Big Ten East Predictions
In 1969, Ann Arbor and Michigan's famous, first-year, ultra-competitive and future Hall of Fame coach hosted a dominant Buckeyes team - a team that was thought unbeatable, a team that was building a long winning streak in the Big Ten and was called "The Team of the Century" by Sports Illustrated. Michigan beat that team. And it set the tone for a terrific decade in Michigan-Ohio State football.
2015 will, for better or worse, have that 1969 season hanging over its head. Hopefully history repeats itself; hopefully the Wolverines end the regular season with a dominant and soul-crushing win. Everything is set up to replicate many of the details from that '69 affair, from some potential early losses for the Wolverines to a Michigan team that's getting undervalued and a rejuvenation in the team's work ethic.
Then again, sometimes history doesn't repeat itself. We'll see if that comes true. But as you'll see below, I'm not optimistic.
* Ohio State Buckeyes: 12-0 (8-0)
People have talked about Ohio State almost as much as they have Michigan, but here are some hopefully fresh thoughts and predictions. Raekwon McMillan is primed to become a highly regarded player in just his sophomore year, and Michael Thomas will be responsible for a 1,000-yard season before heading to the NFL. Jalin Marshall has impressed me and many others as a tougher-than-he-looks speedster, and Urban Meyer will make sure to get him the ball even if Braxton Miller takes some of his snaps at H-back. A possible weakness entering the off-season - with several key pass-catchers departing - does not look like it will actually put a dent in the Big Red Machine.
Hopefully the defensive line shows some weaknesses against the run, but Adolphus Washington - once a weakness on the interior - should be able to take over Michael Bennett's role as disruptor and will probably perform much better. Still, if there is a blueprint to beating this team, it is going to be on the ground, and somehow finding a way to get through Joey Bosa, Tommy Schutt, Raekwon McMillan, and Joshua Perry. And it's not homerism - well, not completely, anyway - to say the Wolverines stand a good chance of doing that if they can improve through the season.
It will be tough, though.
* Michigan Wolverines: 9-3 (6-2)
The work ethic, the coaching, last year's turnover problems, the offensive schemes and the talent level - all signs point to a rebound for the Wolverines. Some are expecting a small improvement from last year's miserable debacle, and maybe those predictions will prove to be right.
But this team is finally led by a great coaching staff, who will be able to get the run game going against most teams, they have a quarterback in Jake Rudock who can lead in the locker room, and everywhere you look, there are players with something to prove. I'd think really, really, really hard before betting against this group.
* Michigan State Spartans: 9-3 (6-2)
This team has been a force for a while now, and consistency is one of the hardest things to accomplish in this game. If the Spartans do stumble a little more often than usual, it will be hard to fault them for it; and, they will have plenty of good opponents against which to stumble. Dantonio's team heads to the Horseshoe to take on the Buckeyes, they host the Oregon Ducks, in a game that will be hard to prepare for with some of the Ducks' off-season changes, and the Spartans also get tested by Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, and Indiana.
The pass defense will be a big question mark - even at the safety spot, where they lack some leadership and experience. Losing Ed Davis will hurt their defensive play-making up front, and the offense must find some new wideouts. I'm expecting a breakout season from Aaron Burbridge, at least, but someone else will probably also have to step up.
* Penn State Nittany Lions: 8-4 (4-4)
In some ways this is a low bar for the Nittany Lions, considering how light their schedule is this year. The Big Ten West teams on the docket are Illinois and Northwestern, and the out-of-conference match-ups are Temple, Buffalo, San Diego State, and Army. While Temple is not a team to be overlooked, this is still a manageable slate.
Still, I'm a little bit worried about the Nittany Lions' offense. For all the talk of their offensive line improving (and it almost can't get worse), it will be another year before that part of the team really starts to find its footing. Angelo Mangiro is quietly one of the best centers in the conference, and it's a safe bet that their interior (which has a couple converted D-linemen) will solidify. But the tackle spots are a mess, so expect more sacks. Eventually, Christian Hackenberg might get injured if he takes too much more pressure.
This was a team that went 6-6 a year ago (plus a bowl win), so 8-4 would still be measured progress. But entering bowl season hoping for a tenth win simply feels a little too optimistic.
