Badger Bits: Michigan State emerging as trendy pick to win Big Ten

Who wins the Big Ten in 2012? It may come down to a rematch of last season's conference championship game.

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that nearly every college football analyst has Wisconsin winning another Leaders Division title this season. The bowl bans of Ohio State and Penn State put the Badgers in prime position to make a second consecutive trip to Indianapolis in early December. Purdue is quickly becoming a popular sleeper pick to make some noise in the division, but I have yet to see someone pick a major upset with Wisconsin not taking the division. The real question facing most analysts stems from the Legends Division, in what looks to be a much tighter race.

Despite the preseason hype surrounding Ann Arbor's team, many experts think Michigan is overrated. They aren't buying into the Wolverines defense quite yet and worry if Denard Robinson can stay healthy for the entire season. Instead, they see the rival Michigan State Spartans relying on their stout defense to lead them to the conference championship game.

Let's take a look at some of these experts and their preseason predictions:

Adam Rittenberg ESPN.com Big Ten blogger (see predictions)

Michigan: 9-3 (6-2)

Michigan State: 10-2 (6-2)

B1G Championship Game: Michigan State over Wisconsin

Brian Bennett ESPN.com Big Ten blogger (see predictions)

Michigan: 8-4 (5-3)

Michigan State: 10-2 (6-2)

B1G Championship Game: Michigan State over Wisconsin

Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer (see predictions)

Michigan: 10-2 (6-2)

Michigan State: 11-1 (7-1)

B1G Championship Game: Michigan State over Wisconsin

Brent Yarina BTN.com writer (see predictions)

Michigan: 9-3 (6-2)

Michigan State: 10-2 (6-2)

B1G Championship Game: Wisconsin over Michigan State

Athlon Sports (see predictions)

Michigan: 11-2 (7-1)

Michigan State: 9-3 (5-3)

B1G Championship Game: Michigan over Wisconsin

My take: It's interesting to see that out of the five predictions listed above, four of them have Michigan State in the conference championship game. Of course we will still see others pick Wisconsin or Michigan to win the Big Ten, but it certainly says something when BTN.com's main writer and both the ESPN.com guys have Michigan State in the Rose Bowl. Michigan enters the season ranked No. 8 in the AP poll and has heard the words "national title" more than any other Big Ten team. We may have heard more about Michigan than Michigan State this offseason, but it's obvious some experts think new quarterback Andrew Maxwell and his stingy defense will be enough for the Spartans to finally get back to the Rose Bowl.

Wednesday's Links:

Three men were arrested Tuesday evening for their part in the assault of runningback Montee Ball.

Tom Dienhart poses intriguing questions facing the Badgers in Week 1. See his questions for every Big Ten team this week. He also breaks down the Leaders and Legends Divisions.

Why Danny O'Brien needs to get off to a quick start this season.

Drew Meyer, UW's new punter, has come a long way since spring practice.

Every year, a few true freshmen look impressive in camp and make an impact in their first season. See which freshman names you should listen for this year.

Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett reveal their preseason All-Big Ten team.

Up to this point, it's been uncertain if freshman runningback Vontee Jackson will redshirt or play on special teams this season. Bret Bielema seemed to answer that question Tuesday morning when he said Jackson will likely redshirt.

It's hard to believe the season opener is just three days away. We haven't talked much about Northern Iowa (who is in for an uphill battle on Saturday) but the Panthers have experience facing other major football programs in the past.

Jared Abbrederis is eager to be the Badgers' No. 1 wide receiver.

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