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Minnesota Football: Gophers to play Wisconsin in Big Ten’s Champions Week

The battle for the Axe is back on the schedule

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NCAA Football: Minnesota at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten announced on Sunday their “Champions Week” matchups for Saturday, Dec. 19. The original plan was for Champions Week to feature an additional division crossover matchup for each Big Ten football team, but instead the Minnesota Golden Gophers will travel to Camp Randall for a chance to re-claim Paul Bunyan’s Axe from the Wisconsin Badgers.

The game will kickoff at 3 p.m. and be televised on the Big Ten Network.

The Gophers and the Badgers were slated to play on Nov. 28, but Minnesota was forced to cancel that game after pausing team activities due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the football program. The cancellation would have snapped a streak of 113 consecutive contests played in the rivalry series, but Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck and Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez both lobbied the Big Ten to re-schedule the Axe game for the final week of the season.

Minnesota sits at 3-3 — good enough to rank third in the Big Ten West — and is riding a two-game winning streak, though there was a two-week layoff sandwiched between their victories over Purdue and Nebraska. Wisconsin is 2-3 and has lost three straight games, dropping consecutive contests to Northwestern, Indiana, and Iowa. After averaging 47 points per game through their 2-0 start, the Badgers have averaged 6.6 points on offense in their three losses.

Here are the rest of the Champions Week games:

Big Ten Championship: Ohio State (5-0) vs Northwestern (6-1)
Purdue (2-5) @ Indiana (6-1)
Michigan (2-4) @ Iowa (6-2)
Michigan State (2-5) @ Maryland (2-3)
Illinois (2-5) @ Penn State (3-5)
Nebraska (2-5) @ Rutgers (3-5)