Big Ten East Division Projections

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COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 13: Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver K.J. Hill Jr. (14) and the entire Ohio State Buckeyes team after the Ohio State Life Sports Spring Game presented by Nationwide at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on April 13th, 2019. (Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wondering who is going to win the Big Ten East division in 2019? Look no further! The B1G East is one of the most competitive divisions in college football. Yes, it could even be considered more competitive than the SEC West. Since its inception in 2011, the B1G title game has featured 7/14 B1G teams. Wisconsin leads the entire conference in appearances (5, 2-3), while Ohio State leads in wins (4, 3-1). Who will represent the Big Ten East in Indianapolis on December 7th?

2019 Big Ten East Division Projections

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-11)(0-9)

Wins: UMASS (week 1)

Losses: at Iowa (week 2), Boston College (week 4), at Michigan (week 5), Maryland (week 6), at Indiana (week 7), Minnesota (week 8), Liberty (week 9), at Illinois (week 10), Ohio State (week 12), Michigan State (week 13), at Penn State (week 14)

Byes: Week 3, Week 11

Well, what can we say about college football’s oldest team? Perhaps if it weren’t for larger programs stealing New Jersey talent, Rutgers may be able to tread water in the B1G. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, they hold a 7-29 ever since hiring head coach Chris Ash. Even for a program that is not historically great, this record will not stand. This year, Ash may find that his seat is quite hot. Rutgers returns their starting quarterback and running back, so it can’t be all bad. Well, that quarterback was Artur Sitkowski and the true freshman had a season to forget. Raheem Blackshear was the bright spot in their offense, leading the Knights in both rushing (586 yards) and receiving (367). Blackshear is talented enough to lead the offense, but Rutgers needs to find someone to take off the load.

In terms of scheduling, it’s a typical Big Ten East schedule. They crossover into the West with match-ups at Illinois, at Iowa, and Minnesota. It seems like the best-case scenario for Rutgers will be to beat their three non-conference foes and steal wins against Indiana, Illinois, and/or Maryland. Upset a Penn State or Michigan State/Michigan and Chris Ash may live to see another season. It’s going to be an uphill battle at Rutgers. Anyone can win at a big program, let’s see if Ash can lead the Scarlet Knights to at least a bowl appearance.

Indiana Hoosiers (4-8)(1-8)

Wins: Ball State (week 1), Eastern Illinois (FCS)(week 2), UCONN (week 4), Rutgers (week 7)

Losses: Ohio State (week 3), at Michigan State (week 5), at Maryland (week 8), at Nebraska (week 9), at Northwestern (week 10), at Penn State (week 12), Michigan (week 13), at Purdue (week 14)

Byes: Week 6, Week 11

Indiana has been a model of consistency; they’ve won either 4, 5 or 6 games in 11 of their last 14 seasons. That’s consistently mediocre. Of course, they share a division with four teams who could win it yearly and are always in the National Championship conversation, so the margin for error is slim. Their record since 2013 against those four teams is 2-22. Not great. However, they have a winning record against all others, sporting a 29-21 record. They are consistently the best bad team out there. With that moniker, the Hoosiers have failed to qualify for a bowl in 23 of the last 26 seasons.

With all of that negativity, is there even any point in suiting up? Of course! Indiana returns all but one of their starting secondary. With a defensive regime change, could Indiana put pressure on the Big Four? With three lining up with new quarterbacks, it’s a possibility. Offensively, the Hoosiers return Peyton Ramsey, a duel-threat quarterback with some success. Most of his favorite targets return, not to mention their stud now-sophomore running back, Stevie Scott. 1,137 yards and 10 touchdowns as a freshman on a bad team is certainly impressive.

Outside of their match-ups with Big Ten East divisional foes, Indiana’s schedule is hot and cold. On one hand, they play an FCS squad, one who is about to be relegated to FCS, and a MAC foe. Their crossover games are tough, however. They face three teams in Northwestern, Nebraska, and Purdue, each of whom is on the rise. While they may only win four in this projection, Indiana can certainly become bowl-eligible if they steal a victory against Maryland and one other. Like Chris Ash, Hoosiers coach Tom Allen may need to dust off his resume by season’s end.

Maryland Terrapins (4-8)(2-7)

Wins: Howard (FCS)(week 1), at Temple (week 3), at Rutgers (week 6), Indiana (week 8)

Losses: Syracuse (week 2), Penn State (week 5), at Purdue (week 7), at Minnesota (week 9), Michigan (week 10), at Ohio State (week 11), Nebraska (week 13), at Michigan State (week 14)

Byes: Week 4, Week 12

The 2018 edition of the Maryland Terrapins football team was an absolute disaster. First, the death of one of their teammates. Then, then-coach D.J. Durkin mishandled the entire situation. Finally, Durkin was fired midway through the season. The only potential bright spot was when the Terrapins were a literal inch away from upsetting Ohio State.

