Know Your Other Conferences: The B1G East (The One Where the Fun Schools Play)
Ah, yes. The one where the defending national champs, shirtless Jim Harbaugh, stifling Michigan State, and resurgent Penn State play. It’s better than Legends and Leaders as division names, but dear God Jim Delaney, how about a little competitive balance?
What Happened Last Year?
September 6, 2014: Black Saturday in the Big Ten. #19 Nebraska barely escaped McNeese State at home. Iowa and Maryland barely won depressing games against Ball State and USF, respectively. And the high-profile teams from the East, #7 Michigan State (got run out of Eugene in the 4th quarter), Michigan (shut out in the last game with Notre Dame for the foreseeable future), and #8 Ohio State (inexplicable loss at home to 6-7 finisher Virginia Tech) all bit the bullet, and us in SEC country got a good schadenfreude-induced laugh at their expense.
December 6, 2014: Ohio State 59, Wisconsin 0. The 6th-ranked team in the CFP polls made a compelling case to jump TCU and Baylor in the standings because, you know, they played a conference championship game.
December 30, 2014: Michigan officially announces the hiring of Jim Harbaugh as head football coach.
January 1, 2015: Ohio State 42, Alabama 35. Oh.
January 12, 2015: Ohio State 42, Oregon 20.
And here we are.
7: Indiana, in a league of its own: The Hoosiers have made some positive strides under (shameless citation) UNC grad Kevin Wilson in his four years, winning 4, 5, and 4 in the last three and famously winning the SEC East last year. Tevin Coleman’s 2000+ rushing yards depart, but they’re still explosive enough to upset someone.
6-5: Delaney’s Awesome Additions: Every business decision made by this man since the inception of the Big Ten Network has been based on cable eyeballs, so why not add the robust NYC and D.C./Baltimore markets to the fold? Well, because those markets net you Rutgers and Maryland.
6) Maryland: I almost feel bad for Randy Edsall. His 20-30 record at Maryland has more to do with key players (all of his QB’s in 2012, leading to finishing with six straight losses, dynamic wideouts Stefon Diggs and Deon Long last year) getting hurt than it does with his coaching ability. Or does it? He only won 8 games in the year he took Connecticut to the Fiesta Bowl and lost the school almost $2 million for his efforts.
5) Rutgers: I’m still a sucker for gunmetal helmets.
4-3: Turmoil-infused former powers and the benefit of the doubt:
4) Michigan: The Brady Hoke/Devin Gardner era ended with a whimper as shrill as Hoke’s voice, and the Wolverines made the perfect Michigan hire. Self-righteous grad? Check. Success at both college and the NFL? Check. Tans on Michigan’s beaches? HELL NAW A MICHIGAN MAN DOESN’T TAN! Harbaugh is a certifiable crazy person, and he will either bring them back to prominence or fail miserably. Either option will be fun.
3) Penn State: This is a pure “hey, what James Franklin did at Vandy is even more impressive now” vote of confidence. This is a team that lost to Northwestern, Maryland, and Illinois last year. Their quarterback, the presumptive #1 pick in next year’s draft, tossed 12 TD’s and 15 picks. But they have hope, damnit! 15 returning starters, no more NCAA issues, and no excuse not to start 6-0. We shall see.
2-1: The two entities that make this column easier to write:
2) Michigan State: I love a fun game of “coordinator or head coach?”. The Gene Chizik era at Auburn was not unmitigated disaster because of Gus Malzahn. Dabo Swinney would be back in real estate with me if not for Chad Morris. Georgia’s 2014 secondary without Jeremy Pruitt? Woof. (I swear on my life that that was not a Dawg pun.)
Stud DC Pat Narduzzi left for Pitt in the offseason, and in so doing left behind a defense that has once allowed more than 300 yards a game over the past four years! They’ve lost first round draft picks at corner in each of the past two drafts, but still return 7 starters and intend to maintain the ‘no fly zone’ moniker that has Sparty at 24-3 over the past two years. That’s enough for me at least until I see them host Oregon in week 2.
