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Plenty to play for in battle for axe

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Wisconsin and Minnesota will not play for a Big Ten championship, but there is plenty to play for on Saturday in the annual battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe.

The Gophers (5-6) need a win to ensure bowl eligibility. After a 3-1 start, Minnesota has gone 2-5 since, losing head coach Jerry Kill to retirement in the process.

A win would also give the Gophers the axe for the first time in 12 years.

Obviously winning the game would take care of both problems. The Gophers are prioritizing bringing back the trophy against their longtime rivals.

"Right now it's gotta be the axe. Obviously we want to go to a bowl game, but that axe is right in front of us, we're excited for this Saturday," senior offensive lineman Jon Christenson said. "Obviously when we win this Saturday we'll go to a bowl game so those two are, but definitely our focus is that axe right now."

Recently promoted head coach Tracy Claeys said the berth into a bowlgame is a side product of this week's task, bringing home the axe.

"This axe has been in play a long time. We haven't had it for a while. And so without a doubt that's the number one priority is to you know, our goal is to bring the axe back."

For Wisconsin (8-3), claiming the axe for a 12th year would offer some satisfaction for a season that began with much bigger aspirations. Wisconsin's seniors know the history of the rivalry all too well, and know to expect Minnesota's best game Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium.

"After you play in one of those games you realize these teams are going after that axe and it means a lot to them," Erickson said. "Like I said, it doesn't matter the records of the teams, both teams could have no wins but you know that game for the axe is going to be a tight and both teams are going to be very competitive."

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. in Minneapolis.

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