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5 Reasons Why Wisconsin Will Win the Big Ten Championship Game

Author:
Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor

The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers enter the Big Ten Championship Game as nearly a touchdown underdog to the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes. Pay no attention to that spread, as it falls in line with the disrespect Wisconsin has had to deal with every step of the way this season. College football fans don't respect the Badgers. The College Football Playoff selection committee waited until last night to include them in the top four and they've been receiving the "Iowa treatment" from Colin Cowherd. In the face of all that, they just keep winning. On Saturday against the Buckeyes, the Badgers will have their sights set on remaining the last unbeaten Power 5 team.

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5 Reasons Why Wisconsin Will Win the Big Ten Championship Game

1. The coaching staff knows exactly who it is

Paul Chryst (above, right) is a coach's son. He knows the game. He knows Wisconsin. He's from there, he's played there and he knows what works there. He's built a staff — highlighted by defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard — that also knows what it takes for this team to win games each week. They have limitations. They have talent. They have a plan and they execute it to perfection week after week, never straying from it. The players see this and never get flustered or anxious in close games or even when playing from behind. There's nothing Ohio State can do to make this staff flinch.

2. The dominant offensive line

I don't know if there's another unit at any other program in the country as consistent as Wisconsin's offensive line. The Badgers lose star players to the NFL draft every year. They plug new faces in and keep on rolling. Lather, rinse and repeat. There's probably less star-power on the 2017 unit than there has been in recent years. No matter. All they've done this season is open holes in the run game to the tune of 5.3 yards per carry. That sort of consistency and efficiency wears down even the best of opponents.

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3. Jonathan Taylor

The holes that the Badgers' offensive line make can be massive, but you still need a difference-maker running through them to make them count. Taylor is exactly that. The freshman has burst onto the college football scene with an elite combination of power, speed and vision. There may not be a better pure runner in the country, and combined with Wisconsin's offensive line — he makes the Badgers' always-solid rushing attack downright lethal.

4. Underrated playmakers at receiver and tight end

A lot of teams who rely as heavily on the run as the Badgers do often lack any real playmaking threats in the passing attack. Not Wisconsin. The constant threat of a big play through the air only adds to the degree of difficulty that comes with trying to stop Taylor and the run game. A.J. Taylor is a shifty wideout with game-breaking speed that Wisconsin moves all over the field. Danny Davis III is a sure-handed, crisp route-runner who has stepped up his game since the injury to Quintez Cephus. Tight end Troy Fumagalli is simply one of the best in the country at his position and a name you'll hear for years to come on Sundays. If Ohio State decides to stack the box against Taylor, Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook has no shortage of targets to deliver the ball to downfield.

5. Suffocating defense

The Badgers only give up 12 points per game. If you find the end zone against them more than once, it's a badge of honor. No team in the country is better than Wisconsin at stopping the run, and that's the key to everything. If you can't run, you can't set up the pass. You can't set up the pass because Wisconsin isn't even worried about a team running on it, thanks largely to its elite defensive front.

Defensive tackle Olive Sagapolu is a space-eating monster in the middle who plugs holes and forces traffic outside. He'll do just that to the Buckeyes all day, and a speedy corps of linebacker will be right there to clean up the mess he created.

Outside linebacker Garret Dooley is one of the nation's most dominant edge rushers. He led the Big Ten in sacks with eight, and he'll likely add to that total when Sagapolu forces J.T. Barrett his way. And don't forget the quarterback of the defense, free safety D'Cota Dixon. He's one of the best safeties in the nation — an enforcer over the middle against the pass and an asset against the run. Not many college football teams can claim to have a surefire future NFL player on all three levels of defense. The Badgers can, and the Buckeyes will find that out the hard way on Saturday.

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also covers the Big Ten for Black Heart Gold Pants, Iowa's SB Nation blog. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.