Sports handicapper Ian Cameron provides a betting preview of the Big Ten East Division for the upcoming College Football season, and provides his views on the Conference.
Here is a preview of the Big Ten East Division for the upcoming College Football season:
Ohio State Buckeyes
This looks to be the year on paper where the Ohio State Buckeyes are vulnerable to get knocked from the top of the Big Ten pack. They lost five 1st round picks from last year's team in the NFL Draft which will once again test the recruiting capabilities of head coach Urban Meyer who has amassed a tremendous 50-4 record in four seasons in Columbus. The good news for Ohio State is they know what they have at QB with the return of J.T. Barrett who had a tremendous 45-14 TD-INT ratio last season and his dual-threat ability to make plays on the run as well as with his arm make him a dynamic weapon to lead the Buckeyes offense.
The offensive line returns only two starters but they are important ones including a senior center in Pat Eiflein. The other three OL projected starters this season are new to the starting role but they all had a ton of snaps during game action last season for Ohio State so the lack of experience isn't quite as strong as the returning starters number indicates.
There is an open competition to replace the incomparable Ezekiel Elliott at RB as OSU has three qualified candidates with senior Bri'onte Dunn and a pair of frosh RB's Mike Weber and Antonio Williams. I would be surprised if one of these options doesn't emerge and become very productive for the Ohio State ground attack. Ohio State lost most of their receiving production from last season but Curtis Samuel, Dontre Wilson, Noah Brown and Corey Smith all provide solid potential at WR and while there is a lot of production gone, this looks to be a reload situation for the Buckeyes.
The defense has some reshuffling to do losing three starters in the first round of the NFL Draft and the secondary has just one starter back so the pass defense could be a little suspect early in the season. However, this team still has two of their top tacklers back from last season including their leading tackler LB Raekwon McMillan and rush end Tyquan Lewis returns as well and he forms a solid pass rushing combination with Sam Hubbard. Pressure up front should be the key to Ohio State on defense until the revamped secondary has some time to get their feet wet. The Buckeyes schedule is not an easy one facing road games at Oklahoma, Michigan State, and Wisconsin this season but Ohio State looks like more of a reload, not rebuild team this season despite such an influx of talent and they will be right there with a chance to win the Big Ten once again, and be contenders for the National Championship as it reflects on this teams College Football Odds
Jim Harbaugh was expected to be a game changer for this program after being hired as Michigan head coach and so far he's delivered. The team went from a 5 win season in 2014 and no bowl game to 10-3 last season and a blowout win over Florida in the Citrus Bowl. Michigan's offense had been dismal for years but somehow improved last season quite a bit considering Harbaugh was using a temporary fix type of QB setup with Iowa transfer Jake Rudock under center. Rudock is gone but the QB play might improve even more if former Houston Cougars QB John O'Korn gets the starting nod and returns to his 2013 season form after sitting out last year. O'Korn will battle with sophomore Wilton Speight for the starting job. De'Veon Smith and Ty Isaac from a solid RB duo.
The offensive line returns four starters. They bring back plenty of experience and production at receiver led by senior TE Jake Butt. Six starters are back on defense for the Wolverines and should be bolstered from having a healthy Bryan Mone back at DT after he was sidelined all of last season after a broken leg injury suffered last August. They have a stout defensive front which should get pressure on opposing QB's and do an effective job stopping the run. Jabrill Peppers moves to LB this season to shore up the most suspect link on an otherwise strong defensive unit. Michigan also has their top returning tackler back as CB Jourdan Lewis returns to lead a secondary that was one of the best in fewest passing yards allowed last season.
Michigan will have a tremendous defense but their offense is the area that could be much improved and fly under the radar. If Michigan game totals are in the 40's as they will likely be with their defense, this could end up being a team with some Over the total value. It's not fair to anoint Michigan as Big The champs right away but it's certainly a possibility they could unseat Ohio State for that crown. Be sue to continue to check the College Football Picks on SBR to track down their progress.
Michigan State Spartans
Head coach Mark D'Antonio has some rebuilding to do in East Lansing following a dominant run over the last few years. Senior QB Tyler O'Connor is the favorite to win the QB job from the departed Connor Cook which is a big hole to fill for Sparty. They have a stable of three RB's L.J. Scott, Gerald Holmes and Madre London and the offensive line should be in solid shape and be a unit that can be good in the ground game which Michigan State may rely on with a first year starting QB taking over the reins.
Michigan State must replace Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings at WR but do have some options to go with including R.J. Shelton. The defense has the potential to be stingy with 6 starters back including top tackler at middle LB Riley Bullough who had 106 tackles last season.
