Take Two: The new Big Ten frontrunner?

June, 29, 2011
6/29/11
11:09
AM ET
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.

Today's Take Two topic is this: With Russell Wilson now in the fold at quarterback, is Wisconsin the new Big Ten favorite for 2011?

Take 1: Brian Bennett

I liked Wisconsin before Monday's news, and now I'm fully aboard the Badger Express. I watched closely as Wilson torched some Big East teams last season, so I know just how good of a playmaker he is. He'll make the receivers better, and his ability to move out of the pocket will cover up the loss of two star offensive linemen. Yes, he's coming in late and has to learn a new offense, new teammates, etc. But this is also a three-year starter and a really smart guy who will pick things up quickly. Wisconsin simply hasn't had a guy like this under center, and I pity the poor defensive coordinator who has to prepare for both Wilson and the powerful running game of Montee Ball and James White. True, the Badgers still have to go to Columbus and East Lansing, but those are the only two demanding road games on the schedule. Given the problems at Ohio State, some offensive line issues at Michigan State and Nebraska's tough schedule, I say the reigning Rose Bowl runner-up is the best bet to get back to Pasadena this season.

Take 2: Adam Rittenberg

Wilson undoubtedly makes Wisconsin a better team. He provides depth at the most important position on the field, and at a spot where the Badgers are thin after Jon Budmayr. But it's bit too simplistic to say Wilson automatically makes Wisconsin the Big Ten favorite. The equation is more complicated. I might make that claim after seeing Wilson win the starting job, play a few games and show he has made a smooth transition not just with the system, but as a new team leader. But there are some unknowns right now. I think Wisconsin can be considered the favorite in the Leaders division, which isn't as deep as the Legends division, especially after the recent turmoil at Ohio State. Although the Buckeyes should never be dismissed and teams like Penn State and possibly Illinois might contend, Wisconsin has the most complete team in the division. The Legends division, however, packs a punch with teams like Nebraska, Michigan State, Iowa, Northwestern and Michigan. There are more teams with the potential to challenge for a league title. Wisconsin also faces tough road with trips to both East Lansing and Columbus, two places where the Badgers have struggled. A November visit to Illinois also could be tricky. So while Wilson is a huge get and Wisconsin's coaches should be commended for being aggressive, I'm not quite ready to brand the Badgers as the clear-cut Big Ten favorite.

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