1) Ohio State: 1995 Nebraska. 2001 Miami. 2004 USC. 2010 Alabama. Every once in a while, there’s a team that possesses overwhelming talent and coaching, and though you want them to lose every game, you respect the crap out of what they’re accomplishing. 2015 Ohio State could be on that level. They just ran through our decade’s two preeminent programs in the first CFP with their third string quarterback, and return ALL THREE OF THEM, their top five rushers, 6 of their top 7 receivers, their top four tacklers, the best pass rusher in America, and even their whole special teams unit.
I’ve never liked Urban Meyer, and I’ve never liked Ohio State. There is no light at the end of this tunnel.
Top Five Games
1) Michigan State at Ohio State, Nov. 21: Objectively, this is the only game that a Buckeye regular-season opponent has even a chance of winning. Yet tOSU will still be favored by double digits. I hate everything.
2) Oregon at Michigan State, Sept. 12: Last year, Oregon needed a 4th quarter barrage to hold off Sparty at home. This year, we get to learn a lot about Oregon post-Mariota and MSU post-Narduzzi before public pools in Georgia close.
3) Penn State at Ohio State, Oct. 17: I alluded to it above, but Penn State opens with the following: at Temple, Buffalo, Rutgers, San Diego St., Army, Indiana….AT OHIO STATE. This is your classic Herbstriet/Musberger 8pm ABC start-turned-snoozer by midway through the second quarter, but I may watch.
4) Michigan section: home against Michigan State (Oct. 17) and Ohio State (Nov. 28): In his first year at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh took a 38-point dog Stanford team to the L.A. Coliseum and beat USC. If he can win one of these two, well, the insane guy looks a little bit more…normal.
5) Maryland at West Virginia, Sept. 26: I think this has become an annual thing! Whenever there’s potential for an ugly battery-tossing incident in a rivalry of two of the most disturbing fanbases in the country, it’s must-see-noon-bloody-mary TV.
Ten Players to Watch:
After some research and struggle, I was able to name five in the other division. Here? I could get ten off Ohio State alone.
– The three-headed OSU QB monster: Between Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett, and Braxton Miller, there are three different skillsets, all have which have worked to horrifying results. If tOSU has a downfall this year, could it be due to chemistry results at the QB position?
– Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State: 13.5 sacks as a sophomore, and #1 on pretty much everyone’s 2016 draft list.
– Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson, RB/WR, Ohio State: Both have been compared to Percy Harvin-like fits for Urban Meyer’s offense, and both are essentially playing as sophomores.
– Ezekiel Elliott, HB, Ohio State: 1878 yards and 18 touchdowns last year, and depending on who’s behind center is not the best Heisman candidate in his own backfield.
(I’m only counting that as four.)
– Shiquile Calhoun, DE, Michigan State: Apparently the next big thing to come out of Spartyville, he finished with 8 sacks and another 4.5 quarterback hurries last year.
– Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State: Presumptive first-round pick in an offense that doesn’t throw the ball very often.
– Christian Hackenburg, QB, Penn State: Presumptive first-overall pick with a career TD:Int of 32:25.
– Darius Hamilton, DT, Rutgers: An NFL 3-4 end, Hamilton has over 10 sacks, TFL, and QBH in his three years, and an impressive 7 passes broken up.
– Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers: I watched him do work to the worst defense I’ve ever had the displeasure of watching 13 times in last year’s bowl game, and the rangy deep threat’s name is so much fun to say. CARRROOOOOOOOO!!!
– Sean Davis, S, Maryland: A safety with 227 tackles over two seasons is either great in run support or playing for an abysmal defense.
Hate to admit it, but writing up the B1G East was kinda fun. If you made me put the whole conference in one post, though, I’d be a pancake on GA-400 right now. Up next: probably the Pac-12 North. Until then, archives:
6/30: Big XII: https://dudeyoucrazy.net/2015/06/30/know-your-other-conferences-big-xii-edition/
7/1: B1G West: https://dudeyoucrazy.net/2015/07/01/know-your-other-conferences-b1g-west-im-sorry/