Cleat Geeks

B1G East Preview

One of the most dominant divisions in the NCAA, the Big Ten East is back and prepped to send yet another team to the College Football Playoff, following Michigan State’s loss to the Crimson Tide in last year’s Cotton Bowl semifinal.  This year, the same three teams that vied for a trip to last year’s B1G Championship Game will go at it again all season long for the same bid, and all three look like national title contenders: Michigan, in Harbaugh’s second year with the Wolverines; Ohio State, with field general J.T. Barrett in his junior season; and defending B1G champions Michigan State.  Let’s break down the division.michigan-football

Michigan:

Harbaugh’s second season at Michigan comes after attaining a top recruiting class, hiring defensive coordinator Don Brown, leader of Boston College’s #1 defense last season, and a 10-3 record last year that came as a surprise to the entire nation. With Jabril Peppers and Jake Butt headlining some of the nation’s top talent and much of the front seven returning, the Wolverines have the skills to get the job done in the East this year.  A coaching staff full of 1st and 2nd year Michigan Men will give the team a fresh look in several aspects of the game. Michigan’s only obstacle to success this year: away games at Ohio State, Michigan State, and Iowa.  In Urban Meyer’s second season with the Ohio State, he led the Buckeyes to a National Championship. Can Jim Harbaugh do the same in his second season with the Wolverines?

Ohio State:

BuckeysExitingTunnelBosa graduated. Zeke moved on to the pros. Braxton left. Cardale’s gone. How can Ohio State be a top ten team after losing such top-tier talent?  Well, having recruiting classes ranked in the top seven for three consecutive years helps. Bringing in the #3 ranked freshman in the nation in Nick Bosa helps. Having a head coach who has lost only four games in the past four years whilst winning fifty helps. The Buckeyes have an assortment of electrifying talent coming up this season. Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel, after playing backup to Zeke and Jalin Marshall, get the luxury of running behind veteran linemen Pat Elflein and Billy Price, starters on the 2014 title team. If the Buckeyes can get through a schedule that includes Oklahoma, Michigan, and a road trip to Sparty, there’s no doubt they should be prepped for a title run.

Michigan State:

michiganStateFootballLike Ohio State, Sparty graduated an insane amount of talent and returns only ten starters. Unfortunately, however, Dantanio doesn’t have the same amount of talent filling the spots, and there will be plenty of holes, from O-line to QB, in the Spartans’ offense. They’ll have to turn to a sophomore running back in sure-to-be breakout star L.S. Scott, but he won’t have much to run behind after losing such veteran hogs to graduation and the pros. Luckily, most of the defense is returning and should be able to take the pressure off the offense until it can get settled in. After an embarrassing loss to the Tide in the semifinals last year, it will be interesting to see if the Spartans can bounce back and defend their B1G title.

Others:

  • Indiana can make its first back-to-back bowl appearances in 25 years with seven very winnable games on its schedule.
  • RB Saquon Barkley has the potential to lead his Nittany Lions to a very successful season, even after Hackenberg’s departure. Penn State can give Iowa and the East powers a scare.
  • Rutgers and Maryland are setting their sights high on .500 seasons this year, although the Terps do have a surprisingly talented backfield.

Game to Watch:

Michigan-Ohio-State-HelmetsMichigan at Ohio State to finish off the regular season on Thanksgiving Weekend should be one of the most exciting games of the year. The winner will most likely play for the Big Ten Championship a week later.

Prediction:

Michigan State doesn’t have the strength to defend its title.  In Harbaugh’s second season, the Wolverines will edge Ohio State for the B1G bid before winning the conference and earning a spot in the College Football Playoff.  However, if Michigan, MSU, and OSU split their games against each other, the Big Ten could be left out of the Playoff.

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