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Webko of Wausau & SCFP Predict B-10 East in 2023

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I like to think that the B-10 East is the 2nd best division in all of college football, behind only the SEC West! I know folks ‘down South’ will be sharping their swords about the SEC’s East being better then the B-10 East! Alright, let’s take a peek!

In the last five years the three best programs, by record, in the Big Ten’s East Division are, OSU (55-7), Michigan (46-14), & PSU (42-19), while in the SEC’s East, it’s UGA (60-8), Florida (41-23), Kentucky (40-23)! While their are/were no surprises with the B-10 East line-up, I initially thought Tennessee would be in the SEC East top three, so Kentucky was unexpected.

Finally, in head to head encounters the past 5 years, UGA has beaten OSU, 42-41, in the CFP & Michigan, 34-11, in the Orange Bowl. While Florida beat Michigan, in the Peach Bowl, 41-15 and Kentucky beat PSU, 27-24, in the Citrus Bowl! Shockingly, the B-10 East has zero wins vs the SEC East, in this five (5) year time-frame!

So what about the remaining teams in both of the divisions? Here is a look @ the B-10 East, ranked, by record over the past 5 years; Michigan State (32-26), Maryland (25-30), IU (25-32), & Rutgers (14-43); while the SEC East has Tennessee (34-27), Missouri (31-30), South Carolina (28-33) Vanderbilt (16-42)!

The composite win/loss result favors the SEC East’s bottom four programs, with a record 109-132 and 45% winning percentage to the Big Ten’s 96-131 (42%).

In the head to head scenario here is what has happened in the last 5 years, with these bottom four teams: Tennessee beat IU, 23-22, in the Gator Bowl, South Carolina beat Michigan, in the Outback Bowl, 26-19, Florida blasted Michigan, 41-15, Peach Bowl, Missouri won @ Purdue (regular season), 40-37, in 2018, Vanderbilt lost @ Purdue, 42-24, in 2019. The SEC East bottom four programs, in the past 5 years are 4-1 vs their counterparts in the Big Ten East Division!

In fact, the SEC’s East weakest programs are 2-0 when playing a top 3 B-10 program, Michigan, during the period!

So in-spite of what things may look like on paper or what SCFP thinks! On the field, the SEC East is better then the B-10 East! While one could argue that B-10 East is the superior division in 2023, they certainly have not been over the last five years!

That resolved, let’s take a crystal ball to the B-10 East for the 2023 season!

7. Indiana: in 2022, IU has become the 1st team, in Division I history, to lose 700 games (504-704), they currently have a whopping 200 more losses then wins! HC Tom Allen is entering his 7th year @ IU and has an overall record of 30-40, a B-10 slate of 17-35, a 13-5 Non-conference tab, and an 0-3 bowl experience. Coach Allen win/loss journey the past 2 seasons has been a struggle, 2-16 and is returning only 8 starters, 3 on defense and 5 on offense. A good season for the Hoosiers in 2023 would be to make a bowl, yet a NC date with Louisville, divisional crossover games with Wisconsin, Illinois, & in-state rival Purdue, and the B-10 East version of ‘murders row’ (Michigan, OSU & PSU), 6 wins may beyond their grasp! We’ll keep an eye on their weekly progress!

6. Rutgers: Coach Greg Schiano has won more football games (80), @ Rutgers, then any other coach in the Scarlet knight history! That said, his Rutgers’ experience in the B-10 has been a challenge, 3-6 in 2020, 2-7 in 2021, and 1-8 in 2022, a 6-20 conference record in his 1st three years in the league! This year, they return 14 starters, 6 on offense, including QB, Gavin Wimsatt and 8 on D, led by CB, Max Melton. Rutgers will have to play the toughest schedule in the B-10, the East Division and crossover tilts @ Iowa & @ Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes & the Badgers are the two best teams in the West! To earn a bowl bid, the Knights will have to win all three NC games, which includes beating Virginia Tech, win a crossover game vs Northwestern & beat East Division foe, IU, and then, find a way vs to beat MSU or Maryland. Both the Spartan & Terrapin games are in New Brunswick.

