Big Ten East Preview by Kenn James
What a time to be alive! Welcome back college football. With an actual game that counts only a few days away, and the first full day of college games only 10 days away it’s a good time to start penciling in predictions. In the Big Ten, the conference champ has come out of the East division the previous 6 years. With the top teams like Michigan and Ohio State frequently talked about in the college football playoff discussion, you can pretty much pencil in that streak reaching 7. Let’s take a dive into how I think the division will shakeout:
Ohio State (2018 Record 13-1, 8-1)- The defending conference champs look to go for a 3-peat in Indianapolis, but they’ll have to work to get there even with the most talented roster in the conference, and top 4 in the nation. They said goodbye to both legendary Head Coach Urban Meyer as he retired for the 2nd time in his illustrious career (hopefully the last), and record-breaking Heisman finalist, first round draft pick, QB Dwayne Haskins; while ushering in Ryan Day as the new head coach, and former Georgia Bulldog and #1 recruit in the nation, quarterback Justin Fields. It should take a couple games for him to get in tuned with the game speed, in that time they will need the defense to lead the team after the debacle from last year. With 85% of the defensive production returning with new coaching, I see this being a top 10 defense. If they can be elite while the offense finds its groove, with all the talent on the roster I foresee them going undefeated through the Big Ten championship. Add in a weak out of conference schedule and it adds up to them getting into the 4-team playoff where anything can happen.
Predicted Record 12-0
Michigan (2018 Record 10-3, 8-1)- It seems every off-season the hype builds for Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines only for the air to be let out of the balloon when the games start to matter. They do return QB Shea Patterson, and in my mind the best group of receivers in the league. At the same time, they must reassemble their top ranked defense as well as the coaching staff on that side of the ball. If Harbaugh can let go of the reigns of the entire offense to new coordinator Josh Gattis to open it up, they could have a say about who gets to Indy.
Predicted Record 9-3
Michigan State (2018 Record 7-6, 5-4)- When the Spartans are expected to be contenders they seem to disappoint (see last season); they also seem to thrive in that underdog role, and they are right in-between the grey area for this upcoming season. They are ranked in the top 25, but no one is really predicting them to make it out of the east. With a typical stout Mike Dantoni defense with cornerstones Kenny Wilkes and Raquan Williams on the defensive line, if QB Brian Lewerke can stay healthy, I see 10 wins for this club.
Predicted Record 10-2
Penn State (2018 Record 13-1, 8-1)- Ever since coach James Franklin made the infamous “Great to Elite” speech after the loss to Ohio State it seems the programs trajectory is going the complete opposite direction of what it was the previous two seasons. I think this is a make or break year for Franklin and company, and I’m leaning towards a break. They lose all everything QB Trace McSorley and the heir apparent transferred out in Tommy Stevens. Even with a deep running back group and great front 7, I see the pressure getting to the coaches in Happy Valley, and effectively turning up the heat on Franklin’s seat.
Predicted Record 8-4
Indiana (2018 Record 5-7, 3-6)- Coach Tom Allen and the Hoosiers shouldn’t have any high expectations, except for possibly being a .500 team, which they could be. Returning running back Stevie Scott went over 1,000 yards as a true freshman last year and they welcome in another highly rated back in Sampson James. They also have an all-big ten caliber WR in Nick Westbrook. If transfer QB Jack Tuttle can win the job they could put a scare into one of the big dogs in the division.
Predicted Record 5-7
Maryland (2018 Record 5-7, 3-6)- Coach Mike Locksley has a decent amount of talent on the roster, but can he coach it (3-31 as a head coach) is the big question. Returning running back Anthony McFarland is the key player on offense with bigtime receiver Jesean Jones on the shelf for the season after a knee injury in fall camp. They welcome an abundance of transfers in QB Josh Jackson (VT), LB Keandre Jones (OSU), LB Shaq Smith (Clem). Jones and Smith could help stabilize the defense while McFarland carries the offense to possibly a .500 record.
Predicted Record 6-6
Rutgers (2018 Record 1-11, 0-9)- Well, there’s not much to say about Rutgers except they’re the least talented team in arguably the toughest division in college football... I think Chris Ash will be looking for a new gig after the season, and probably be content with it. Predicted Record 3-9