With Wisconsin losing in East Lansing last week the Big Ten race seems to be more open that it once thought was. The Badgers are in Columbus this weekend to take on Ohio State, who can all of a sudden find themselves back in the Big Ten championship picture with a win. Penn State is also undefeated in Big Ten play and sitting on top of the conference standings. So, is Wisconsin still the team to beat or did their loss open the door for another possible contender?
Kevin, National College Football Examiner: I felt that this past weekend was going to be tough for Wisconsin (I picked Michigan State if you recall) but I never felt that Wisconsin still was not the team to beat in the Big Ten this season. That feeling has not changed even after the Hail Mary loss to the Spartans. As long as Wisconsin can avoid a second straight loss this weekend at Ohio State, then Wisconsin should have a pretty manageable path to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game. They get to play Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois before hosting Penn State in the regular season finale, while Penn State still has games against Nebraska and Ohio State after this weekend’s game against Illinois.
Remember, the Illini handed Penn State one of the worst home losses in Joe Paterno’s career a season ago, Nebraska is still very strong and Penn State has won just one game in Columbus since joining the Big Ten in 1993. Penn State may have a solid defense, but the offense remains a legitimate concern and they may stumble on their way to Madison.
If Wisconsin reaches the Big Ten championship game, they will be tough to beat and a Hail Mary pass may not be as successful next time.
Sean Jackson, Ohio State Buckeyes Examiner: Wisconsin’s loss to Michigan State was surprising but they are still the team to beat in the Leaders Division. Even with their implosion of mental mistakes and bad special teams, it took Michigan State executing a play of the decade pass for the Spartans to beat the Badgers. Wisconsin will refocus and come back more dangerous than ever.
Though Penn State holds the one game lead in the division, their schedule is about to become much more difficult. Their last three games are against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin (their last two are on the road). If they can win two of the three then they deserve the trip to Indy.
Meanwhile, as bad as the Buckeyes have played they still have a chance. Their showdown against Wisconsin this weekend is make it or break it time for the scarlet and gray. If they win (huge if) it would be a large step in getting closer to the Big Ten title.
Troy Hyde, Iowa Hawkeyes Examiner: I can’t believe that Wisconsin went 6-0 in its first six games and all of those games were at home. And when it finally went on the road, it loses. The Badgers have proven to be great this year. I am not disputing that. They are clearly another team on the road though and they could find themselves in trouble in their remaining road games. The good news is that they have eight home games again this year. Right now, I give the Leaders Division edge to Wisconsin, but Penn State is looking more and more like a team that could give the Badgers offense trouble in the coming weeks. Illinois is obviously a pretender and Ohio State just doesn’t have enough in my opinion to remain in the hunt. The Leaders Division to me is still wide open.
Gerald Nicdao, San Diego Sports Examiner: If it wasn’t for a lucky bounce, a lucky catch and a lunge forward, Wisconsin might still be undefeated today. But it isn’t. That doesn’t mean that they’re not the favorites in the Big Ten anymore.
The Badgers have the most explosive offense in the conference, ranking first in the Big Ten and fifth in the nation in points per game. But Penn State is no slouch and is in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten Leaders division. The two meet in the last week of the regular season and that game might decide who gets to go to the Big Ten title game.
But I wouldn’t count Wisconsin out yet. If it can survive a late-season trip to Columbus, then it should be able to continue winning until the end of the season.
Max Price, Oregon Ducks Examiner: I think Wisconsin is still the team to beat. Russell Wilson remains to be one of the best players in college football right now, and I have no doubt that the Badgers are the top team in the Big Ten conference. Michigan State played a great game, but make no doubt, they lost on a lucky, lucky play. Wisconsin was extremely poised late in the game as they mounted their comeback, and I see a lot of positives coming out of that loss for the Badgers. They’re a more mature team now, and I think we’ll see that reflected over the rest of their season.
Rich Kurtzman, Colorado State Rams Examiner: With Wisconsin falling last week, Michigan State looks to be in the driver’s seat now in the Big Ten. But don’t discount Penn State and their undefeated conference record, which will come into play for sure down the road. If the two finish the season on top of their respective divisions, it will be interesting to see who wins the match up of state schools.
Shawn Lealos, Oklahoma Sooners Examiner: The Leaders division is down to Penn State and Wisconsin. If Penn State runs the table, the two teams play in the final week of the season. However, Penn State has Nebraska on Nov. 12, so that is not a given. The Legends division is another story. Michigan State, Michigan and Nebraska are all tied and Iowa is right behind them. I honestly see any of those teams being a threat to beat the Leaders division winner in the B1G title game on December 3.
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