College football: Athlon Sports picks Michigan to beat Ohio State, win Big Ten

Michigan will be the Big Ten champion — according to the Athlon Sports college football annual on stands this week.

The magazine projects the Wolverines to finish No. 4 in the nation after knocking off Ohio State in Ann Arbor in the regular season finale to claim the Big Ten East division title.

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Joining Michigan in Athlon’s final four are Georgia, Clemson and Alabama with the Buckeyes coming in at No. 5 in Day’s first season as head coach.

The Athlon top 25, which the publication notes are a projection of how things will look at the end of the season, has seven Big Ten teams with Wisconsin at No. 19, Iowa at No. 18, Nebraska at No. 17, Michigan State at No. 16 and Penn State at 14th.

Ohio State plays the Badgers, Cornhuskers, Spartans and Nittany Lions along with the Wolverines.

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Athlon projects Nebraska to win the Big Ten West after going 4-8 in the Cornhuskers’ first season under coach Scott Frost.

They won four of their last six games after starting 0-6 last season and return 14 starters, including standout quarterback Adrian Martinez.

Michigan has 13 starters back, including quarterback Shea Patterson and four offensive linemen, but must replace a handful of stars on defense.

Ohio State returns 13 starters but must replace quarterback Dwayne Haskins and four offensive linemen.

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While the installation of a new offense has folks in Ann Arbor excited, the Scarlet and Gray faithful are hopeful a retooled defense will be able to bounce back from what was statistically the worst season in school history.

Ohio State is the two-time defending Big Ten champion while Michigan has not won the Big Ten since 2004, the longest drought in program history.

In that span, Ohio State has won nine conference titles and beaten Michigan 14 of 15 times to draw the rivalry closer than it has been in more than a century.

Michigan was a popular pick to reverse those trends last season, but the Buckeyes ruined their "revenge tour" with a 62-39 thumping at Ohio Stadium.

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The Wolverines still have the most Big Ten football championships with 42 while Ohio State is next at 38 (including a vacated title in 2010). No one else has more than Minnesota’s 18.

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