The DL is the most questionable area of the defense heading into the season with not as much depth or experience behind Malik McDowell. The secondary should be improved after taking a step backward last season and be much better equipped at thwarting opposing passing attacks. The ability to recruit for D'Antonio will be tested with plenty of personnel losses from last season but he is still a coach more than capable of maximizing the talent on hand and for that reason despite a potential step back this season, it may be unwise to write off Michigan State from contention in this division and in the Big Ten overall.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State has plenty of new faces on hand for the upcoming season. Head coach James Franklin cleaned house with his coaching staff and has a new OC and DC this season with Joe Moorhead (formerly Fordham head coach) taking over as offensive coordinator and Bent Pry given a promotion to defensive coordinator. The Nittany Lions may not resemble the JoePa days on the offensive side of the football. There is solid potential that sophomore QB Trace McSorley will take over from the departed Christian Hackenberg and will be a better fit for Franklin's preferred spread system as a dual threat QB. Moorhead's offenses at Fordham utilized an uptempo, no huddle spread attack with elements of throwing the football combined with the zone read so this is likely to be a major difference from the ground and pound plodding offensive football that Penn State has had for a long time.
The OL is the biggest area of concern as that unit brings back 4 starters but they were part of a wretched OL last season which yielded 83 sacks in the last two seasons but Franklin has been recruiting extra hard along the offensive line so the door is open for that group to be better and be effective in the new look, faster paced uptempo system on offense.
On the defensive side, the DL must replenish what they lost with three starters departing but the LB corps should be exceptional as it often is at Penn State with the majority of top tacklers from last season returning at LB. The secondary returns a pair of starters from what was a strong pass defense last season so that group has the chance to be stingy in terms of passing yards allowed much like they were last season when they ranked in the Top 10 in that category. This could be a team with pointspread value that is poised to take a step forward in Franklin's 3rd season at the helm which follows three straight recruiting classes by him for Penn State that rank in the Top 25 in the nation. The buy sign could be out for Penn State in 2016.
Kevin Wilson returns as Indiana head coach in large part due to last season in which Indiana made a bowl game for the first time in 22 years. Now it will be up to Wilson to lead Indiana to further improvement here in 2016. Indiana's offense has been the better unit for years and has carried them to the wins they've gotten but now must replace their very strong QB Nate Sudfeld. It appears that Richard Lagow is the favorite to win the starting QB job over Danny Cameron with Lagow being the more impressive QB during the spring. They lose a tremendous RB in Jordon Howard but have a solid replacement in junior RB Devine Redding. Four starters are back on what should be strong offensive line for the Hoosiers and their receiving corps has multiple weapons loaded with production and experience for Lagow in the passing game. Indiana will only get better if their defense can improve.
They still have a lot of work to do to get better at making stops. Indiana was ranked 120th in the nation in total defense last season and allowed a whopping 38 points per game. The defensive line has been totally revamped with only one starter back and is a major area of concern heading into the season. The LB corps is solid with plenty of returning experience and the secondary was dreadful last season and even though they have some capable pieces returning on that unit, it's a pass defense that was extraordinarily bad last season and can probably go to mediocre at best given how poorly they played a season ago. Another minor bowl game and 6+ win season is possible for Indiana but it's hard to envision the ceiling being any higher than that for the Hoosiers.
The Randy Edsall era was a disaster in College Park and a change had to be made so in comes D.J. Durkin as the new head coach of the Maryland Terrapins and he enters with a solid resume after stints as a DC at Florida and Michigan. Durkin has turned the keys to the offense over to new OC Walt Bell, formerly at Arkansas State, and he is installing an uptempo, no huddle spread attack here at Maryland. The new DC for Durkin is Andy Buh who was previously with Stanford, Cal and Nevada.
This team is littered with holes and question marks and it all starts at QB where Caleb Rowe and Perry Hills are battling it out after years of spending time stinking up the joint and being maddeningly inconsistent. The hope is the new uptempo scheme on offense will make them better QB's but the jury remains out on that declaration. They are thin at WR but the RB position should be solid with Ty Johnson looking good in spring. The offensive line loses three starters unit did play respectably last season so there is a work in progress type of outlook for that group.
There are six starters gone on defense but that unit was porous last season allowing 34 points per game. Their secondary struggled but their pass rush was solid. However, there is grave concern with plenty of their top pass rushers gone from last season and plenty of holes needing to be filled along the defensive line. Maryland can't go anywhere but up but it will take D.J. Durkin time for his vision to translate into wins and bowl berths once again here in the Big Ten.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Chris Ash takes over as head coach for Rutgers after Kyle Flood's firing. Ash was defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer at Ohio State prior to the hiring. Rutgers defense has been progressively worse in recent years and making matters worse is the three leading tacklers from what was already a bad defense last season are gone which means there could be even more growing pains on the road to recovery on the defensive side of the football.
The defensive line does return three starters including senior DT Darius Hamilton who was injured midway through last season and his return is immense for that group and they can only improve on what was a horrendous defense against the run last season. The offense has questions too with Chris Laviano and LSU transfer Hayden Rettig battling it out for the starting QB spot and also having to learn a new offensive scheme under OC Drew Mehringer who will bring an uptempo spread attack with him to Rutgers.
They lose their top weapon at WR in Leonte Carroo but they do have four OL starters back which should bolster that group and allow them to have success running the football and throwing it assuming there are other receivers who can step up and fill bigger roles. Rutgers was 4-8 last season including 1-7 in Big Ten play and a true disaster of a season. Chris Ash made the defenses at Ohio State better and will be called upon to make this team's sieve defense better in time but the key word is time and it could take some time for Rutgers to regain respectability within the Big Ten.