The Big Ten as a whole has been somewhat of an enigma over the last few years. Despite being arguably the deepest and most competitive conference in college football, the conference champion hasn’t cracked the College Football Playoff since 2015. Nowhere is that depth more apparent than in the Big Ten East, where four of its seven teams have finished the season in the top 25 at least once in the last two years. This year, we’ll see who makes it out of there and plays for a shot at another conference title
Big Ten East Projected Final Standings
- Ohio State: 8-1 (11-1)
- Michigan: 7-2 (10-2)
- Michigan State 6-3 (9-3)
- Penn State: 5-4 (8-4)
- Maryland: 3-6 (5-7)
- Indiana: 3-6 (5-7)
- Rutgers: 0-9 (1-11)
First-year head-coach Ryan Day will have some big shoes to fill following Urban Meyer’s departure. However, he’ll have the talent on both sides of the ball to get it done. Justin Fields looks to be the next great OSU quarterback to lead the team to a Big Ten title with J.K. Dobbins in the backfield and K.J. Hill ready to make some noise. The defense boast arguably the best pass rusher in the country in Chase Young with safety Jordan Fuller and a strong linebacker core behind him. All of that and more will keep Ohio State on top of the Big Ten and in talks for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Offensive MVP: J.K. Dobbins
Defensive MVP: Chase Young
While Michigan made improvements last year, they weren’t enough to get past those Buckeyes, especially on the offensive side of the ball. First-year coordinator Josh Gattis looks to make sure Michigan’s offense can play with the best in the conference and the country. Shea Patterson goes in with a strong receiving core of Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black, the latter of whom finally seems to be healthy (*ducks*). The defense loses some pieces, but Don Brown has been known for reloading his defenses as opposed to rebuilding them. They’ll get a lot better as a team, but it’s just not enough to get a crack at the Big Ten title game.
Offensive MVP: Shea Patterson
Defensive MVP: Josh Uche
The rest of the division gets pretty tight from here, but I’ll give Michigan State the benefit of the doubt. They return quarterback Brian Lewerke who’s eager to put his underachievements from a year ago behind him. He’ll have Connor Heyward with him in the backfield to compliment a solid receiving core. Joe Bachie leads a defense looking to prove that it’s still one of the best in the country, especially against the running game.
Offensive MVP: Brian Lewerke
Defensive MVP: Joe Bachie
The Nittany Lions will put lots of athleticism on the field once again. Ricky Slade leads a rushing attack that has become quite potent in recent years while K.J. Hamler and Pat Freiermuth, the team’s top two receivers, return to form a strong unit. Micah Parsons will look to anchor a defense to be reckoned with. The question is what will Penn State get out of the quarterback position? Sean Clifford appears to be the front runner to start the season, but does he, or whoever wins the quarterback job, have what it takes to make them a division contender?
Offensive MVP: Ricky Slade
Defensive MVP: Micah Parsons
Kasim Hill leads the Terrapins into a year where expectations are just a little bit higher in College Park, MD. Anthony MacFarland looks to capitalize on a freshman season that saw him run for 1,034 yards. However, the receiving core could use lots of improvement. Only one of them caught for over 300 yards last season. Despite that and a tough schedule, I think they’re able to beat Indiana at home and use that tiebreaker to finish in fifth place.
Offensive MVP: Anthony MacFarland
Defensive MVP: Isaiah Davis
When everything’s working, the Hoosiers can play with anyone in the country. Peyton Ramsey has the talent to establish himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. Stevie Scott heads into his sophomore season on the heels of a 1,000 yard season on the ground. Like Maryland, the receivers at IU will have to step up in order to make some real noise in the East division
Offensive MVP: Peyton Ramsey
Defensive MVP: Marcelino Ball
If Rutgers wants any chance of winning a conference game, they’ll need to hope that Artur Sitkowski can throw a lot less than 18(!) interceptions and bring up his league-worst 76.4 passer rating. He’ll have Raheem Blackshear to help him out both on the ground and in the air as the team’s leader in both categories. DB Avery Young hopes to anchor a defense that’s otherwise lost a lot of talent.
Offensive MVP: Raheem Blackshear
Defensive MVP: Avery Young