The Axe!

This Saturday will be the 120th meeting of the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Wisconsin Badgers on the gridiron. Minnesota hopes to limit the dominant rush game of the Badgers in their quest to bring Paul Bunyan's Axe back to Minneapolis for the first time since 2003.

This Saturday will be the 120th edition of the Gopher/Badger rivalry, the most played rivalry in Division I college football, and the 63rd time the two teams will be vying for Paul Bunyan's Axe. There is only one person on the Gopher sidelines (outside the coaches) who has felt the joy that comes with hoisting the Axe after beating the historic rival and that is Wisconsin transfer Kim Royston.

Minnesota enters the game nursing a four-game losing streak and one of the worst rush defenses in the Big Ten, while Wisconsin enter the game with one of the best rush offenses in the conference and coming off a loss to an emotional Michigan State team.

Wisconsin is averaging 239 yards of rushing per game on 5.6 per carry behind the bruising John Clay and the electric freshman James White who have 581 and 367 yards respectively.

Wisconsin's passing game has been nearly as good with senior Scott Tolzein completing almost 70 percent of his passes and throwing only two picks and six touchdowns.

The Gophers will have to play close attention to Tolzein's favorite target, Tight end Lance Kendricks, on play action as well as big play threat, Nick Toon.

Perhaps Minnesota's best chance in Madison will be through the air as Minnesota has had some success in the passing game behind senior quarterback Adam Weber. Minnesota ranks fourth in the conference with 241 passing yards per game and over half of Minnesota's touchdowns have come off passing plays.

Gopher receivers MarQueis Gray and Da'Jon McKnight will look to find the soft spot in the questionable Badger secondary. Gray and McKnight along with tight end Eric Lair account for over half of Gopher touchdowns and sixty-six percent of Gopher receptions.

The Gophers will have to establish some kind of running game to open up the play action. The Minnesota offensive line has been improved this season, but with potential all-conference linemen J.J. Watt playing defensive end at 6-foot-6, 292 pounds and Jordan Kohut at defensive tackle, the Gophers will have to figure out a way to open holes for their trio of running backs.

All three of Minnesota's backs are averaging over four yards per carry (though freshman Donnell Kirkwood has been nursing a tight hamstring and will be questionable), and the team is averaging 166 yards per game.

Bringing the Axe back to Minneapolis will be a tall task, but rivalry games (particularly between the Gophers and the Badgers) tend not to go to script. With the Badgers coming off a tough loss and perhaps hoping to sharpen their knives against a soft defense, the Gophers might need more than a dash of trophy game magic to get out of Wisconsin with the Axe.

They may need a Paul Bunyan type performance to turn the recent tide of Badger victory.

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