Like the West, the Big Ten East has also gone through its share of changes this offseason. Perhaps the most dramatic alteration, not just in the Big Ten but in all of college football, was Urban Meyer stepping down as the head coach of Ohio State. Ohio State has virtually stood alone as the premier team of the division over the past few years. However, the East could now belong to several teams. OSU will look to prove everyone wrong and show that they can still be a top team under the direction of Ryan Day.
Maryland will also have a different look next season under new head coach Mike Locksley. Michigan could finally reclaim its place as a blue blood championship contender, and teams like Penn State and MSU have outside shots to be competitive. Without further delay let’s get into how the Big Ten East might pan out.
1) Michigan (12-0 Overall, 12-0 Conference)
It has to happen eventually right? As you can see by their undefeated record, I think Michigan finally wins the game this year. Michigan has one of the more interesting schedules in the Big Ten this year. They open against Middle Tennessee in the Big House, face a tough Army team, and then go on to play the Badgers in Camp Randall, which will be a tough game for both teams. Michigan starts off against tough teams, but is able to run the difficult gauntlet of the Big Ten East mostly at home. Games that have given Michigan trouble in the past such as MSU, OSU, and Notre Dame, will all be played in Ann Arbor.
While Michigan lost several key defensive players, they have plenty of things to be optimistic about as well. New hires by HC Jim Harabugh replace some of the lackluster coaching this team has had in the past. Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis will have full control over play-calling this year for the Wolverines and could fully unlock the potential of Michigan’s extremely talented receiving corps and quarterback Shea Patterson. Michigan fans should be extremely excited to have Patterson under center again, as he is not only one of the most talented QBs in the Big Ten, but he’s proven commodity unlike other quarterbacks in the Big Ten, such as Graham Mertz and Justin Fields.
While the biggest questions facing Michigan this season are the defense and running game, the Wolverines should be able to plug holes using their incredibly good recruiting class. Five-star safety Daxton Hill should help boost the secondary, and four-star running back Zach Charbonnet will be a solid addition to an otherwise below-average backfield. n short, fully expect the Wolverines in the CFP.
2) Ohio State University (11-1 Overall, 8-1 Conference)
Ohio State still comes in with a great group this year but I don’t think they’ll have enough to win the Big Ten East. First and foremost, losing Urban Meyer will hurt significantly, as he was one of the premier coaches in the NCAA and an all-time great. Secondly, they lost their two best playes from last season on both sides of the ball: quarterback Dwayne Haskins and defensive end Nick Bosa, who was taken second overall in the NFL draft. While OSU does have depth, these are two huge losses of generational players. Thirdly, while Justin Fields will in all likelihood be a great QB, he hasn’t done anything to prove that yet besides being a five-star recruit.
Ohio State finishes behind Michigan because while Michigan has also lost key players, these players weren’t to Michigan what Nick Bosa and Dwayne Haskins were to OSU, and their recruiting class isn’t as good. Furthermore, the departure of Urban Meyer means a significant advantage for Michigan in the coaching department. While the talent is there for both schools, Michigan has the superiority and experience where it counts (quarterback, head coach), and that is why OSU will finish second.
3) Penn State (9-3 Overall, 6-3 Conference)
Penn State might not be the powerhouse they were with Saquon Barkley, but they’re still a very solid team. They lost several players at key positions, most notably quarterback Trace McSorley, who now plays for the Baltimore Ravens. While there are question marks throughout the depth chart, the Nittany Lions should still field a good squad overall. It’s likely Sean Clifford won’t be able to play up to McSorely’s level, but there is a bright spot of RB Ricky Slade, who showed a ton of potential in limited snaps last year. This will be an exciting team to watch, but don’t expect them to play up to the level of the OSU or Michigan.
4) Michigan State (8-4 Overall, 5-4 Conference)
MSU is a team that can truly boggle the mind, espcially considering their imbalance on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Spartans would appear to be a CFP contender. Last season, they never gave up more than 30 points after their first game against Utah State, and only gave up more than 20 points in five games, two of those teams being Michigan and Ohio State. They also feature a few likely Preseason All-Americans on the defensive side of the ball. However, their offense is a joke. The Spartans were held to below 20 points seven times last year, below 10 points four times, and only scored more than 30 points twice. They even failed to score more than two touchdowns against Rutgers. Given their talent deficiency on offense, expect inconsistency and mediocrity from this team.
5) Indiana (5-7 Overall, 2-7 Conference)
Indiana has actually been consistently okay for the past few years. They’ve been surpassed by their in-state rivals Purdue, who have since reclaimed the Old Oaken Bucket, but haven’t subsided into being a bottom-feeder just yet. Despite my predicted change in record, Indiana has actually improved a bit. They have two new players, freshman RB Sampson James and transfer QB Jack Tuttle, who could make a big difference for this team. However, they still play in a very competitive Big Ten East and have a challenging Big Ten West schedule – which is why I don’t have them going bowling this year.
6) Maryland (3-9 Overall, 3-6 Conference)
If Michigan State is mind-boggling, then Maryland is insane. Last year, this team beat Texas and nearly pulled off an historic upset against Ohio State, but then immediately got blown out by Penn State and were manhandled by Temple in their third game. Part of this inconsistency can probably be blamed on chemistry issues in the locker-room resulting from the coaching staff’s role in the tragic death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair (RIP) during a summer practice.
This team also has parallels to MSU in the sense that it is far better on one side of the ball than the other. While not necessarily elite, and certainly inconsistent, when Maryland’s ground game finds its rhythm it can demolish defenses. However, Maryland’s defense was one of the worst in the Big Ten last year, but with a new DC in Jon Hoke and a new head coach in Mike Locksley it’ll be interesting to see what the Terps can do. Maryland also faces a tough schedule this year with challenging games out of the Big Ten East like Syracuse, Purdue, Michigan, Nebraska, and Temple.
7) Rutgers (2-10 Overall, 0-9 Conference)
To go in-depth into what’s wrong with Rutgers Football, I would need the amount of paper that you could make around 3-4 bibles with. The offense is bad. The defense is bad. This team is bad. This team is historically bad. This team is just not good and shows no sign of improving despite playing in a state which produces many of the nation’s great recruits. Rutgers did hire a new DC, Andy Buh, that could help a far below-average defense, but there are very few things to be positive about with this team.