B1G West vs. B1G East
The new B1G East has been compared to the old Big 12 South, where Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech battled it out every year while Nebraska usually had the inside track on the North division (as they do now in the B1G West). However, while three old power schools, MSU and a resurgent Indiana team are set to duke it out for the first East division crown, those teams will find that there's something more specific about the East they'll need to contend with.
Almost all of the good quarterbacks in the Big Ten are in the same division. There's Devin Gardner, Braxton Miller, and Connor Cook, but also Christian Hackenberg, the upstart sophomore, Damion Terry, and Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson, the two Indiana players who combined for 3,651 passing yards and 36 passing touchdowns. When Maryland and Rutgers enter the heart of the conference slate, they'll have wondered whether they did enter the Big 12. (Quick recap: The East division has Michigan and Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers, and Indiana.)
To put this in perspective, there are probably five quarterbacks here who could be in the NFL some day. The most underrated one is definitely Tre Roberson, who has some of Braxton Miller's athleticism and probably throws a more accurate ball. It's believed Roberson and Sudfeld are the first teammates ever to account for 20 touchdowns each from the quarterback position, and like many other teams in the East, they're complemented by a physical runner in Tevin Coleman. Some fans are still dismissive of what Indiana's done, but make no mistake that they're an improving and dangerous team under Kevin Wilson.
|Ohio State||2846||64.7%||38/9||Braxton Miller|
|Indiana||3680||59.4%||36/14||Sudfeld & Roberson|
|Michigan State||2964||57.7%||23/7||Connor Cook|
|Penn State||3110||58.9%||21/10||Christian Hackenberg|
This aerial dimension will put pressure on teams to put extra time into their secondary if they want to win conference games. If the Spartans can maintain their No Fly Zone with holdovers Kurtis Drummond and Trae Waynes, they have to be considered the front-runner to win five or six games against their B1G East opponents, considering they had the best secondary last year by far.
Two wild cards will be Michigan's and Ohio State's secondary; both are athletic, but also young at a position that offensive coordinators love to find ways to pick apart. Michigan will be the envy of many with Jarrod Wilson, Jabrill Peppers, Delano Hill, Jourdan Lewis and others, except Ohio State, with its own corps of Vonn Bell, Eli Apple, Cameron Burrows, and Doran Grant: no less than eight four-star defensive backs will be ready to take the field for the Buckeyes, and six of them freshmen or sophomores.
Last year, the junior Bradley Roby epitomized the risk and reward that both OSU and Michigan face this season. On the one hand, he broke up a lot of screen passes with his athleticism, was good in the run game and single-handedly prevented two touchdowns against Michigan, when he caught up to Jeremy Gallon on a long pass and stopped Dennis Norfleet on a return. On the flip side, Roby also made huge mental errors that helped cause Ohio State's year-long problems in the secondary. So while athleticism may be fantastic, and both rivals have plenty, it's better for your team if you're Jordan Kovacs instead of someone like Roby. And no one knows when the next Jordan Kovacs will emerge from the bunch that OSU and Michigan will field.
As for the two newcomers, both Rutgers and Maryland put up somewhat similar numbers as the other teams, though in the Big East and ACC, respectively. Maryland's C.J. Brown will be throwing to two five-star wide receivers in Deon Long (Sr., 6'0", 195) and Stefon Diggs (Jr., 6'0", 195) and has a Big Ten runner already in Brandon Ross; he might be better off hanging up his athletic ability (1,162 career rush yards, 17 rush TD's, 7 100-yard games, 14 games missed due to injury) to stay in the pocket a lot more.
For Rutgers and Nova (51 sacks, 39 interceptions, 6.98 yards per attempt), it will be important to lean on the running of Paul James and Justin Goodwin as they get comfortable in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights will vie with the Boilermakers for the least explosive team in the conference, despite the big-play ability of some of their receivers like Leonte Carroo and a decent corps of backs. Life may be difficult for Maryland as they adjust to the Big Ten, but it will be miserable for Rutgers.
It's a very different story overall as you head west. Iowa has a reliable signal caller in Jake Rudock, and Wisconsin might have a big star if Tanner McEvoy solidifies his position or if Stave is able to read the field better. But Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase has graduated, taking with him 3,272 yards and veteran savvy. NU will look more one-dimensional with Kain Colter graduated, and Nebraska loses Taylor Martinez and Ron Kellogg III. The teams that make up the division already averaged 500 fewer passing yards than those in the East, and yet they take a big step back in talent. Even the underwhelming Philip Nelson transferred in-conference to Rutgers, where he has to sit out a year and is now facing assault charges against another football player. Very simply, there isn't much going for the West right now where quarterbacks are concerned.
This means the first ever B1G West will be a college reincarnation of the Black and Blue Division, led by two Heisman hopefuls in Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon and backed up by plenty of other good runners. Each team looks like it will live and die trying to win the line of scrimmage, which should be a lot of fun to watch. And, a lot will be at stake: Bo Pelini's job, Minnesota's respect, following an embarrassing loss to Syracuse, and Wisconsin's national title hopes. In the West, the big men are the crucial factor, and their teammates will hope they can carry them to the same heights as the more talented journeymen you'll see out east.
Hitting the Links Still Feels Like the NFL
Here's the thorough, comprehensive breakdown of the B1G's showing in the draft. Much better this year than last year.
ESPN organizes it by round and offers a take on some of the choices.
Some fans have been nervous about this game, but I would say they should be (congenially) bloodthirsty for revenge instead. 69-0, anyone?
I enjoyed this piece by Darryl Slater on the challenges corners have when they first get in the league. A good second-hand account.
I have been interested in seeing how the headline programs handle adversity. Mack Brown won more games than any other Texas coach save Darrell Royal, but in the end, it got very bitter.
The Big Ten has some very nice game day experiences, but I wish I could've been a part of some old Northwestern victories, where they tore down the goalposts after a win and threw them in Lake Michigan. Sadly, they stopped doing that in 1995.
I promise I won't always dip into the NFL this much but here's a well-written look at some of the minutiae of team-building.
Going based on S&P+ projections (yeah, I do that, too), one writer gives a rough projection for 2014, and we come out at 32nd and 4th in the Big Ten.
The video is extremely interesting, but the fifty off-season questions are worth a look, too. If you're only interested in Michigan (it is a bit disorganized to sift through), go to #2, 11, 20, 28, and 41. Also, I think Gerry DiNardo isn't actually sure what to expect from Michigan football.
The building in the background is the Al Glick Fieldhouse, with State Street behind that. I'm only saying this because I couldn't think of another pun.