2022 NCAA Football preview - Big 10 East
If anyone who wasn't a part of the Michigan football program says they saw 2021 playing out as it did, they're liars. They just are. "The Game" has, at least for the majority of this century, become "The Beating".
Yep, the East has largely become the Buckeye's playground, with them winning five of the last eight titles and the only repeat winner since going to the "East Vs. West" format.
With that said, Michigan and Penn State have to be considered most years and, with Mel Tucker at the helm, Michigan State looks plenty dangerous in the coming years. Of the teams left, Maryland is dangerous when they can get out of their own way and Greg Schiano's return to Rutgers will probably bring the Scarlet Knights back to respectability, if not a division title. Indiana though, ooofff, after looking very dangerous two years ago, plummeted back to earth in the 2021 season opener and never recovered.
It's a new season and remember, most teams are only a key injury away from missing a bowl game.
Indiana Hoosiers (2-10)
Head Coach – Tom Allen (26-32 in 6 seasons, 3 bowl games)
Top Recruit – Dasan McCullogh – EDGE – 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – After making bowl games in consecutive seasons (’19 and ’20) but being crushed under a schedule that featured eleven teams that made a bowl game in 2021, can the Hoosiers and transfer portal addition Conner Bazelak (QB-JR, from Missouri) right the ship and get back to a bowl game in 2022?
If things go right. . . the Hoosiers will have a chance to build momentum in September facing an Illinois team at home to open the season, followed by Idaho and Western Kentucky (who they managed to defeat last season) before hitting the road for games @Cincinnati who lost a TON of talent from 2021’s CFP team and @Nebraska who is in much the same situation as Indiana. Unfortunately, mid-October games against Maryland and @Rutgers are the last remaining games that look winnable. Making a bowl is possible, but the margin for error is thin.
If things go wrong. . . the Illini come to Bloomington and smoke the Hoosiers before a pair of “get better” game against Idaho and a Western Kentucky squad that they squeaked by in 2021. From there it gets ugly with Michigan visiting on Oct 8 and November a gauntlet beginning with Penn State, trips to @Ohio State and @Michigan State, and in-state rival Purdue coming to visit to cap off the season.
Most likely outcome for the season. . . If the Hoosiers manage to double their win total from 2021, they should count this season as a win, most likely they will be a dismal 3-9 though.
Maryland Terrapins (7-6)
Head Coach – Mike Locksley (13-23 in 4 seasons, 1 bowl game)
Top Recruit – Jaishawn Barham – LB – 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Will an offense that returns 8 starters and a
a defense that returns 7 be able to overcome the ultra-aggressive play calling of the Maryland staff or will we see a repeat of 2021 and the peaks and valleys they went through last season? If you don’t know what I mean by that, here it is – in Maryland’s 7 wins they averaged 40 points per game in offense but only allowed 17, in the six losses they allowed 47 points per game but only scored 16. Boom or Bust at its finest. . . or worst.
If things go right. . . Maryland kicks off with three wins against Buffalo, @Charlotte, and SMU. If they can split the next two against the Michigan schools, they might be able to take a shootout against Purdue. That leaves them at 5-1 midway through the schedule. @Indiana and home against Northwestern finish out October and November is rough (@Wisconsin, @Penn State, and then home Vs Ohio State) until the last week against Rutgers. The best case looks like an 8-4 record and in the B10 East, that’s pretty good.
If things go wrong. . . The first three weeks stay the same but they no longer split the Michigan schools and Purdue is a loss. They should still beat Indiana, but Northwestern should be better and takes that game. Rutgers is the last win of the season. A 5-7 record is a big two steps back in a brutal division.
Most likely outcome for the season. . . it feels like the season’s outcome is going to hinge on the games against Purdue and Northwestern. I say they split those games and finish 6-6. They get back to a bowl game but just barely.
Michigan Wolverines (12-2)
Head Coach – Jim Harbaugh (61-24 in 7 seasons, 6 bowl games)
Top Recruit – Will Johnson – CB – 5 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Usually when a team wins its conference and makes the CFP, the biggest question the next year is “Can they repeat?” Well, in the Wolverine's case, they managed to beat their bully for the first time since 2011 so the question is “Is ‘The Game” going to return to a more level playing field?” A look at the history of this series shows that wins tend to see-saw back and forth in chunks, however, the Wolverines have only won 4 times since 2000.
If things go right. . . the Wolverines get to mid-October with a 6-0 record (only @Iowa looks to be a potential loss) where they host Penn State and “little brother” Michigan state. If they can take those games they’ll cruise into Columbus on Nov 26 with an 11-0 record to play for a spot in the B10 CG.
If things go wrong. . . They drop Maryland in a wild one, Penn State and Michigan State thump them and Ohio State does. . . well, what Ohio State has been doing to them leading to an 8-4 record.
