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Predicting the 2018 Big Ten Championship Game

A lot of Ohio State and Wisconsin, and for good reason.

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Wisconsin vs Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Cohn: Michigan over Wisconsin, 31-14

You’ll see a lot of Jim Harbaugh in this article, and a lot of it is just that we feel his tenure at Michigan won’t be a failure and success will eventually come. And for some reason, we feel like this is the year.

With whatever going on with Ohio State, Penn State seemingly taking a step back without Saquon (even with Trace and a great team), and Michigan State, Rutgers, Indiana and Maryland all there, maybe 2018 is Michigan’s year?

Oh, and I’m all aboard the Scott Frost train in the West. He’ll be better than Lovie and Fleck, and I think he gives Fitz and Brohm a run for their money as the best coach in the division. (No, I’m not forgetting about Ferentz and Chryst.) Wisconsin still makes the championship this year.

Michael Berns: Wisconsin over Ohio State 31-28

Wisconsin is going to be really good again after being so close to running the table in 2017. The only blemish on Wisconsin’s record last year was a loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game. The two will meet again in 2018 in Indianapolis, and Wisconsin has so many returnees from a season ago. The Badgers have the better running game, the better offensive line, the better linebackers and so much motivation to usurp the Buckeyes. Wisconsin’s kicker — yes a kicker gets a shoutout — Rafael Gaglianone is the best in the Big Ten, and he makes the winner to push Wisconsin into the College Football Playoff.

Austin Jabs: Michigan over Wisconsin 24-20

I think it would be easy to take Ohio State here. Of course they are the team to beat in the East. Again. That said, the Michigan defense is stout and should take a huge step forward in 2018. I think Devin Bush will be one of the best LB’s in the country and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Shea Patterson will be stellar under center for Michigan, and Jim Harbaugh will win Coach of the Year in the Big Ten. This will all be dependant, however, on the Michigan offensive line. They will need to be a better unit than expected up front in order to give Patterson time in the pocket and the running game to materialize. For Wisconsin, is there a better running back in the Big Ten than Jonathan Taylor? How about the country? A great offensive line, superb wide receivers, and a weak division means Wisconsin should be able to win by two games and rest up before the Big Ten Championship. However, in the end, the Michigan defense will be too much for even Taylor to overcome.

Raul Rodriguez: Michigan over Wisconsin 20-13

I think this is the year Michigan breaks through, wins in Columbus, and wins the Big Ten East. Indianapolis will be Ann Arbor south if the Wolverines end up in the Big Time championship game. Why am I bullish on Michigan? If Harbaugh can get production out of Shea Patterson, then Michigan will be a top 5 team. The offensive line has been a liability since Harbaugh arrived in Ann Arbor. So, Michigan brought in former Ohio State offensive line coach Ed Warriner to shore up the front. I think this might be the coaching hire of the offseason. You also mix in Jim McElwain who flamed out at Florida (in large part due to his loyalty to dud Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier) but was a highly effective at OC at Bama who kept defenses on their heals with his playcalling. I think Michigan’s offense takes the next step while the Defense matures into one of the best units in the country.

Mark Schaer: Ohio State over Wisconsin, 31-28 (OT)

It’s going to be a repeat of last year’s B1G Championship game, and of course with the same result. Ohio State (with whoever as coach) may be losing a historic player in JT Barrett, but there is a reason why Urban Meyer and his staff is one of the best in the sport. Paul Chryst’s Wisconsin Badgers will again cruise through their Big Ten West schedule, but the lack of a real challenge in the regular season will leave them unprepared to face the Buckeyes, who are returning seven starters on offense. Plus, when you’ve got a Bosa on the defensive line, it doesn’t matter how good the Buckeyes are up front. Alex Hornibrook will be better, but not when it counts. It’ll come down to the wire, but expect Meyer to punch his ticket to the College Football Playoff (with either one loss or an undefeated record) with a victory over Wisconsin.

Matt O’Neall: Ohio State over Wisconsin, 42-14

Same song, different dance. I really wanted to pick Penn State because I think Trace McSorley is pure electricity, However, I think it’s written in blood on a contract somewhere in the Big Ten offices that Ohio State shall not go more than two seasons without going to the College Football Playoff. I don’t think Nebraska is ready to challenge in the Big Ten West and I don’t trust anyone else in the division to get to 10 wins nearly as much as I trust the Badgers.

