Wisconsin senior Chris Orr had a psychic vision, without knowing it.
Back at Big Ten media days in July, the linebacker mused about his Badgers' rivalry with the Gophers, and how Minnesota used its first victory in 14 years as a turning point.
"I mean, that's cool that that's how they want to use it when they look at one game, one trophy game, to turn around the entire program," Orr said. "I don't know if that's something I would do unless I, like, won the Big Ten Championship."
Funny that's how he put it, considering more than four months later, that's exactly what's come to fruition. The Gophers will face Wisconsin at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday not only in an effort to keep Paul Bunyan's Axe but to win the Big Ten West title and advance to the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time.
Wisconsin has been to that championship game five times, winning twice. If the Badgers beat the Gophers, both teams will end the regular season at 10-2, with Wisconsin advancing on the head-to-head tiebreaker. And while oddsmakers give Wisconsin the slight edge, this most-played rivalry in FBS history has an even record, dating to 1890, at 60-60-8.
Orr foretold some more on that July day in Chicago, saying how the Badgers wouldn't let one 37-15 loss in the matchup make them "go down the toilet bowl." But he could see why the Gophers might latch onto it in an effort to bring more "outside attention" to a game that usually only the two teams take to heart.
ESPN's "College GameDay" will feature the rivalry, broadcasting from the University of Minnesota campus for the first time Saturday.
"I don't think you could write a better story, at least from the college football world perspective," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said Monday. "?'College GameDay', Twin Cities, Big Ten West championship on the line, longest-standing rivalry in college football, split 50-50 right down the middle. Chance to go to the Big Ten Championship, New Year's Day bowls, [I could] keep going. Playoff whatever it is. There is a lot."
The Gophers paraded the Axe around the state of Minnesota all offseason, taking it on a tour with stops from Rochester to Duluth for fans to take pictures with and hold. The case housing the trophy in the team's Football Hall of Fame was barren Monday, as the Axe took up short-term residence Sunday in the locker room. Fleck showed it to the players, as he's done with all trophies dating to his Western Michigan tenure, to help them understand the gravity.
He did that ahead of the game last season, shouting a locker room hype speech focusing on his players not being afraid to be legends. Fleck wanted to restore the legacy of Gophers' greatness, lagging since the 1960s, when the program won its most recent national championship and Big Ten title.
"They won't remember scores. They won't remember how many wins we had that year. But they'll remember us beating Wisconsin. And that's how you create a legendary moment," Fleck said. ". You have one shot at giving that speech, and you just pray that it works."
It did. And now Fleck will have to come up with something even more iconic.
Orr said all those months ago Wisconsin was trying to make people forget that the Gophers had ever been successful against the Badgers, wanting "people to think that this was Wisconsin's game."
But one more of his prophecies will have to wait until Saturday to see if it materialized.
"You go to Minnesota or Wisconsin, you're going to know about Axe week. You're going to think about it eventually. But not too much right now," Orr said in July. "At the end of the day, it's still like Week . I don't want to get too riled up about it because that means it's just going to wither away.
"I want to save all that for that week."