College Football Preview: Can Penn State Challenge Wisconsin, Michigan for Big Ten Crown?

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This is the time of year when college football sites start interacting more and more with each other in hopes of gaining a broader perspective in to the upcoming college football season.

The folks over at The Saturday Edge are polling members of the Big Ten blogosphere this week to get an idea of what we think will happen this season. Be sure to check their site all week for the full round-table discussion topics, but today was all about who will pose the biggest threat to likely division favorites Michigan and Wisconsin.

I was fortunate and happy to represent Nittany Lions Den with the following response [link]:

I think you have to keep an eye on two teams in the Legends Division that could challenge. Nebraska returns 16 starters this season, including Rex Burkhead at running back and a decent defensive core that should keep the Cornhuskers in most games this season. Nebraska also gets Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State at home this season, which should be a nice advantage.

The Spartans lose some key players such as Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham and Edwin Baker, but the defense will be formidable once again. If Michigan State can find a sufficient player to assume the quarterbacking role, which seems to be placed in Andrew Maxwell’s hands, then you cannot rule out Sparty, although they must play at Michigan and Wisconsin in back-to-back weeks in October before hosting Nebraska.

In the Leaders Division I believe Wisconsin is the clear team to beat, but with Ohio State ruled out of the picture I consider Penn State and Illinois to be on even playing ground to play the role of spoiler. Penn State’s defense is going to be in decent shape as long as DE Pete Massaro and LB Mike Mauti stay healthy but the offense is a major work in progress with Matt McGloin at QB and a new system being used under Bill O’Brien. Running back Silas Redd should be a leader though, and the Nittany Lions host Ohio State and Wisconsin this season.

Illinois will not be as much of a question on offense with the return of Nathan Scheelhaase, who can be capable of taking a game over and could be ready for a big season under a new head coach . The Illini defense has a few holes to plug and they have a tough road schedule including games at Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

What do you think? Can a legitimate case for Penn State being the biggest threat to the Badgers be made? Share your comments below, and please be sure to see what representatives from Buckeye House Call, Madtown Badgers and more had to say.

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