Big Ten East Preview: Part II

After sending 10 of 14 teams to bowl games last season, the Big Ten is getting ready for another season in hopes to prove that they can still keep up with the SEC as the dominant Conference in College Football. This will include key games like Ohio State at Oklahoma, LSU at Wisconsin, UNC at Illinois, and Oregon at Nebraska. The Big Ten will need these out-of-conference games if they want to be taken seriously come bowl season. The podcast version of this article can be found here.

Big Ten East Preview: Part II

The Big Ten was able to send 10 teams to Bowl Games last season, their record was not as impressive. They went 5-5 in these games with notable wins in the Fiesta Bowl with Ohio State handling Notre Dame 44-28. However, there were several notable losses including Alabama shutting out Michigan State in the Sugar Bowl and Stanford running Iowa out of the Rose Bowl 45-16. The Big 10 was outclassed when put into tough situations despite having a record six teams with 10 or more wins. If the Big Ten wants to prove they are the best conference, it will involve winning these types of games, and 2016 will give them several opportunities to do this.

Now how will each team do in the 2016 season? For the most part, Big Ten teams are not losing much and will be returning with a solid core group from the 2015-2016 season. In this series of articles, we will rank each team and predict their record for this upcoming season, including why they will finish there. We will also look at the key games that each team will have this upcoming season. You can find Part I here.

Indiana: 6-6 (6-7 in 2015)

After Michigan State is when the Big Ten East will fall off dramatically. While Michigan State is only projected one game above Indiana, they can still move up a spot or two with upsets. This is not the case with Indiana. Like Michigan State, they will be losing their starting quarterback in Nate Sudfield. Indiana also lost part of their dual threat rushing game when Jordan Howard went to the NFL. The one positive is that they still have their 1000 yard receiver Simmie Cobbs and 900 yard receiver Ricky Jones. The only question is, will Richard Lagow be able to utilize them?

After playing at Cisco College of the NJCAA, Lagow transferred to Indiana and will now likely take the starting job. He is not very mobile and rarely leaves the pocket to make his pass. However, his size (6’6″ 240 lbs.) will help him break away from the strong defensive lines of the conference. While he may have the targets on his team to produce big numbers, he is unwilling to leave the pocket. Players like Malik McDowell, Dawuane Smoot, and Chris Wormley will ruin any chance of these plays happening.

Key Games: Like Michigan State, in-conference games will likely be Indiana’s downfall. They will go on the road to face Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern, and play Michigan State, Penn State, and Nebraska at home. However, unlike Michigan State, it seems much more unlikely that any of these games are winnable. With a combination of a new, immobile quarterback and a less diverse rushing game, Indiana is looking at another mediocre season.

Rutgers: 5-7 (4-8 in 2015)

One year removed from a surprising 8-5 season, Rutgers is looking to be a factor in the Big Ten. Rutgers was able to at least have a positive out-of-conference record last season with wins against Norfolk State Army, and Kansas. They really under performed against the Big Ten, giving up at least 30 points in seven of eight games. If Rutgers really wants to be a factor in the Big Ten, the defense will have to make some adjustments.

The first fix was finding a new co-ordinator, and Jay Niemann was the answer. However, from the spring camps, the first comment he had on his new defensive was saying, “It’s a mess”. This pretty much confirms that they will be struggling yet again this year. Despite having an offense that put up 30 points five times last year, it will mean nothing. Especially with a core of linebackers that have yet to take a snap.

Key Games: Rutgers out-of-conference schedule really does not pose much of a threat other than a road game to Washington. However, this season, Rutgers will be playing in nine conference games as opposed to eight. These include games against Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State. Even Indiana may prove to be difficult this season because of how poor Rutgers pass rush is. Overall, Rutgers is making small strides in the right direction, but don’t expect any major moves from them this year.

Maryland: 3-9 (3-9 in 2015)

Similarly to Rutgers, Maryland is one year removed from an above 0.500 record. However, Maryland will need to fix their quarterback situation before they are considered to be a decent team in the Big Ten. With the returning combination of Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe, Maryland will have one of the worst quarterback duos in Big Ten history. Combined, they had 14 TD’s and 28 INT’s last year and a combined completion percentage below 50%. Things were looking up when Maryland was able to secure 4-star recruit Dwayne Haskins Jr. However, just as easily as he committed, he was taken away and transferred to Ohio State. If Maryland wants to compete in the Big Ten, they will need some major changes.

If you look at Maryland’s offense and try to find who to watch for, it’s somewhat hard to do. Maryland lost their starting running back and only had one receiver with over 30 receptions. Their offense is almost non-existent and the defense gave up 30+ points eight times last season. The only reason they are projected to win three games is because their out-of-conference schedule has an FCS team and two FBS teams with a combined 5 wins last season.

Key Games: This list is easy. Every conference game this season. Maryland’s only conference win last year came in a shootout against Rutgers. Rutgers looks to have made more adjustments this year to possibly win that game. While it seems wrong to beat the dead horse, Maryland cannot be expected to make any strides this year unless it means winning against Rutgers. Which is still a toss up game.

Main Photo:

EAST LANSING, MI – OCTOBER 24: Simmie Cobbs Jr. #1 of the Indiana Hoosiers celebrates his touchdown with Ricky Jones #4 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the second quarter of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on October 24, 2015 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)