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7. Indiana: The Hoosiers would like to forget all about 2021, a year where they were being picked to finish in the upper half of the B-10 East, arguably college football 2nd best division behind only the Mighty Southeastern’s West Division. Not so much, IU put it in reverse and went back to the ‘Bad Ole Days’ finishing 2-10 (beating only Idaho, 56-10 & Western Kentucky, 33-31). Indiana returns 12 starters, 7 on defense, 3 on O, 2 on special teams (Punter & Kicker. There is no question the strength of this team is their defense and Head Coach, Tom Allen has announced he will be calling the sets for the 2022 season. Personally, I do not believe that is ever a good idea as it limits the HC’s time on overseeing the offensive side of the ball. A sie that clearly needs his focus & insights. On offense, IU will have a QB competition between Jack Tuttle & Missouri transfer, Connor Bazelak and two newcomers at RB, Shawn Shivers (Auburn) & Emery Simmons (UNC), via the portal. The Hoosiers have a critical game on September 2, @ home vs Illinois! A win could lead to a 3-0 start to open the 2022 season!
6. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights best weapon plays neither offense or defense, it’s their punter, Adam Korsak. He averaged 48.5 YPP, punted the ball 72 times, had zero touchbacks and 38 of his punts landed inside the 20 yard line. Korsak can ‘flip the field’ from just about anywhere on the gridiron. QB Noah Vedral is back for a 3rd year, yet it is likely that he will be beat out by Gavin Wimsatt, a duel threat QB, that can breathe life into an offense that averaged only 19.7 PPG. Coach Greg Schiano, hit the portal hard, bringing in 4 offense lineman, all with starting experience. The Knights added 2 WR via the transfer portal as well, Taj Harris from Syracuse & Sean Ryan from W. Virginia. Schiano’s defensive upgrade began with the coaches, he brought in 5 new coaches on that side of the ball, including a new DC, Joe Harasymiak. The D will be better led and is more experienced in 2022. In the coming season, Rutgers is more talented on offense and is sporting a new & improved focus on defense. However, with an inexperienced QB & the O-Line, for all intent & purpose, being strangers, the Scarlet Knights may be a year away from being a player in the East.
5. Maryland: Mike Locksley is coming off his best showing as a HC in 2021, a 7-6 record, including an impressive bowl win over Virginia Tech, 54-10! Overall, Locksley is 13-23 in his 4 years @ Maryland (including his interim stent, in 2015, where he went 1-5). The Terrapins return 7 starters on offense, including QB, Taulia Tagovailoa, who, in my opinion, is the 3rd best player at his position in the B-10. He completed 328 passes on 474 attempts for 3,860 yards. His completion percentage was an impressive 69.2% and his ratio was 26 TDs to 11 INTs. Look for Tagovailoa to improve his numbers in the 2022 season! The WR receiver room is talented & experienced (Rakin Jarrett, Dontay Demus, & Jeshawn Brown all averaged more than 12 yards per catch) and are joined by Florida transfer, Jacob Copeland, who led the Gator receiving corps with 41 receptions in 2021. The run game will be improved as the Terps have 4 capable backs and the O-line returns four (4) starters. So why a 5th place prediction in the B-10 East Division? In a word, it is the defense, (13th in the B-10 in Scoring Defense allowing 30.7 PPG & 12th, in the conference in Total Defense giving up an average of 404 YPG)! Maryland returns 4 starters on defense (maybe a good thing), if they can improve on this side of the ball … the Terps can finish a lot higher the 5th in the East!
4. Michigan State: Mel Tucker took over the Spartan program and promptly went 2-5 in his 1st year (2020). Tucker then hit, not so much the recruiting trail, but rather, the Transfer Portal, bringing in 24 experienced & talented players from other college programs. The result sent reverberations throughout the college football universe, as the Spartans went from 2-5 in 2020 to 11-2 in 2021! Tucker has laid out the blue-print on how to use the transfer portal to travel from the outhouse to the penthouse in the blink of an eye! MSU returns 5 starters on offense, 6 on defense, and their record setting punter, Bryce Barringer, who average 48.4 YPP, a Spartan record! QB, Payton Thorns passes for 3,233 and had a ratio of just under 3 TDs to 1 INT (27 to 10), His best receiver has returned, Jayden Reed (59 receptions for 1636 yards, he averaged 17.4 YPC & scored 10 TDs) a difference maker. Tucker went looking for running back gold again in the portal (Wake Forest Transfer, Kenneth Walker III, who ran for 1,636, averaged 6.2 YPC, & scored 18 TDs in 2021) this time bringing in Wisconsin’s Jalen Berger & Colorado’s Jarek Broussard. The O-line is the issue, as they need to replace 3 starters, who opened the gaps for Walker III! The Spartan D needs to improve, as well, especially in the secondary (where they allowed 324.8 passing YPG in 2021) and in the front 7’s ability to pressure on the passer to take the pressure off the secondary!
3. Penn State: James Franklin is 67-34 (66.34 winning percentage) in his 8 years @ the helm of this storied, Penn State, Program! However, in the past two years, he has struggled, going 11-11 (4-5 in 2020 & 7-6 in 2021). In fact, struggled mightily, especially when one considers from 2016 through 2019, Franklin went 42-11, a 79.25 winning percentage! Last year the Nittany Lions open the season 5-0 and then lost, in a battle of unbeatens, to Iowa (also 5-0 at the time), 24-7. The Lions did not recover from this loss, allowing one failure to turn into 5 more, closing out their season, winning just 2 in their last 7 games! PSU returns 10 starters for the 2022 campaign, 6 on offense & 4 on D! QB, Sean Clifford is back for his 4th and final season. If the Lions are going to improve in 2022, their is little question that it must begin with Clifford’s play (he ranked 70th in the country completing just 61% of his passes & ranked 74th in pass efficiency)! Put simply, these numbers will not get Penn State back to challenging for the B-10 East! While the backs & wide outs have both talent & depth, the O-line has to replace 3 starters and need to make significant improvement in their play! Make no mistake, the O-line play or lack there of, was a major factor in Clifford’s woes in 2021. Finally, the defense will be strong again and the addition of Manny Diaz as DC will assist to that end. If the offense can stay on the field and finish drives, this team can challenge for the East title & beyond!
2. Michigan: While Michigan still leads the overall series vs Ohio State, 59-51-6, going into the 2021 season, the Wolverines had lost 15 of the last 16 to the Buckeyes. So … needless to say, … last year’s, 42-27 win over the Bucks was a long, long time coming! That said, 2 wins in 17 games will not get it done for the Michigan administration or fanbase, Harbaugh and his staff need to do that again (beat that team from Ohio)! A tall order, considering the Bucks have the best QB in the country (sorry Bama), CJ Stroud is better then Bryce Young, the best WR in the nation, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, have college football 4th best RB, TreVeyon Henderson, and the game is at the Shoe! Michigan returns 14 starters, 7 on offense, 5 return for the defense, & both the punter & kicked return! Last year, the Wolves ran a a highly effective, 2 QB system utilizing, Cade McNamara & J.J. McCarthy, this duo led UM to their 1st ever CFP appearance! Their 2nd leading rusher returns, Blake Corum (952 rushing yards on 144 carries. Blake rushed for 6.6 YPC, 79.3 YPG, & scored 11 TD) & the Wolverines bring back the entire receiving corps (WRs & TEs) including WR, Ronnie Bell (tore an ACL in the 2021 opener). Bell led Michigan in receiving in both 2019 & 2021! The O-line has 3 starters back and added, via the transfer portal, Virginia’s Olusegan Oluwatimi (a Remington Award Finalist, presented to the best center in college football)! The defense lost some big time players, DEs, Aiden Hutchinson & David Ajobo, both 1st round NFL picks! The real question mark for the Wolverines in a 2022 championship run will be on this (defensive) side of the ball. The schedule is favorable, UM does not play a Power 5 Non-Conference team (that is ridiculous scheduling … as it could keep them out of the CFP), avoid Wisconsin & Purdue in crossover games with-in the B-10, play MSU & PSU in the Big House, and then, if things go according to Hoyle, the trip to Columbus should decide the B-10 East!
1 Ohio State: The Ohio State finished 11-2 in 2021 and the season was officially declared a disaster! An early loss to Oregon, 35-28, a game in which neither team seemed to know how to play defense or were simply not interested in playing D! The Bucks then ripped off 9 straight wins and then headed north to Ann Arbor for The Game! For only the 2nd time in 17 games, the Buckeyes fell to that team from up north, 42-27! Then, Ohio State, in this ‘disastrous year’ traveled to Pasadena and won the Rose Bowl, beating the PAC 12 Champion, Utah 48-45 (a measure of revenge, as the Utes beat Oregon twice at the end of the 21 season, 38-7 & 38-10). For the Bucks to have a successful season, it goes like this … beat Michigan, win the East Division, beat Michigan, win the B-10, beat Michigan, get into the CFP, beat Michigan, win a CFP Game, beat Michigan, win the CFP … and of course … beat Michigan! In 2022, OSU returns 14 starters, 6 on O, 6 on Defense, and their punter & kicker are back. QB, CJ Stroud, the early Heisman favorite, is back and so are his numbers; 317/441 for 4,435, 44 TDs to 6 INTs, a 71.9 completion percentage, while completing 26.5 PPG & throwing for 369.58 YPG! RB, TreVeyon Henderson, as a true freshman, rushed for 1,248 yards, scored 15 TD in 13 games, ran for 96.0 YPG & while averaging 6.82 YPC (2nd best in the nation). Remember, these ground numbers were earned on the 3rd best aerial team in the country (390.9 YPG). Last year, the Buckeyes had college football version of Christianity’s concept of the ‘Holy Trinity’ (Chris Olive 936 receiving yards, Garrett Wilson, 1058 & Jaxon Smith-Njigba led the way with 1,606)! Wilson was the 10th pick in the NFL draft while Olave was picked 11th. Many NFL annalists projected that had Smith-Njigba been available for the NFL’s 2022 draft, he would have been selected 1st, in front of USC, Drake London (8th overall pick by the Falcons)! OSU returns one of the most talented O-line in the country. The Bucks brought in Oklahoma State’s DC, Jim Knowles, the Cowboys gave up a poultry 18.1 PPG, while Ohio State gave more than 30 points in five games in 2021. Knowles and his defense will determine OSU altitude in 2022!