2019 should be the beginning of something much better. Maryland hired a man who knows Maryland in and out in Mike Locksley. Locksley chose to go back to the school he once coached one more time rather than returning to Alabama as an offensive coordinator. With coaching changes comes shake-ups to the roster. Quarterback Kasim Hill transferred out, but Josh Jackson transferred in from Virginia Tech. In addition to Jackson, Maryland gets Shaq Smith (LB, Clemson), Keandre Jones (LB, Ohio State), Tyler Mabry (TE, Buffalo), and Sean Savoy (DB, Virginia Tech). The Terps will be getting Lorenzo Harrison III back from injury to pair up with the surprising stud in Anthony McFarland.

Honestly, Indiana has competition for the moniker of “best bad team.” Maryland does still reside in the same division as the Big Four, but they can upset anyone, as we saw last year. The Terps have the talent and the coaching to surprise some teams and take care of business against “lesser” foes. Even though they have four wins in these Big Ten East projections, Maryland could certainly find themselves with seven or eight wins once the dust settles. They have bye weeks before their home games against Penn State and Nebraska……anything can happen!

Penn State Nittany Lions (8-4)(5-4)

Wins: Idaho (FCS)(week 1), Buffalo (week 2), Pittsburgh (week 3), at Maryland (week 5), Purdue (week 6), at Minnesota (week 11), Indiana (week 12), Rutgers (week 14)

Losses: at Iowa (week 7), Michigan (week 8), at Michigan State (week 9), at Ohio State (week 13)

Byes: Week 4, Week 10

The Nittany Lions are the first of the Big Four to be discussed. Replacing Trace McSorley, Miles Sanders, and Juwan Johnson on offense will not be easy. Perhaps Sean Clifford is the next signal-caller since Tommy Stevens transferred out. At running back, the Lions will line up with true sophomore Ricky Slade. Slade was a five-star prospect out of Virginia and was rated as the top all-purpose back in the nation and top overall player in the state. Filling Saquon Barkley and Sanders’ shoes will be difficult, but Slade will be more than capable. Sophomores Pat Freiermuth and K. J. Hamler will provide whomever the quarterback is with reliable targets.

Defensively, this unit may be the best that head coach James Franklin has had at Penn State. Lead by sophomore Micah Parsons, the defense will certainly be good enough to make up for the potential inefficient offense. Do I think that Penn State will be good? Certainly, but I’m not sure that they will be better than fourth in the division.

The Lions will win games that they should win and lose the three games that they should lose. Where they will trip up will be their game at Iowa. Iowa is one of the toughest places to play in the B1G and has ended Penn State’s hopes many-a-time. Circle their matchups against Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan. Purdue will test out that defense and Ohio State have been pushed to the limit by the Lions year after year. That Michigan game will be important because they will not be beaten 42-7 again.

Michigan State Spartans (8-4)(6-3)

Wins: Tulsa (week 1), Western Michigan (week 2), at Northwestern (week 4), Indiana (week 5), Penn State (week 9), Illinois (week 11), at Rutgers (week 13), Maryland (week 14)

Losses: Arizona State (week 3), at Ohio State (week 6), at Wisconsin (week 7), at Michigan (week 12)

Byes: Week 8, Week 10

In the short-yet-exciting time the College Football Playoff has existed, Michigan State is one of two B1G schools to make it. Ask any Spartan fan and that’s where the story will end. In the three B1G appearances, twice have they been shut out in embarrassing fashion. Michigan State owns one of those losses. Thankfully, what happened in 2015 does not influence the 2019 Spartans. Michigan State is quite enigmatic, and this year will be no different.

The Spartans were terrible on offense. Shuffling between Brian Lewerke and Rocky Lombardi, the Spartan offense could not get anything going last year. Even in their match-up against Ohio State, when the punter absolutely shanked his first punt, Michigan State could not capitalize. The silver lining? All of the changes in last year’s team resulted in invaluable experience for many players. 2019 should be the year all of that experience culminates into something tangible. Usually, when a team struggles someone gets blamed and fired. Not in East Lansing. Instead of cleaning house, head coach Mark Dantonio reassigned all of his offensive coaches. Quarterbacks coach became running backs coach and offensive coordinator. Running backs coach became quarterbacks coach. Wide receivers and offensive lineman also traded positional coaches. What an odd concept! Perhaps Sparty will be on to something.

The first test on the 2019 schedule for Michigan State is at home against Arizona State. Despite Dantonio’s experience against young or first-year starting quarterbacks, the Sun Devils will prevail. The Spartans’ downfall will be whether or not they can perform on the road. Of their four biggest games, three are on the road. Playing at Ohio State, at Wisconsin, and at Michigan is a tough test for the best of teams. Clemson and Alabama could never dream of a gauntlet this treacherous. Dantonio will have his guys ready, but will it be enough?

