Five Bold Predictions for the Big Ten East
It’s almost time for all the fun to kick off. With three teams expected to compete on the national scale, the Big Ten East might just be the best division in all of college football. But things don’t always go according to plan. Here are five bold predictions for the East Division.
No. 5 – Michigan will take a step back
I know the general consensus from the media types is that the Wolverines have recruited well-enough to plug ‘n’ play this year despite only returning five starters. As evidenced by a top ten ranking from pretty much every single preseason publication, it’s more than just a thought from a select few.
I don’t buy it. Michigan has to go to Penn State and Wisconsin, has a tough opening game against Florida, and then has to host an extremely talented Ohio State team to wrap things up. That’s a tough road to traverse with a team that’s unproven in multiple spots.
No. 4 – Penn State won’t be able to recapture the magic in 2017
Don’t get me wrong, the Nittany Lions are still a very talented team, but they too have a schedule that ramps up this year. There’s the always tough game against Pitt, then games on the road against Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State and Michigan State. At home, Penn State also hosts Michigan and Nebraska. That’s pretty brutal folks.
James Franklin’s crew also won’t have the benefit of sneaking up on anyone this year. There is plenty of game film to study, and teams will be out to make life difficult on the defending league champs. Penn State could be a better team, but with a worse record in 2017.
No. 3 – Maryland will beat one of the top three
I don’t know where it’s going to come from, or which team it’ll be, but D.J. Durkin is going to lead his team over one of Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan. The recruiting has gotten better, the culture improved, and it’s going to pay dividends as the Terp program builds under their new coach.
It might be tough to knock off Ohio State in Columbus, but both Michigan and Penn State come to College Park. It’ll be much tougher to get past Maryland than the previous three years, so the big boys had better watch out this fall.
No. 2 – Ohio State’s Mike Weber will lead the league in rushing
I know all the hype is going SaQuon Barkley’s way, and for good reason. But don’t forget about the sophomore at Ohio State. He may not possess the breakaway speed of his predecessor Ezekiel Elliott, but he’s still one of only the third freshman to top 1,000 yards in Ohio State’s storied history at that position.
Remember this too — the offensive line returns four starters, and that in combination with defenses having to deal with the dual abilities of J.T. Barrett, Weber should find some holes to run through with plenty of volume touches.
No. 1 – Michigan State will go bowling in 2017
Everyone seems to have written the Spartans off for 2017. You can see why on the surface with a 3-9 record last year and all the off-the-field troubles. But don’t count out Mark Dantonio’s ability to bounce back.
Each of the previous years Dantonio’s teams have finished .500 or worse in the Big Ten, they’ve bounced back the following year to win the division. I’m not ready to go that far, but the talent level is more than capable of finishing in the top three of the East and ruining the day of one of the top dogs.
Look for bold predictions for the West Division tomorrow.
Phil Harrison is the lead Big Ten writer for College Football News. Get his opinion and analysis all year long. Follow him on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFB