WARR writer Kevin Luchansky normally writes about baseball for WARR.com., this college football season he plans on expanding his reach by writing on another passion of his — college football.
Kevin, an alum of Indiana University, will provide coverage on the Big Ten throughout the college football season along with periodic looks at the big games that will help shape the race to the first ever College Football Playoff. In his first post, we get a preview of the Big Ten’s east division, including a less than meatball-ish take on his Hoosiers. Thank goodness for Rutgers.
Stay up with WARR.com for Kevin’s preview of the Big Ten West, coming next Friday.
1. Michigan State
Last year’s defending Big Ten champs are back again and the expectations for this Spartan group may even exceed last season’s. They will have to try and replace defensive standouts Darqueze Dennard and Max Bullough, but Sparty has nearly the entire offense returning and MSU will still have quite a few studs up-front to help stop opponent’s ground games.
The East division is stronger than the West, but with injuries down in Columbus, I think the door is wide open for the Spartans to march to the Big Ten title game.
Prediction: 10-2, Big Ten East Champs, Big Ten Champs
2. Ohio State
Oh, Braxton. Unbreak Columbus’ heart.
I mention the high expectations in East Lansing, but they were nothing in comparison to the National Championship expectations surrounding The Shoe and THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY. After just missing a berth into the title game last season, the Buckeyes once upon a time were expecting the return all of their main pieces on the offensive side of the ball, with the exception of running back Carlos Hyde — who left for the NFL — and the weight of the expectation world was placed on senior quarterback Braxton Miller’s shoulders.
That was all fine and dandy until Miller complained about pain in his shoulder after tossing a pass during an August workout. The ensuing MRI revealed some damage, and doctors declared Miller unable to compete this season, and a major, major blow was dealt to the Buckeyes’ title hopes. Can redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett do enough offensively to keep their title chances alive?
3. Penn State
It will be interesting to see what the Nittany Lions look like under first year head coach James Franklin, who bolted to State College from Vanderbilt after former PSU head coach Bill O’Brien took the head coaching job for the Houston Texans. One thing that is certain, though, is that Franklin has (potentially) three years to work with one of the more gifted quarterbacks I have seen in recent years in sophomore Christian Hackenberg. Do they have the skill set at receiver to air it out this season and put previously unseen pressure on Big Ten defenses?
Is there a hotter seat in the Big Ten than Brady Hoke’s?
After another sub-par season — from a traditional Michigan expectation standpoint — Hoke really needs to put together a season more impressive than his last few, or at least one that instills confidence in the athletic department and fan base. The team is a bit of a mystery to me, but I don’t see a lot on paper that would lead me to believe this team is better than 2013’s squad. Not helping matters is that both rivalry games, Michigan State and Ohio State, are played on the road this season.
There’s no doubt the Terrapins and coach Randy Edsall will have their hands full in their first season in the Big Ten after competing in the ACC since 1953. The Terps have one of the nation’s best receivers in Stefon Diggs, but they also have a rude welcome schedule, with their two contests against the West being a trip to Wisconsin and a home game against Iowa. It’s hard to predict how well Edsall will be able to prepare his squad this season as it will certainly be a different type of competition than they’re accustomed to. Still, I think they may be able to squeak out a .500 record and a bowl appearance.
In 2013, the Hoosiers put together one of their greatest offensive campaigns ever, averaging 508 yards and 38.4 points per game. Unfortunately for head coach Kevin Wilson and his squad, they were equally unimpressive on the other side of the ball, allowing 560 yards and nearly 40 points per game en route to a 5-7 record and another bowl-less season.
Nate Sudfeld, now in his second season as starting quarterback, has a big arm and an above-average core of receivers to find down field, so the Hoosiers should light it up again on offense. The question is, can new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr and his freshly installed 3-4 defense get enough stops to get this team a few wins and a bowl berth?
I thought Maryland had a tough first season Big Ten schedule….and then I looked at Rutgers’ slate. Aside from being in the tougher division, the Scarlet Knights get Nebraska and Wisconsin as their West foes, arguably the top two teams in that division.
Head coach Kyle Flood brought in former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen in as offensive coordinator to help with the conference transition, and the big man will certainly have his hands full with that task. I expect Rutgers to struggle quite a bit in year one, especially as their talent has dropped off a bit since the departure of former head coach Greg Schiano.
Predicted Order Of Finish
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
Predicted First Team All Big Ten East — Skill Players
Quarterback: Christian Hackenberg (PSU)
Running Back: Jeremy Langford (MSU)
Running Back: Tevin Coleman (IU)
Wide Receiver: Stefon Diggs (Maryland)
Wide Receiver: Devin Funchess (Michigan)
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