Spread and total based on Nov. 23 odds. For the latest odds, visit The Action Network.
Ah, Axe Week. A historic battle between two heated rivals for one of the greatest trophies in all of sports.
Despite the Axe having a somewhat permanent home in Madison for over a decade, the series historically has been pretty split. Wisconsin has won 60 games in the all-time series and Minnesota has won 59 with eight ties along the way. However, the Badgers have dominated the rivalry of late, winning in 14 consecutive years ... although you probably knew that already.
The line for Axe Week opened with the Badgers a 10-point favorite—higher than I anticipated, as my projections have this at an 8.5 spread. It’s clear that oddsmakers took notice of Wisconsin’s offensive output a week ago, which helped propel this mark to double digits. The total for this contest opened at 54 and has remained at that mark over the course of the week, with very little money coming in on either side.
There’s no love lost between these two schools, and no matter the record, the rivalry always remains heated. However, Minnesota does have some extra incentive today, as a win would not only bring the Axe back to Minneapolis but also send the Gophers bowling. With so much on the line for both teams, here are some notable trends to consider before making your Axe Week bets.
- Wisconsin has won 14 consecutive games SU against Minnesota
- Wisconsin is 4–5–1 ATS in its last 10 games vs. Minnesota
- Wisconsin is 1–6 ATS in its last seven home games
- Wisconsin is 1–3–1 ATS when playing Minnesota at home over the last five contests
- Minnesota is 1–7 ATS over its last eight road games
- Minnesota is 2–6 SU in its last eight games
- Minnesota is 2–3–1 ATS in its last six contests against Wisconsin
- The total has gone over in 15 of the last 18 contest between Minnesota and Wisconsin
- The total has gone over the last five times Minnesota has traveled to Wisconsin
There are plenty of notable trends for this contest, but the first two bullet points are the most glaring. Wisconsin has won 14 straight games over Minnesota, but of the last 10, it has covered the spread just four times. That is notable, but not really that surprising considering the circumstances. Rivalry games always tend to be closer than a non-rival game, as you are always getting your best effort out of your opponent. Additionally, teams tend to play tight in these games, making a low-scoring affair plausible.
The Pick: Wisconsin (-10)
Wisconsin has struggled ATS all season, but so has Minnesota. Neither team has had much success covering in any spot, as the Badgers sit at 3–8 on the season while Minnesota sits at 6–5. Minnesota’s struggles tend to be more evident on the road, as the Gophers are 1–3 ATS this season. I like Wisconsin in this matchup simply because I think the Purdue contest a week ago kind of woke the Badgers up and allowed them to salvage at least part of the season.
Look, the season has not been what any of us expected, but if you can salvage a good road win against Purdue, keep the Axe, and win a decent bowl game, you at least save part of it. I know Minnesota has a lot of motivation for this contest, but I just don’t see the talent of this Gopher team emerging quite yet. I believe this contest will be within striking distance for a good portion of the game, but I think the Badgers cover late to seal a victory in Madison and retain the Axe for the 15th straight year.
The trouble for Minnesota has been defensively, especially against the run. The Gophers currently rank 72nd in rushing defense, giving up 5.2 yards per carry. They’ve allowed 19 rushing touchdowns to their opponents. That bodes well for the Badgers, who bring in the nation’s leading rusher in Jonathan Taylor. The Badgers should have no trouble doing what they do best and that’s run the football directly down the throat of the opponent. In terms of the total, the trouble will be how Minnesota’s offense fairs in correlation.
The Gophers currently rank 81st in total offense. A big portion of their struggle has been on the road, as they are 0–4 and averaging just 21.5 points per game. They’re a unit that has had inconsistencies all year, much like the Badgers’ defense, who looked to be improving before being gashed a week ago against Purdue.
I prefer an under play in this contest. Wisconsin should be able to put up a good amount of points, but will still chew up a lot of clock in the process. Couple that with Minnesota’s struggle to consistently put up points on the road and you have a lot better odds in the lower side.
With Wisconsin putting up big points last week, this total feels a bit inflated. I expect a 31–17ish game, so there is a good amount of value in playing the under for Axe week.