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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 6

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Page 68 of 91

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6 69 BY TOM DIENHART Special to Gold and Black Illustrated I t was Michigan State in 2015, Penn State in 2016 and Ohio State last year. So, will the Big Ten title baton be handed off to a different team for a fourth season in a row in 2018? Perhaps this will be Wisconsin's season to win the championship. The Badgers last won it in 2012, which culminated a three-year title run. Wisconsin has come close in recent years, losing the Big Ten championship game each of the last two. And the Badgers are a heavy favorite to repeat as West Division champions this fall. The offense will be exceptional, led by running back Jonathan Taylor, who is the Big Ten's top Heisman contender. The key for Wis- consin will be developing a defense that has questions along the front seven. Still, if opponents have learned one thing over the years, it's never smart to underestimate Wisconsin. That's just one storyline to follow this fall. Here is a look at other headlines that dominate any preseason Big Ten football conversation. 1. Ohio State's quarterback situation: J.T. Barrett is gone after a 10-year career in Columbus. Well, it only seemed like 10 years. Barrett leaves Ohio State as an all-time great. Not only was Barrett a master at running the spread scheme, but he also was a supreme leader. More air needs to be pumped into what has been an inconsistent vertical passing game. The linebacking unit and secondary have something to prove. But all eyes will be under center. The heir apparent is redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins, whose path was cleared when Joe Burrow opted to transfer to LSU after spring drills. The 6-3 Haskins can run, but make no mistake about it: He is a pass-first quar- terback, the first such commodity at Ohio State since Troy Smith. And, if you recall, Smith won the 2006 Heisman and led the Buckeyes to the national title game. Haskins gave fans a glimpse of things to come last year when he came off the bench to replace a dinged-up Barrett at Mich- igan and proceeded to hit 6-of-7 passes for 94 yards and run for 24 more in leading Ohio State to a 31-20 victory. 2. Nebraska's new coach and new hope. The Scott Frost hype machine is in overdrive in Lincoln. Why not? Fans are giddy to have their for- mer BMOC and native son back. Remember: He is the last QB to lead the Cornhuskers to a national champion- ship, doing so in Tom Osborne's final season in 1997. The 2018 Big Ten Preview Badgers' Turn Usual suspects in title picture Tom Campbell Jonathan Taylor is the league's best Heisman hopeful and the soph- omore running back hopes to build on last year's remarkable debut.

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