No. 6 Wisconsin clinched the Big Ten West title without lifting a finger on Friday. Nebraska's loss at Wisconsin means the Badgers are heading to next Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game whether they beat Minnesota or not.
There's still a little bit going on here, though. The Badgers and Gophers are playing for the wonderful Paul Bunyan's Axe, one of the sport's great rivalry trophies. Wisconsin has two losses at the moment, which isn't a big deal. But if the Badgers lose a third game, a Playoff berth with a Big Ten championship becomes something less than automatic. So they're playing to keep a cushion for themselves, as well as for an extremely cool axe. That should be enough to get the Badgers' competitive juices flowing, even if the standings are now out of the way.
The Badgers are heavy home favorites, which seems fair. They've been good all year. But don't sleep on Minnesota, which is more than capable of putting together 60 solid minutes of football. This could turn out to be competitive.
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Online streaming: BTN2Go
Spread: The Badgers are two-touchdown favorites.
Three big things to know
1. The Badgers have been unbeatable against anyone who's not a top-four team. Nine non-Michigan, non-Ohio State teams have lined up across from the Badgers this year, and all nine of them have lost. Wisconsin needed tight finishes to beat good teams like LSU and Nebraska and bad ones like Georgia State, but on the whole, they've been remarkably consistent. If that sturdiness doesn't keep up on Saturday, it'll be a significant departure from the norm.
2. Minnesota, quietly, has put together a nice season. And the Gophers, while they can't win the division, could get themselves to 6-3 in the conference and 9-3 overall if they win. It's been a workmanlike, quality first full year on the job for head coach Tracy Claeys, and the Gophers have a good deal to be proud of, even if they lose on Saturday.
3. There's a trophy! It wouldn't be a Big Ten heartland rivalry without one. The Gophers and Badgers will play each other for Paul Bunyan's Axe, which has been on the line in this series in every game since 1948. The Badgers are 41-24-3 against Minnesota since the Axe became a thing, but Minnesota actually has a 59-58-8 lead if you go all the way back to the teams' first meeting in 1890. That's a long time ago, though, and UW's won the last 12 games.