* Indiana Hoosiers: 6-6 (3-5)
They'll have a hard time with Western Kentucky, but the rest of their non-conference slate looks primed to give them an early boost of confidence. Even if you are not optimistic about their chances for some serious growth (and I am), their projected S&P+ rankings are higher than Southern Illinois, FIU and Wake Forest, their other three September opponents. Get those wins in the bank, and that already puts them halfway to a bowl.
The really good news for Hoosiers fans is that this might be the most balanced and effective offense yet under Kevin Wilson. Nate Sudfeld has the potential to throw for 3,000 yards, and there's some better quarterback depth as well in case the team loses him for a stretch. The running back stable has a little thunder and a little lightning, and the wideouts could turn out to be one of the best units in the conference.
The defense, meanwhile, will probably give up its share of scores, but the line, at least, is turning into a pretty nasty group. Between Nate Hoff, Darius Latham, Ralph Green III, and Adarius Rayner, the Hoosiers will trot out four regulars who top 300 pounds.
* Rutgers Scarlet Knights: 6-6 (2-6)
I'm a little more confident in Rutgers' ability to get through their non-con unscathed, what with Washington State coming to Piscataway and Norfolk State, Kansas, and Army being what they are.
But boy, this team is going to get run on during conference season. Their defensive line has not gotten big enough to handle a full marathon in the Big Ten, and though they are definitely starting to recruit more size in the front seven (a little late, I might add), it will be a while before fans can realistically anticipate a breakthrough season. There's enough talent on offense, though, to ensure they can compete with at least a fair number of teams in the meantime.
* Maryland Terrapins: 3-9 (0-8)
Five of their top six linebackers. Four of their top five defensive linemen. Fifty-one starts on the offensive line, almost 59% of their receiving yards, almost 60% of their running yards, plus a starting quarterback. That secondary will be in good shape, but ... man, this team is undergoing a serious makeover.
The Terps will resemble next to nothing of last year's team, and that even includes the schemes: this will be their first year in a 4-3 system, while the offense will switch to some more pro-style looks without the running of C.J. Brown.
Basically, it's tough to expect very much from Maryland this year. Under construction, check back soon.
Hitting the Links Enjoys Walking In The Arb
This is a clever way to keep their defense on the offensive.
Even as someone who hates the Buckeyes, the work ethic they've shown throughout has been amazing.
"More like the 25ers - about half of what they were." Some very good writing in this piece by SI.
Pierson-El is a household name, but he is only one in a pretty sturdy group of receivers at Nebraska. This shouldn't affect them too much.
A very appreciative shout-out to /u/hythloday1 for the scouting report.
This would be a boost to James Franklin and Bob Shoop's reputation on defense, and simply flat-out impressive for Amos.
Houston is going to be very good very quickly.
Six out of 27 first-team All-America spots are Big Ten, a very competitive number. I have to give credit to this, also, for not just going on resume or established success, but predicting big seasons for some young talent entering their junior year.
A very good, informative piece by MnB's Zach Libby.
I have been endlessly impressed with Jerry Kill and his staff, both in scouting hidden gems and developing their talent. Very few coaching staffs around the country consistently produce draft picks out of three-star talent, but that is what Minnesota is doing right now.
This is extremely disappointing. It would have added to Northwestern's cache to have a rivalry in the Pac-12, and especially this one specifically.
Indiana will get a very nice boost with this extension.
It will be interesting to see how much Corey Clement has prepared during the off-season. Melvin Gordon built himself up from, originally, a low-four-star recruit to maybe the best to ever play for the Badgers. Clement, a former low-four-star recruit, is trying to do the same.
On The Banks' look around the college world is great to link to because it's perfectly different from everything that goes in here, and covers plenty of extra stuff. So, here's another.
Holy deja vu is right. Here's Round 2 of unbelievable Iowa-related sentence: "At this point, the only non-walk on, non-junior or senior defensive backs on Iowa's roster are true freshman Michael Ojemudia (who seems like a safety-in-training), sophomore Miles Taylor (Iowa's starting strong safety), sophomore Kevin Ward (who also looks a bit safety-ish), and redshirt freshman Omar Truitt." Yeah, that's not good.
Alright, this isn't funny anymore, guys. I feel like I'm cycling through stories that have already happened.
... That's it, I'm leaving.