The Battle for the Axe is finally here as Wisconsin and Minnesota go at it on Saturday at Camp Randall.
The Badgers are looking to regain control of The Axe after Minnesota's win in the Twin Cities a year ago.
Before losing to Iowa last week, Minnesota had won their previous three matchups. Wisconsin comes into Saturday following a dramatic late win over Nebraska that gave them bowl eligibility. Wisconsin has won 16 of the last 18 matchups in the longest-running rivalry in all of college football.
How will Saturday play out with two evenly-matched rivals? Here is what our BadgersWire staff thinks:
Nov 12, 2022; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz (5) takes the snap against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
This will be an extremely tough matchup for the Badgers as they will try to win back Paul Bunyan's Axe against the Golden Gophers.
The Gophers had a solid start to the season and have found their success with a thriving run game and great defense. Wisconsin will need another fantastic game from Keeanu Benton and the defensive line, who have been causing havoc on opposing offensive lines the last few weeks. It will be interesting to see how they work around the loss of outside linebacker Nick Herbig in the first half.
The Badgers will also need to be creative on offense against a talented Minnesota defense. I think the Badgers will be able to put up enough points to win, while relying on their defense to limit the Golden Gophers' scoring. Like last week, it may not be pretty, but I believe that Wisconsin will find a way to get it done at home and take back the Axe.
Wisconsin beats Minnesota 21-17
LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 19: Running back Braelon Allen #0 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs against defensive back Quinton Newsome #6 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2022 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
This one will feel a lot like Wisconsin basketball's matchup with Dayton earlier this week. It will be the football equivalent of a 43-42 basketball game with every play meaning something, teams struggling to score, and defenses controlling the afternoon.
The run games will be the featured story as Mo Ibrahim has been on a tear for Minnesota while Wisconsin relies on their deep running back room headlined by Braelon Allen. Which run game has the better day? That might decide the matchup.
Graham Mertz doesn't have to go win the game, but has to play mistake-free football against an opportunistic Minnesota defense. The Badger defense is playing their best football of the season, but haven't seen a running back like Ibrahim because there aren't many like him in the nation. The home-field advantage is what leans me toward the Badgers in a close, low-scoring contest.
Wisconsin beats Minnesota 17-14
Story originally appeared on Badgers Wire