It’s all about the axe.

Dating back to 1890 and a stretch of 131 games, the rivalry between Wisconsin and Minnesota is the longest in college football.

What’s a stake for the winning team? Celebrating with Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

Badgers interim coach Jim Leonhard, with a 1-2 record as a player in the rivalry game, is well aware of the happy energy of winning and the agony of defeat.

During Leonhard’s final season playing at safety in 2004, the Badgers bolted to a 31-point lead and beat the Gophers 38-14.

If the winning team gained back the trophy, players would run to the opponent’s sideline at the end of the game, take the axe to the opponent’s goal post and pretend to chop the goal post down.

“Winning the axe back and just seeing the emotion, we put a lot into that,” Leonhard told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 2 years ago. “It was an awesome feeling running across that field to go get that axe back from them.”

The Badgers host the Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams.

A Wisconsin win over Minnesota will put the axe back in the Badgers’ trophy case and improve the team’s record to 63-61-8 in the rivalry.

The Gophers secured a 23-13 win in 2021.

A Badgers’ victory probably will lead to two important developments: helping Wisconsin gain a better bowl bid, and securing the permanent head coach position for Leonhard.

After Paul Chryst was fired on Oct. 2, Wisconsin has gone 4-2 since Leonhard took over the head coach duties on an interim basis.

The Badgers overcame a fourth-quarter deficit, and many obstacles, to beat Nebraska 15-14 in Lincoln.

Wisconsin (6-5, 4-4 B1G West) won its 6th game of the season to become bowl eligible for the 21st straight season. With 20 consecutive appearances, Wisconsin holds the third longest active streak in college football, behind Georgia (25) and Oklahoma (23).

There were highlights and low moments against the Huskers that will carry over to the regular-season finale.

Wisconsin outside linebacker Nick Herbig, the team’s sack leader, was ejected for targeting in the second half of the Nebraska game. Herbig will not play in the first half against Minnesota.

Badgers standout running back Braelon Allen suffered a right ankle sprain in the fourth quarter on Saturday. Allen has also been battling a left shoulder injury sustained in the Purdue game on Oct. 22.

Allen finished with 18 carries for 92 yards against the Huskers.

The Nebraska game marked the return of running back Chez Mellusi, who had 21 carries for 98 yards.

Mellusi was sidelined for 4 games after breaking his arm in the fourth quarter against Northwestern on Oct. 8.

Graham Mertz had a streaky performance in Lincoln. The senior threw an interception that set up Nebraska’s first touchdown in the second quarter. But he helped orchestrate a fourth-quarter rally that Badgers fans won’t forget. He connected with Skyler Bell on a 10-yard touchdown pass that pulled Wisconsin within 14-9 with 10:07 left.

Mertz threw a gorgeous 27-yard pass to Isaac Guerendo that put the Badgers on the 7-yard line, and 3 plays later, Mertz posted the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard sneak with 35 seconds remaining.

Mertz, in his final home game, will have to play consistently and better for the Badgers to have a chance against Minnesota, which lost a 13-10 heartbreaker at home to Iowa.

Nose tackle Keeanu Benton and the Wisconsin defense will need to make a statement early against the Gophers, especially with Herbig sitting out the first half.

An axe-worthy performance will be tough for Wisconsin to close November, but the Badgers are ready for the challenge.