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Key stretch: Wisconsin

8/26/2011

The key stretch series, which examines a series of games that could make or break the season for each Big Ten team, wraps up with the Wisconsin Badgers.

Key stretch: Nebraska (Oct. 1), Indiana (Oct. 15), at Michigan State (Oct. 22), at Ohio State (Oct. 29)

Breakdown: Like many other Big Ten teams, Wisconsin will be tested throughout the month of October. Things kick off with a national showcase game against Nebraska, which will be playing its first conference game as a Big Ten member under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium. Many see this as a preview of the inaugural Big Ten championship game, but it's huge for Wisconsin to defend its home turf against the Huskers. The Badgers enjoy an open week and host Indiana before playing their first true road game of the season against Michigan State at night. Another road night game follows the next week against Ohio State. Wisconsin has dropped three consecutive games at Spartan Stadium, including its only regular-season loss of 2010, and is 7-28-3 all-time at Ohio Stadium.

Prediction: I see Wisconsin going 3-1 in this stretch, although a 2-2 split also is possible. The Badgers have been so dominant at home under Bret Bielema, and while the Nebraska game could go either way, Wisconsin gets the edge at Camp Randall. The season really could come down to the back-to-back road night games. Wisconsin has struggled in East Lansing and Columbus, but the addition of quarterback Russell Wilson should help in two very tough environments. I see the Badgers winning their home games and splitting on the road.

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