5. Michigan State: HC Mel Tucker is beginning his 4th year @ MSU and has been on a rollercoaster ride in his 1st three seasons. In 2020, Tucker went 2-5, he then hit the Transfer Portal hard in 2021 and won 11 games, and last year, he missed a bowl game going 5-7! This year the Spartans return 13 starters (6 on O & 7 on D). For reasons known only to God (& NBC/Peacock $$$) the Spartans have given up one of their home games to play PSU @ Ford Field in Detroit. This means they play Michigan on the home, OSU in the Shoe, and what should have been a 2nd home game vs ‘Murders Row’, is now being played @ a neutral site! If the Spartans are to return to the ‘Bowl Season’ in 2023, they must win 2 of their 3 NC Games (Washington & QB Michael Penix come to Spartan Stadium on September 16, a win here would be a bonus). This season, 2023, is an odd year, which means two (2) of the three (3) divisional crossover are played in West Division Stadiums. MSU has to travel to Iowa & Minnesota, tuff places to win. The Spartans best shot @ 6 wins is to win 2 of 3 NC games, take down Rutgers & IU, both road games, & get after Maryland & Nebraska in East Lancing. A bowl game, while reachable, is by no means, a given!

4. Maryland: HC Mike Locksley begins his 5th year @ Maryland with a record of 21-28, yet, Locksley has put together back to back winning seasons, 7-6 in 2021 & 8-5 in 2022! This year the Terps return 11 starters, 5 on offense & 6 on defense. QB, Taulia Tagovailoa, is ranked as the 2nd best signal caller in the B-10 behind only Michigan’s, JJ McCarthy. RB, Roman Hemby has been identified as the B-10’s 5th best, given the League’s talent at this position, this a fact that Maryland’s opponents will need serious prep to slow down Hemby! Their receiving corps which is often rated as the B-10 2nd best, is led by Jeshawn Jones. That said, both their O & D lines are inexperienced, however, their LB unit and secondary are both experiences & talented! The Terps Divisional Crossover games are favorable, as they play @ Northwestern & Nebraska, while they get an improving Illini in College Park. Two of the three games vs ‘Murders Row’ are @ home (Michigan & PSU), OSU is at the Shoe on Oct. 7th! Two games they must find a way in are @ MSU, (Sept 23) & @ Rutgers, (Nov 25). Maryland should equal or surpass last year’s record of 8-5 and qualify for their 3rd straight bowl game.

3. Ohio State: This is where the fun begins! OSU has the best talent in the B-10 and the third best roster in the country, behind only Alabama & Georgia! Ryan Day’s, 45-6 record makes him the winningest HC, percentage-wise, in all of the FBS @ 88.2%, while Bama’s Nick Saban has a win/loss record of 194-27 and the second best winning percentage at 87.5%. So why are we picking the Bucks third in their own division? In the past two seasons the Buckeyes are looking more and more like Oklahoma (lets play in space not in a phone booth) then the defensive-minded, physically tough, three yards and a cloud of dust OSU teams of the past … those teams wanted to play in the meat-house! In the past two Michigan games, the Wolves outrushed the Bucks, 291 to 64 yards in 2021 and in 2022 ran over them again, 252 to 143! The Wolverines dominated the line of scrimmage in the 2nd half, in both of these games! This year OSU, PSU & Michigan are all ranked in the Top10 in preseason publications (Phil Steele has Michigan 3, OSU 5, & PSU 6; Athlon Sports: Michigan 2, Ohio State 5, & Penn State 8, and finally, Lindy Sports; Wolverines 2, Buckeyes 3 & Nittany Lions 8). SCFP has OSU beating Penn State, @ home, on Oct 21, losing to Wisconsin, in Mad-town, on Oct 28, and losing to Michigan, again, on Nov. 25, in the ‘Big House’! Bucks will finish 7-2 in Conference play! Their game in South Bend, vs Notre Dame, will have B-10 CFP implications!

2. Michigan: The two time defending B-10 champion opens their 2023 season vs East Carolina (8-5), UNLV (5-7), & Bowling Green (6-7), This marks the 2nd year in a row, the Wolverines do not play a power 5 opponent in their non-conference schedule! While it was not a factor in their making the CFP in 2022, the weakness of their NC schedule will come into play for the 2023 college playoffs. SCFP has the wolves lone loss, coming on Nov.11, in Happy Valley, during one of the best white out experiences in PSU history! Michigan’s weak NC schedule and a CFP berth may come down to the Buckeyes beating the Notre Dame on Sept 23 and then ND beating USC @ home & Clemson on the road. As Michigan will have no significant wins outside the B-10 and if OSU beats ND coupled with the Irish beating a potential ACC champ (Clemson, in the other, Death Valley) & P-12 champ (USC & defending Heisman winner, Caleb Williams, in ND Stadium), could be the road map that gets UM into the CFP with one loss!

1 Penn State: I know we are the minority with this pick, the Lions, in the last five (5) years are 0-5 vs OSU and 2-3 when taking on UM! So why the pick? Penn State is breaking in a new QB, Drew Allar (a former 5 star recruit), who has the talent to improve on departed QB, (an up & down performer) