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What will be Wisconsin’s toughest game in 2018?

Our roundtable series continues.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Wisconsin Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

We are now just a few days away from the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers kicking off their 2018 season against Western Kentucky.

On Monday, we looked at our picks for breakout players for this upcoming season.

Today, we debate which game will be the toughest on Wisconsin’s schedule. This is not 2017, as the Badgers will have some significant conference road tests starting in the fourth game of the season at Iowa, with other Big Ten battles at Michigan, at Northwestern, at Penn State, and at Purdue.

Who do you think could be the most difficult contest forthcoming for the Cardinal and White?

Drew Hamm: The College Football Playoff semifinal against Alabama will be pretty tough, but I’m assuming I’m supposed to answer with a regular-season game. That being said, Iowa will be the toughest game on the schedule. This game is easily Iowa’s biggest home game of the year and will probably be at night and the Kinnick Magic will be flowing through everyone’s veins and I am TERRIFIED of this game. Look, I know the only time Wisconsin has lost to Iowa in the last five years was the one time Joel Stave tripped over his own lineman and fumbled, but still. Iowa City is a spooky place at night. Be careful, Badgers.

Owen Riese: Drew, Joel got stepped on and one more negative word about MY quarterback will result in physical punishment. NOW, I would venture to say that the game in Happy Valley will be the most difficult. I’m sure they’ll make it a night game and they’ll do a white-out game or something that they would do. Wisconsin will need to play its best and try to take the crowd out of that game early.

Jake Kocorowski: Three come to mind when it comes to this season: Iowa, Michigan, and Penn State. Right now, I think it’s Iowa. Drew hit it on the head that if it’s a night game, and not to be superstitious but a little stitious, that’s a daunting task in Kinnick. Penn State won on the last play of the game against Iowa last year, and the Hawkeyes owned the Buckeyes in a 55–24 win in a late-afternoon tilt last year. What further complicates matters is that Iowa, the toughest challenger in the Big Ten West division IMHO, operates an offense with a similar physical brand to Wisconsin’s. When redshirt sophomore defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk returns is still up in the air. If he comes back, it will help the Badgers go up against a stout offensive line and arguably the conference’s best quarterback in Nate Stanley.

Bob Wiedenhoeft: I don’t care about Iowa one bit, partly because I’m 85.256% sure it won’t be a night game. Also, Wisconsin has a bye week after the Iowa game, so there’s no holding back. Wisconsin has also won the last four games they’ve played in Kinnick.

I also don’t care one bit about Michigan. One could say that I don’t much care for the entire state. But after the Urban Meyer fiasco, I’ll happily put on a pair of khakis in support of Jim Harbaugh if it makes Urbs mad. But when the Badgers arrive in the Big House, I have a pretty good feeling Bucky will walk away with an upside-down M. Michigan transfer QB Shea Patterson is the big question mark, as they have struck out the past few seasons at that position. If Patterson proves to be the next Russell Wilson (they both have/had some sort of baseball potential), I will surely reconsider my apathy towards Michigan. Furthermore, I bet Georgia at LSU will earn a night game and College GameDay instead of Michigan that week.

The trip to Penn State scares me. I think Wisconsin will be undefeated heading into that game, and it’s a good chance that PSU will be coming off a huge road win against Michigan. That means that PSU might look at their last three games (Wisconsin, Rutgers, Maryland) and figure they’re back in Indy if they take down the Badgers. If it goes as I suggest, It’s either this game or OSU/MSU for GameDay that weekend.

Tyler Hunt: I think traveling to Penn State will be the toughest for Wisconsin. While the Iowa game also screams “trap game” to me, you have to remember that Iowa doesn’t play its best football until late-October/November. I think Wisconsin got a great spot getting that game in early before Kirk Ferentz works his late-season magic. Traveling to Iowa City is never easy, but Happy Valley is another animal entirely. The environment alone is enough to make this the toughest on the schedule. I still think Penn State is a bit overhyped as we come into the season, as we’ve yet to see them without Saquon Barkley, but James Franklin always has his team ready to play in big games. Don’t sleep on Northwestern either—that 11 a.m. kick off in Evanston always seems to catch the opponent napping. Can you blame them? (Sorry, Wildcat fans)

Kevin O’Connell: Wisconsin’s toughest game this season will be at Penn State on Nov. 10. For starters, this will likely be a primetime night game in arguably the loudest environment in the Big Ten. Even with the losses of star offensive contributors Barkley and Mike Gesicki, quarterback Trace McSorley returns for his third year as the starter. This could spell trouble for a Wisconsin secondary that must replace three starters and has struggled against McSorley and company in the past. While I don’t believe McSorley has the weapons he’s had the last two seasons, this is still a very difficult match-up against a talented and well-coached team.

Ryan Mellenthin: I think all of Wisconsin’s Big Ten road games will pose threats, with the exception of Purdue (sorry, Boilermaker faithful). Apart from Purdue, Wisconsin visits Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, and Penn State. All four defend their home turf well and have given the Badgers fits in the past. Those four games will go a long way in determining their fate, should they be in the conversation for the playoff.