Kyle Huisinga: Penn State over Iowa, 35-28

I’m going a bit off the beaten path for this one. Call me crazy, but I love me some quarterbacks, and these two teams may have the two best in conference. Nate Stanley is a beast of a man (6-foot-4, 242 pounds) who can make all the throws on the field, and who could flourish this season with receivers like Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson at tight end, Nick Easley and Calvin Lockett at wide receiver, and Ivory Kelly-Martin running roughshod behind some of the linemen Iowa always has. It could be a special offense. That doesn’t even speak of the defense, with a stud like A.J. Epenesa at end, this team is an underrated bunch who I think could easily snatch the West from overwhelming favorites, Wisconsin. I think Iowa is primed for another Rose Bowl run under Kirk Ferentz. On the other side, Trace McSorley is one of the most talented QBs Penn State has ever had. As my colleague Matt O’Neall pointed out, he is straight electricity. Lightning arm and legs that can bring the crowd to its feet. Think Baker Mayfield. James Franklin has risen the talent level to National Championship contender status. I think they punch their ticket with a hard-fought victory over a game Iowa squad in a ramped up atmosphere. Of course, injuries could kill all this and my fellow writers will probably prove me wrong. I love me some quarterbacks though.

Ian Gold: Ohio State over Wisconsin, 41-31

Chalk baby, chalk! I bet those miserable cheese eating Badger fans are sick of seeing Urban Meyer’s guys for the Big Ten Championship by now. Although they return the best offensive line in the country (all of them), and a Heisman contender in sophomore tailback Jonathan Taylor (NJ), Wisconsin is simply outclassed when pitted toe-to-toe against the recruiting juggernaut that is Ohio State. I believe the Ohio State offense takes a huge step forward under the direction of Dwayne Haskins and the strong accurate arm that offense has been missing.

Matt Rejc: Penn State over Wisconsin, 35-28

Penn State will be a national force to be reckoned with this season. Led by Trace McSorley, they will be very difficult to stop on offense, and they will bring a traditionally talented defensive roster to the table as well. I expect Wisconsin to roll through the Big Ten West, as they often do, but run into a team that is totally different from any they faced during conference play when they face off with the East Division champs. Penn State’s victory should vault them into clear playoff contention.

Thumpasaurus: Wisconsin over Penn State 31-21

Even disregarding Urban Meyer’s job status, Penn State is going to be terrifying this year. The quantity of blue chip talent there has risen dramatically year by year and if Franklin sustains this pace he’ll be on even footing with the Buckeyes as soon as next year. Where I think they have the edge is at quarterback. Haskins is a better pro prospect, but McSorley is an experienced playmaker. The Nittany Lions can boast a runningback stable on par with Ohio State’s from a scouting standpoint. It’ll come down to which of the teams (OSU or PSU) wins the head to head and then who can avoid a game where they don’t show up (like OSU at Iowa last year) and I think Penn State is actually less likely to do that.

Wisconsin should be better than they were last year, and last year they were capable of holding their own against the Buckeyes. The difference is that now their receiving corps is healthy. There’s every reason to believe that this is the most complete Wisconsin team ever assembled. I won’t even entertain the possibility of another team representing the B1G West. This defense is stifling enough to limit Penn State’s possessions and the offense eats up clock more prolifically than I eat up space in an article. Hornibrook is certainly no Aaron Rodgers, but the receivers might be able to exploit a secondary that’s the weakest part of the PSU defense to give the Badgers just enough diversity to facilitate checkmate.

Brandon Birkhead: Ohio State over Wisconsin 31-20

Wisconsin is just about the surest bet to win their division in college football. Write in in pen, they are making this game. The rest of the division either is in rebuilding mode or just aren’t good enough to truly challenge Wisconsin. Wisconsin will keep on rolling and will have a great offensive line once again with a good QB, Alex Hornibrook, and a great running back, who will be a Heisman contender, Jonathan Taylor behind them. They will also have one of the best defenses in college football once again. It’s a team with very few holes, but the offense can struggle against elite defenses due to a lack of explosion.

The Big Ten East will be a bloodbath this season. Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State are all really good teams, but none of them are as complete as Ohio State. As good as Penn State’s offense may be with Trace McSorley, Ohio State’s is even better. Michigan has a great defense, and Ohio State may be a little behind — If Michigan is a 95 rating on defense, Ohio State is a 92 — but will still have a top 10 defense. Dwayne Haskins should have a very good year, and if he struggles Ohio State still has Tate Marshall to back him up. It’s not often a team can lose a player like JT Barrett and potentially upgrade the posistion. JK Dobbins and Mike Weber is the best running back duo in the nation.

Ohio State is by far the most complete and most talented team in the East and in the Big Ten. I think this team is looking at an 11-1 season, even if Urban Meyer is fired. Ryan Day taking over would be much more akin to Lincoln Riley taking over for Bob Stoops than Luke Fickell taking over for Jim Tressel, and it looks more likely over the last few days that Urban Meyer may just be looking at a few game suspension rather than getting fired. Either way, I’m picking the most talented team to make it out of the Big Ten with the Buckeyes.