Most likely outcome for the season. . . Michigan splits the Penn State and Michigan State games and Ohio State beats them but doesn’t trash them. 10-2 and a ?Sugar Bowl? Berth awaits them.
Michigan State (11-2)
Head Coach – Mel Tucker (13-7 in 2 seasons, 1 bowl game)
Top Recruit – Alex VanSumeren – DL – 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Can HC Mel Tucker and the Spartans continue to build (and maintain) their momentum with the number of transfers they have had (8 transfers in and 22 out)?
If things go right. . . Sparty should be 5-0 before a tough stretch against Ohio State, Wisconsin, and @Michigan. If they can take one (or two?) of those three they get B10 cupcakes (@Illinois, Rutgers, Indiana) until the last week @Penn State which should be winnable. 10-2 looks very possible if they can conjure up some magic.
If things go wrong. . . the early-season trip to Seattle (@Washington) ends badly and that three-game stretch in October I mentioned doesn’t go any better. The cupcake platter is still there but Penn State finished the Spartans off with a loss to leave them at 7-5.
Most likely outcome for the season. . . 9-3. Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State all look to be better teams this season but who knows, Michigan State wins games they shouldn’t all the time.
Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2)
Head Coach – Ryan Day (34-4 in 3 seasons, 4 bowl games)
Top Recruit – C.J. Hicks – LB – 5 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Is this the year that the Buckeyes get (back) over the SEC/Clemson hump? Since their win over Alabama in 2014’s CFP semifinal, the Buckeyes are 1-3 Vs that group with their only win 2020’s CFP semi-final against Clemson.
If things go right. . . they make the College Football Playoff after running through the Big 10.
If things go wrong. . . They bookend a pair of losses to Notre Dame and Michigan around another 10-win season. The floor AND the ceiling are both extremely high for this team.
Most likely outcome for the season. . . the Buckeyes are likely headed for the CFP come January. Unfortunately for Ryan Day and the actual Buckeyes, previous head coaches Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer have taken this program to a level where any loss leaves the city in a funk for days afterward.
Penn State Nittany Lions (7-6)
Head Coach – James Franklin (67-34 in 8 seasons, 7 bowl games)
Top Recruit – Dani Dennis-Sutton – DL – 5 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Will the Nittany Lions be able to generate some help for Sean Clifford (QB-SR)? The last two seasons have generated an 11-11 record mostly due to Clifford having to take the ball on virtually every play. Exhibit A – Keyvone Lee (RB-SO) led Penn State with 108 rushes in 2021, Clifford had 99 carries the same year. That can’t continue if Penn State wants to improve.
If things go right. . . Early road trips to @Purdue and @Auburn steel the Lions for the Big Ten season ahead and other than losses @Michigan, Vs. Ohio State, and Vs. Michigan State, they are immaculate.
If things go wrong. . . Purdue catches them before they can get settled in the season-opener for both teams and Auburn drops them two weeks later. Add losses to Minnesota and Maryland to the three above and you get Penn State taking a couple of steps back from last season in Clifford’s swan song.
Most likely outcome for the season. . . It’s not the best-case scenario, but the Nittany Lions go a respectable 8-4 with the fourth loss being a total surprise (similar to 2021’s loss to Illinois).
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-8)
Head Coach – Greg Schiano (3rd year back, 14th year overall 76-81, 7 bowl games)
Top Recruit – Moses Walker – LB – 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – HC Greg Schiano knows how to win at Rutgers, he’s done it before and the only person to do it since has been doing it on NCAA ‘14
(11 months until NCAA Football 2023, or whatever they’ll call it, drops).
He’s managed to bring in more talent including 20214-star QB Gavin Wimsatt but when will we see his recruiting really take hold?
If things go right. . . The Scarlet Knights go 3-0 in their nonconference, starting with a big win @Boston College and after a pair of nigh unwinnable games Vs. Iowa and @Ohio State, get a trio of teams that they could pick up a pair of wins against (Vs. Nebraska, Indiana, and @Minnesota). If they are sitting at 5-3 going into November, they’ll have a chance to win #6 in the last game of the season @Maryland.
If things go wrong. . . Boston College takes the season-opener, Iowa and @Ohio State are losses, Nebraska beats them and @Minnesota is a loss as well. Barring a huge upset, the best this team can finish is a paltry 4-8.
Most likely outcome for the season. . . I think HC Schiano is a good game coach but until this roster has a real upgrade in talent, they’ll always be treading water. 5-7 feels like a possibility but 4-8 seems like the reality.
Big Ten results (Italics is a bowl team)
Ohio State Iowa
Michigan State Purdue
Penn State Minnesota
Big Ten championship Game
Saturday, December 3 @ 8PM EST FOX
Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana
Wisconsin Vs. Ohio State (Champion)
With just tomorrow's rundown of the Independents left, we're just hours away from the 2022 season and I, for one, can hardly contain myself.