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Our editors predict the Badgers to play in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game
There were many jokes over the summer about who would be the ‘leader’ in the Big Ten’s Leaders, but the on-the-field answer should provide one of college football’s best divisional races down the stretch. Wisconsin looked like the prohibitive favorite through the first half of the season, but the Badgers have lost two in a row in heartbreaking fashion. Penn State is the current Leaders’ leader by two games, going 5-0 in league play. However, JoePa’s bunch has its three toughest conference games — Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin — still remaining. The Buckeyes seemed like they could miss a bowl game a few weeks ago, but Luke Fickell’s crew is back in the divisional chase after its upset over Wisconsin.
Who wins the Big Ten’s Leaders Division?
Wisconsin will win the Big Ten's Leaders division. Although the Badgers' season has been in a free fall — first losing their BCS national title hopes with a last-second loss at Michigan State and then watching the Rose Bowl slip away on another late defeat at Ohio State the following week — the division is still within reach. UW should take care of Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois before what could be a winner-take-all Leaders showdown with Penn State in the season finale. JoePa's Nittany Lions — currently undefeated in-conference, with only a loss to Alabama on their slate — will likely have two more losses (Nebraska, at Ohio State) heading into Camp Randall Stadium. In the end, however, Russell Wilson, Montee Ball and the Badgers will prevail as the Leaders' representative in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though Wisconsin has lost its last two games, I still like the Badgers to win the Leaders Division. Looking at the schedules, Wisconsin has a favorable road to finishing 10-2. The Badgers play Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois and then the season finale in Madison at Penn State. The Nittany Lions figure to be the biggest challenger to Wisconsin’s claim at the Leaders Division. The Badgers need Penn State to lose twice, which seems likely considering it still has to play Nebraska, Ohio State and then the Badgers in the finale. The Buckeyes also need to lose once, which could happen in the annual battle with Michigan. Considering Wisconsin-Penn State and Ohio State-Michigan play on the final Saturday of the regular season, the Big Ten Leaders Division probably won’t be decided until Nov. 26. However, I still think Wisconsin is the team to beat.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
This might sound crazy but I am going with the true freshman-led Ohio State Buckeyes. This young and very talented defense has proven its worth over the last few weeks, shutting down the Wisconsin rushing attack. The Badgers will beat Purdue this weekend and Penn State in the season finale at Camp Randall and likely finish 6-2 in Big Ten play. Penn State will lose two of its last three (Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin) and finish 6-2. If OSU is one of the two teams to beat PSU (to go with Wisconsin), then the three-way 6-2 tie will go the way of the Scarlet and Gray. Luke Fickell will pull a Ralph Friedgen and win Coach of the Year honors before getting shown the door.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Despite losing two heartbreakers in a row, I think Wisconsin will lead the Leaders at season’s end. The Badgers have looked vulnerable on defense the last two weeks, but they have a pretty good shot at running the table and finishing with two league losses. Penn State has surprisingly managed to go unscathed through the Big Ten so far. However, the Nittany Lions have played mediocre competition for over a month now and could easily lose two (if not all three) of their three remaining games. The Buckeyes have looked much better lately with the development of Braxton Miller and the return of Boom Herron, but I believe OSU loses one of its last two games. It should be a great November in the Leaders race, and I’ll take Russell Wilson and Montee Ball to rally the Badgers and play in Indianapolis.