staff, September 27, 2012

Saturday marks the beginning of Big Ten play. For the next eight weeks, Big Ten teams will be battling for their respective division crowns and a berth in the annual Big Ten title game. Who will make it to Indy? We're only four weeks into the season, but senior writer Tom Dienhart and web editor Brent Yarina decided to share their best guesses.

We asked the question on Twitter and included some of the many answers in this post. Read Tom and Brent's conversation, then tell them what you think in the comments box. Or you can find them on Twitter: @BTNTomDienhart and @BTNBrentYarina.

Tom: I like Michigan State out of the Legends and Wisconsin out of the Leaders.

Brent: Going for the repeat of last year?s game, huh? I?ll go with Nebraska vs. Purdue.

Tom: You are a bold and daring man, Brent. Maybe the most interesting man in America with that choice.

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Brent: Ha! Yep, I?m taking the Huskers because they have the conference?s best offense, coupled with what I think will be a good enough defense, when all is said and done. The emergence of Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell, to a lesser extent, and the improvements of Taylor Martinez make this offense pretty scary.

Tom: I like your pick of Nebraska. But don?t forget that pesky little game Big Red has in East Lansing. And will the Huskers wear their big boy pants at Northwestern? Hmmm.

Brent: The game at Michigan State does scare me, although the Huskers thoroughly dominated the Spartans, 24-3, last season. Also, I have real concerns about the Michigan State offense, which relies way too much on Le'Veon Bell. At this rate, Bell could be worn down when these two teams meet Nov. 3.

Rex Burkhead

Tom: MSU will figure out something on offense to ?create? a passing game. Right now, throwing to tight end Dion Sims is working best. There is too much talent at wideout for someone not to emerge eventually.

Purdue, that's the pick that really surprises me. You have more faith in its offense than I do. Remember, those early numbers have come vs. ?titans? Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Michigan. The line? The quarterback play? I don?t know, my friend.

Brent: You're right, the Purdue offense may not be anything to write home about. But the defense sure is. Look, someone has to represent this division in Indy, and it's pretty clear Wisconsin isn't what it was the last two seasons. Oh, and those Badgers just happen to visit Purdue in a game that will go a LONG way in deciding who represents the Leaders.

Tom: Wisconsin has won two in a row and appears to be back on track. Credit Bret Bielema with two bold-and perhaps season-saving-moves: 1. Firing his offensive line coach and 2. Switching quarterbacks. Plus, the Badger defense is every bit as capable as last year?s-if not better.

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Brent: That's your argument for the Badgers, that they've won two in a row?! Both of us know they should have lost to Utah State two weeks ago, and then last week, they only led UTEP - yes, UTEP - 23-19 early in the fourth quarter.

Tom: This is a proud program that has been the conference?s standard the last two seasons. It won?t slink away quietly amid some early-season bumps.

Brent: I?ll give you this: Wisconsin has an easier road to Indy than either of our Legends Division picks.

Tom: Yeah, it will be tough. But I think the Spartans? defense-best in the Big Ten-and Le?Veon Bell-best in the Big Ten-will carry them to a second consecutive Big Ten championship game.

Brent: For the record, with that defense, I'd be picking Michigan State, too, if it had a passing game.

Tom: The passing game eventually will come around. Beat Ohio State on Saturday, and I bet you are singing the Spartans? praises and chugging the green Kool-Aid. I?ll save a seat on the bandwagon for you, Brent.

Brent: Get the Kool-Aid ready. Considering the opponents, it?s very possible both of our Legends Division picks could be 0-1 after Saturday night. If that happens, we may be returning our Kool-Aid for one with a blue or purple hue.

We asked Big Ten fans for their title game picks on Twitter, too. Here are their answers:

I?ll give you this: Wisconsin has an easier road to Indy than either of our Legends Division picks.