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July 2, 2011

Will Wisconsin win Big Ten with Wilson?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. There are two questions this week, one today and one Sunday.

TODAY'S QUESTION: With Russell Wilson transferring to Wisconsin earlier this week, are the Badgers now the team to beat in the Big Ten?

David Fox's answer:
After all the fallout at Ohio State, Wisconsin appeared to be the favorite in the Leaders Division before Russell Wilson arrived. Penn State's not quite back to being in the Big Ten elite. Illinois, Northwestern and Michigan are just fighting for bowl bids. To get ready to run the offense, Wilson will have to cram like a college freshman during finals week, but Wisconsin can default to typical Badgers run-first football as he gets settled. Moreover, he won't have to make a true road start until Oct. 22. Once he is settled, Wilson will have the best run game and best offensive line he has had. Will that be enough to win the Big Ten? I think so, even though it's going to be a tough road: Nebraska on Oct. 1 and four of the last six on the road, including Michigan State and Ohio State. Wisconsin clearly is the best team in the Leaders Division. Are the Badgers good enough to beat Nebraska or Michigan State on a neutral field in the championship game? I think so.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Wilson provides a talent upgrade at quarterback for the Badgers, but how quickly can he adjust? He played in a pass-first offense at North Carolina State; Wisconsin always is going to be about the run. It's up to offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to make the necessary adjustments that will enable Wilson to show off all his wares. I still think Ohio State is, top to bottom, the most talented team in the Big Ten. But the turmoil has to take a toll, which is why I now think Wisconsin is the favorite in the Leaders Division. Is Wisconsin better than Nebraska, which should win the Legends Division? The teams likely will meet twice. Nebraska travels to Madison on Oct. 1, and they probably will meet again in the league championship game on Dec. 3. My prediction: The team that wins Oct. 1 will lose the rematch. But I have no idea who will win Oct. 1.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I think this does make Wisconsin the best team in the Big Ten now. My biggest question about the Badgers was how they'd replace Scott Tolzien at quarterback, and I think they've actually upgraded at the position with Wilson. The losses of Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi and All-America guard John Moffitt hurt, but Wisconsin always has a solid offensive line. But just because the Badgers are the best team in the league doesn't necessarily mean they're the favorite. Although I like Wisconsin's team better, I think Nebraska has an easier route to the Big Ten championship game because it plays in a weaker division. Wisconsin could have a tough time beating out Ohio State and Penn State in the Leaders Division. I also don't like a schedule that has Wisconsin traveling to Michigan State and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks. Nebraska seems like a much more commanding favorite in the Legends Division because I'm not sold on Iowa or Michigan bouncing back and I don't think Michigan State can match last season's success.

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