Michigan Wolverines (10-2)(8-1)

Wins: Middle Tennessee State (week 1), Army (week 2), at Wisconsin (week 4), Rutgers (week 5), Iowa (week 6), at Illinois (week 7), at Penn State (week 8), at Maryland (week 10), Michigan State (week 12), at Indiana (week 13)

Losses: Notre Dame (week 9), Ohio State (week 14)

Byes: Week 3, Week 11

2019 revenge tour? Not likely, considering how badly the last one ended. Michigan and head coach Jim Harbaugh are itching for a Big Ten East title, but there has been one major entity in the way: The Ohio State University. Despite owning a 58-50-6 record, the Wolverines have lost seven in a row and 14 of the last 15 meetings. If it weren’t for their 13-0-2 start from 1897-1918, this rivalry would be quite different. Does Michigan have the talent? Absolutely! Since 2000, the Wolverines average the best recruiting class in the B1G.

What will the 2019 Michigan Wolverines bring to the table? To start, another elite defense. Even though they lost two key assistants, Michigan still has defensive coordinator Don Brown. The defense has been the biggest reason why Michigan has won most of its games in the last four years. On five occasions in 2018, their opponent could not score more than 10! On offense, the Wolverines boast arguably the most NFL-ready quarterback in the conference. Shea Patterson, the second-year quarterback transfer from Ole Miss, will lead the Wolverines in 2019. The wide receivers will be very talented. Between Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Tarik Black, and any freshman who step up, the Wolverines could spread teams out. The spread is very un-Harbaugh-like, but if you have the guys to do it, why not? The biggest question mark will be running backs. Who replaces Chris Evans and Karan Higdon?

Michigan has a pair of non-conference matchups that college football fans should circle on their calendars. In week 2, Army comes to Ann Arbor. Sure, Army is not Alabama, but Army won 11 games by wearing defenses down with that insane triple option. If Michigan is caught looking ahead to the bye week as well as their subsequent matchup at Wisconsin, Army could pull off a massive upset. Thankfully for Michigan, they play their three biggest rivals at home. Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State have to take trips to the Big House. To balance that out, they must travel to Wisconsin as well as Penn State. They will likely be greeted by Penn State’s notorious “white-out.” Michigan has the potential to win the Big Ten East and make it to the College Football Playoff. Can they finally prove that they belong with the big boys?

Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)(8-1)

Wins: Florida Atlantic (week 1), Cincinnati (week 2), at Indiana (week 3), Miami (OH)(Week 4), at Nebraska (week 5), Michigan State (week 6), Wisconsin (week 9), Maryland (week 11), at Rutgers (week 12), Penn State (week 13), at Michigan (week 14)

Losses: at Northwestern (week 8)

Byes: Week 7, Week 10

The 2019 B1G East division champion will be the Buckeyes from The Ohio State University. 2018 saw Ohio State with an offense never before seen in Columbus. Dwayne Haskins proved to the world that he was a worthy inclusion as a Heisman Trophy finalist. Who could possibly fill those massive shoes? Enter: Georgia transfer quarterback Justin Fields. Fields was a five-star recruit out of high school and now holds the position of the highest-ranked football player in Ohio State football history. Fields looks to have the arm strength and accuracy of Haskins, yet the running ability akin to J.T. Barrett. If Fields plays to half of his potential and hype, the Buckeyes could ruin the Alabama-Clemson College Football Playoff party.

The Buckeyes graduated their top three receivers in Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin, and Parris Campbell. They bring back K.J. Hill, Benjamin Victor, and Chris Olave. Olave, who chose the perfect game for his coming out party against Michigan, will have an interesting role in the offense. True freshman Garrett Wilson will be an interesting story to follow this year. J.K. Dobbins has established himself as the starting running back. Marcus Crowley and Master Teague III will be vying to be his backup. Last year, the Buckeye defense was as bad as its offense was good. With a new coordinator in charge, Ohio State will look to play fast and aggressive. Look for Brandon White, the first of the new “bullet” position, to shine.

The Buckeyes lost Urban Meyer, so they will take a step back, right? Not quite. New coach Ryan Day has picked up where Meyer left off and has begun to set himself apart from his predecessor. On their schedule, the Buckeyes have a number of pivotal games, starting week 2 against Cincinnati. The Bearcats will contend for the AAC title and former Buckeye Luke Fickell has them ready to go. Watch out for all three B1G West foes. At up-and-coming Nebraska will prove to be difficult and Wisconsin is never an easy win. The Buckeyes have perfected losing to a lesser foe, but Northwestern is going to be good in 2019. Playing under the lights on Friday night in Evanston will spell trouble.

B1G Bucks On Campus

Ohio State is the two-time defending B1G Champion, so it is natural for these 2019 Big Ten East projections to list them at the top. It won’t be easy, though. Big Ten East rivals Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State will give the Buckeyes all they’ve got. The 2019 Big Ten East division will be an exciting one to watch. Don’t be surprised if the B1G gets a team in the College Football Playoff and wins.

Note: As an Ohio State alumn and life-long fan, what they are doing to trademark the word “The” is obnoxious.

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