The storied history of the Wisconsin and Minnesota rivalry dates back all the way to 1890. After a brief one year hiatus in 1906 due to then-President Roosevelet suspending all college football in light of safety concerns, the rivalry game has been played every season since, making it the longest continuously played rivalry game in the history of college football. Entering Saturday, Wisconsin leads the series 61-60-8.
The game first used a slab of bacon as its trophy, meaning that whoever won the game proverbially “brought home the bacon.” This trophy was then lost as a result of Minnesota’s head coach at the time, George Hauser, being unable to properly secure its return to Minneapolis after a Minnesota victory. This slab of bacon was then replaced with Paul Bunyan’s Axe, which has been used as the game’s trophy every game since.
As of today, Wisconsin is only two years removed from the longest winning streak in the series, defeating the Golden Gophers 14 consecutive times between 2004 and 2017. In his first year on the job in 2018, Minnesota Head Coach PJ Fleck broke the streak, leading the Golden Gophers to a victory in Madison in which Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw three interceptions.
Expectations could not have been higher in 2019 for both teams. The series was tied at 60-60-8 and an improved No. 8 Minnesota hosted the No. 12 Badgers in Minneapolis as part of ESPN’s College Gameday. During this appearance, PJ Fleck’s mantra “Row the Boat” led to him being cartoonishly rowed in a boat through the snow. This appearance was then eternalized on Big Ten West championship rings that Minnesota confusingly awarded themselves. However, this was not a game for Minnesota to remember, as the Badgers rallied to defeat the Gophers 38-17 and earn a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game.
Today, the Badgers will look to extend their lead in the longest continuously played rivalry game in all of college football history. However, this game today almost didn’t happen.
The two were originally scheduled to play in the middle of October, it was only due to the pandemic that the game was rescheduled to this Thanksgiving time slot. Minnesota had to cancel, as they did not have enough players eligible to play following an outbreak on the team. Thankfully, the two were able to reschedule, further extending the streak and giving fans and players the rivalry matchup that is much anticipated every fall.