Fifth Quarter Consensus: Badgers win Big Ten title

The Predictions

Adam Tupitza (10-1, +204): Wisconsin 45, Northwestern 28

Jake Harris (9-2, +176): Wisconsin 49, Northwestern 21

John Veldhuis (9-2, +207): Wisconsin 42, Northwestern 17

Adam Hoge (8-3, +212): Wisconsin 45, Northwestern 17

The Reasoning

It's hard to believe Wisconsin started this Big Ten season 0-1 with a loss at Michigan State. Given the team's health and its shaky performances to that point in the season, it looked like a 1-3 beginning to conference play was a distinct possibility, with back-to-back games against Ohio State and Iowa looming.

The Badgers instead rebounded to win their next six games, several in dominant fashion, and are now in position to win their first Big Ten title since the 1999 season with a win over Northwestern at Camp Randall Stadium.

It's been a typical season for the Wildcats. They have won games they weren't supposed to, like their 21-17 victory over then-No. 13 Iowa. They have also left their fans scratching their heads after losses to teams like Purdue. It all adds up to a respectable 7-4 record and potential bowl berth.

Unfortunately for NU fans, the team is trending in the wrong direction, having lost four of its past six games after a 5-0 start. The Wildcats are missing star quarterback Dan Persa, unquestionably the most valuable player on their team, who was injured in the win over Iowa. Backup Evan Watkins did an okay job against Illinois at Wrigley Field last week, but it is clear the team is not the same without its leader.

The Wildcat defense was alarmingly bad against the Illini, giving up 48 points and 519 rushing yards. Expect Pat Fitzgerald's group to play with more focus against Wisconsin, but it simply lacks the athletes to slow down the Badgers' running attack, which may welcome John Clay back from injury.

Because of the 2:30 p.m. start time, the Badgers and their fans will know by kickoff whether the Rose Bowl is a guarantee with a win, a strong possibility with a win or unattainable. We join many others in believing a Michigan State team that's been unimpressive on the road all season will again meet disappointment in Happy Valley, setting up a pretty big party in Madison.

Who has the edge?

Offense: Wisconsin

Defense: Wisconsin

Special Teams: Wisconsin

Coaching: Wisconsin

Intangibles: Wisconsin

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