser refused to accept it, and the trophy was sent back to Madison with Wisconsin.

    Paul Bunyan's Axe replaced the Slab of Bacon in 1948 as the rivalry's traveling trophy.

Something Turns Up During Camp Randall's Renovations

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    Camp Randall was under renovations in 1994 when the Slab of Bacon trophy was found in the confines of the stadium, though it was mysteriously maintained as scores for the rivalry were engraved on the back between 1930 and 1970.

    The trophy is currently in the possession of the University of Wisconsin, which houses it in the football office.

    Barry Alvarez famously said, "We took home the bacon and kept it."

Nation's Oldest Rivalry

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    The University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota have played 120 games dating back to 1890.

    The Golden Gophers lead the all-time series 59-53-8, but the Badgers lead the Axe era 36-24-3.

    The Border War between Missouri and Kansas is just one game younger than the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe as the nation's longest rivalry.

Glen Mason's Impact on the Series

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    History goes against Minnesota in this game. In the past 16 years, there has been just one Minnesota head coach that has beaten the Gophers, and that man is Glen Mason.

    Mason has been Minnesota's most successful coach since Murray Warmath, who coached in the 1970s.

    In this game, history does not bode well for Minnesota, who has lost the last seven meetings since Mason departed. 

Where the Outcomes Go on the Axe

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    The final scores of the game are traditionally imprinted on the axe. However, due to the longevity of the rivalry, the outcomes have been printed smaller and smaller to preserve the rivalry's trophy.

    The broad face of the shaft was finally covered in 1980.

    Presently, Paul Bunyan's Axe is not the original. The Wisconsin "W" Club created a newer version of the axe due to space limitations on the original.

Change of Scenery

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    TCF Bank Stadium is the University of Minnesota's football facility that opened its doors to Gopher football in 2009.

    Minnesota has not had much luck maintaining the axe in Madison or the Metrodome. Will a new change of scenery and a new face on the sidelines help change the Gophers' misfortune?

    Saturday will mark the second game in a new era of Minnesota football between the Gophers and Badgers.

Paul Bunyan

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    Paul Bunyan, a mere myth, is one of the most popular North American traditions. Bunyan was popularly described as a giant with unusual strength and skill for a lumberjack.

    After the disappearance of the Slab of Bacon trophy, the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry took on Paul Bunyan and his famed axe as their rivalry's trophy.

No Ties Since 1956

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    In the Axe's first 10 years, there were three ties between the two teams.

    Since the last tie in 1956, there has not been one.

Only Coach to Never Lose a Game

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    Bret Bielema succeeded legendary coach Barry Alvarez in 2006. Though it can change any year these two teams play, Bielema has not lost a game to Minnesota and is the only coach on both sides in the history of Paul Bunyan's Axe that can say that.

    Given the strength of Bielema's Badgers this year and Minnesota's struggles for much of 2011, it's not bold to think this streak will continue.


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