Ohio State won the Big Ten title last season by beating Wisconsin in Indianapolis. It was the Buckeyes' first conference crown since 2014.
At least one college football analyst doesn't expect this year's Buckeyes to duplicate the feat. In fact, she doesn't even think OSU wins its division.
Sports Illustrated asked its panel of college football writers to predict which of the 10 teams that reached Power 5 conference title games in 2017 won't get back there this fall.
Joan Niesen said Ohio State.
Even though Auburn is the simple answer, residing as it does in the same division as the defending national champs, I want to look up north, to the Big Ten, where a stacked East Division runs the risk of keeping Ohio State out of the title game. As we’ve learned in past years, that won’t necessarily doom the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes, but I do think this year will end with either Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State at the top of that division. The Big Ten East tends to cannibalize itself, and with four teams seriously talking national title contention, I don’t think the 2018 season will be an exception to that rule. Of note: Michigan State is the only of those presumptive top four teams from the East that won’t face Big Ten West favorite Wisconsin, and the Spartans bring back a ton of their 2017 production, making them especially well-positioned to bust the Buckeyes’ repeat bid.
It is tough to argue with Niesen about the Big Ten East being an absolute bloodbath. The division's top four programs will be especially strong in 2018.
However, Niesen made an error in her reasoning. Ohio State also does not face Wisconsin this season. The Badgers' Big Ten crossover opponents are Michigan, Penn State and Rutgers.
Still, Ohio State will be breaking in a relatively unproven quarterback and they must play Michigan State and Penn State on the road. The talent is there to win the Big Ten East, but it won't be easy.