Wisconsin’s biggest threat in the Leaders Division? How about Penn State?

Athlon Sports discussion talks biggest hurdles for Badgers in 2012

Is anyone capable of knocking off Wisconsin in the Leaders Division in 2012? Getty Images.

Wisconsin is going to be your favorite in the Big Ten Leaders Division this fall, without question. The funny thing is Ohio State has potential to be the best team but with their one-year postseason ban already ruling out the Buckeyes from the Big Ten Championship Game and the bowl season, the door is wide open for Wisconsin, who filled the biggest roster hole this spring by signing former Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien.

But take a look around the rest of the Leaders Division. Is there a team capable of pushing the Badgers for the division title?

I was asked to participate in a round table discussion of sorts with the folks over at Athlon Sports. They are asking questions about who will be the biggest threat to the supposed favorites in each conference or division this fall. Yesterday the topic was the Big Ten Leaders Division, where Wisconsin looks to be the clear favorite, especially considering the fact that Ohio State is ruled out automatically with a postseason ban being served this year.

Here is what I said about why I think Penn State will be the biggest obstacle.

Few will argue that Wisconsin is the prohibitive favorite in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division. Already with one of the top offensive players in the nation with running back Montee Ball, a Heisman frontrunner in my book, the Badgers filled the one glaring hole on their roster this spring by signing quarterback transfer Danny O’Brien. The blueprint that was used for the 2011 season seems as though it is being recycled in 2012, and for Wisconsin that should be a good sign. With the Buckeyes ruled out of the picture for us it becomes a little more obvious that Wisconsin is the team to beat in the fall.

If there is one team that has the potential to give Wisconsin a run this year though, it may just be the team the Badgers blasted in the regular season finale last fall to advance to the Big Ten championship game, Penn State. Bill O’Brien brings a new offensive flair to the program and if he can find the right players to get things moving, most notably at quarterback, then this could be a pretty good season for Penn State. Penn State’s defense hopes to get some good production out of two key defensive players returning from ACL injuries with defensive end Pete Massaro and linebacker Michael Mauti, and defensive tackle Jordan Hill is ready to pick up where Devon Still left on the inside of the defensive line. The secondary is also a huge question after losing three starters but Penn State has the schedule in their favor. Ohio State and Wisconsin, perhaps the two toughest games on the schedule other than a road trip to Nebraska, make trips to Penn State this season. After the way things went down in Madison last November for the Nittany Lions, revenge will be on the mind of many in the 2012 regular season finale in State College.

Will it once again be a game to determine which school heads to Indianapolis the following week for the Big Ten championship game?

Link: Wisconsin Football: Who Challenges the Badgers in 2012?

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About the author

Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.