CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: The B1G East
Man, look. The B1G West took it out of me, just like I said it would.
I abhor Big Ten football. I liked Michigan fine in the Charles Woodson era, and now I want them to go 3-9 due to Jim Harbaugh’s obnoxiousness at a name program and not a novelty. I liked Michigan State last year because they beat Ohio State, but they’re just a B1G team better than the mediocrity spread throughout the B1G. I’ve always hated Ohio State. And Penn State covered up the rape of children for the better part of 30 years.
I mean, good God, y’all. Every national publication insists this is the second best conference in the nation. Truth is, I am watching Sun Belt on the CW before another Minnesota/Rutgers slog. If its not lightning-storm-in-a-desert Indiana, its not entertaining football. Ohio State plays an aesthetically-pleasing style, but they kill everyone. And, you know, Urban Meyer. This year’s iterations of Michigan and Michigan State will be fine football teams, but they’ll play the sit-on-you-at-arms-length style that the B1G’s middle class plays to 16-13 thrillers.
Maryland may actually be the most entertaining team in this conference this year. Maryland. (Based on potential hilarity/young, untested coaching staff/Under Armour’s experimental plaything.)
I suddenly only have five weekends to tell you what’s going to be fun in college football this year, so let’s get this over with so I can talk about the immensely entertaining Pac-12, the absurd Big 12, our regional friend the ACC, and the all-important SEC.
7) Rutgers. Look, I don’t know. They return a strong defensive line, but that’s by Rutgers Standards. They’ll probably beat Illinois at home, but their home/road splits make it hard to see another win.
6) Maryland. Randy Edsall went 6-18 as a coach in the ACC, and was quoted saying the following:
I’m glad to be moving to a conference that values football. It should be more fun to compete with more like-minded programs.
A few problems here. 1) The only reason Maryland left the ACC was because Kay Yow bankrupted their athletic department (and they just cut the ACC a $31 million check for the privilege of moving). 2) Edsall actually went 4-4 in his first year in a ‘football’ conference. 3) Edsall got canned last year, and the Terps went 3-9 (1-8).
Enter D.J. Durkin. He’s probably a year or two too green for a head coaching position, but I love the hire. He’s consistently put together OUTSTANDING defenses (Florida under Muschamp, Michigan under Harbaugh) but…he was coaching insane talent. He put together a GREAT coaching staff (Young OC Walt Bell was a recruiting stud at UNC before running the offense at Arkansas State) and former head coaches Mike London and whomever left doing a decent job at Ball State to be a position coach at Maryland.
Its the Justin Fuente approach of delegating his weaknesses out and bringing on guys with HC experience. That’s a good start. They’ll be intriguing at best, entertaining at worst.
5) Penn State. I wanted to drop them further, but James Franklin won 18 games over two years at Vanderbilt. The bowl game vs. Georgia makes me think they can’t not be awful, but…whatever. Their offensive line can’t be worse, or will at least put not Christian Hackenberg’s statue behind it, and I assume they have talent? They draw Minnesota/at Purdue/Iowa from the West, and those are three winnable games.
4) Indiana. They should’ve been 10-3 last year with wins over Ohio State and Michigan. In a middle tier full of the ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’ of yesteryear, Indiana is the meth addict with a heart of gold who comes to the strip mall with an AR-15. In other words, they may appear docile, but you’re not coming within a quarter mile of them. You don’t know what you’ll get from Indiana, and that makes them dangerous.
3) Michigan. Their schedule sets up for the easiest 10 wins in the history of football. They play 8 home games against Hawaii, UCF, Colorado, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland, and Indiana. They return their whole offensive line, and get a lot of injured D-lineman back. They have a DE named Taco. Jim Harbaugh made a Jake Rudock passing game top-10 in the nation in efficiency.
I just think the hype is a year premature. They blew out Florida in the Citrus Bowl, and Jim Harbaugh was THE ENTIRE NEWS CYCLE for the offseason. Of course people are picking them for the playoff. They pay visits to the other two competent B1G teams, and that’s enough for me to NOT pick them.
Never ceases to make me happy.
2) Michigan State. Look, Connor Cook wasn’t great last year. Hell, new QB Tyler O’Connor was awful and still won at Ohio State. The pass D took a major step back due to attrition and the loss of Pat Narduzzi, and they still won the league.
In Malik McDowell and Riley Bullough, they bring back a STOUT middle. I just don’t bet against Sparty any more.
one) Ohio State. They may get slapped around at Oklahoma on Sept. 17. They just had the best NFL Draft since 2001-2003 Miami, so they’ll be inexperienced. But…they still have a freaking stable of talent back. J.T. Barrett, former Heisman finalist? Back. Too many skill guys to name? Back. Top recruits at every single position who will be experienced by their Nov 19 & 26 matchups against the Michigans? Present.
Ohio State is gonna win this division again.
Five Games Worth Watchin’
GUESS WHAT? They all involve the big three. I tried hard to avoid them when writing about the West.
- Michigan at Michigan St., Oct. 29. Its number 1 because its the first shakedown game. None of these teams should lose to anyone else in the conference. Also, see above GIF.
- Ohio State at Michigan State, Nov. 19. Second shakedown game.
- Michigan at Ohio State, Nov. 26. Let’s be honest, Ohio State’s gonna steamroll them again, and it’ll be funny.
- Ohio State at Oklahoma, Sept. 17. Hate to say it, but an Ohio State upset means we’re back to cheering for everyone to beat them.
- Indiana at Michigan, Nov. 19. While Michigan is scoreboard watching the OSU/MSU game, Indiana is planting kilos of cocaine in the Michigan locker room. My dream scenario is that a 10-0 Michigan team goes up in flames to a tempo team and eliminates the B1G from the playoff.
Players Worth Knowing
THERE ARE PLENTY!
Jabrill Peppers, LB/S Michigan: He could play corner more than competently, but he’s playing Will behind a stout D-line. Imagine a smaller Kam Chancellor with more speed and better instincts.
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State: He was a key piece to the 2014 championship team as a true freshman. Georgia let him out of its backyard. He had 119 tackles last year. Ugh.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: Simply has the weapons and the system to be a backdoor Heisman like another Ohio State quarterback.
Demetrious Cox, S, Michigan State: Dude makes plays and rocks headshots.
SaQuon Barkley, RB, Penn State: The junior class of RBs is insane. Fournette, Cook, Chubb, McAffrey, Perine, Hood, whomever Alabama chooses, Michel…its amazing. Barkley is a sophomore, and hit 5.9 yards per carry as a true freshman. He’ll get ridiculous Doak/Heisman hype next year based on his exploits this year.
Divine Redding, RB, Indiana: Our local Falcons fans know Tevin Coleman (over 2000 yards in 2014). Jordan Howard missed four games last year and still put up 1200. Redding ran for 1000 yards as a backup last year, and threw up a casual 227 in the bowl loss to Duke. Guarantee you he’ll run for 1800+ if he stays healthy.
Will Likely, CB/PR, Maryland: Crap, this dude’s a senior already? He’s the dude that you straight up don’t punt to. I have NO idea how you average 17 yards per punt return on more than like, 3 attempts, but Likely did it over 23 and is a two-time first team B1Ger.
There’s actually fun, dominant, watchable talent across this division. I came up with two such players in the B1G West.
B1G EAST FOOTBALL, Y’ALL! Only three teams can actually win it, but there are at least two heterogeneous teams (Indiana and Maryland) making the noon ESPN2’s palatable.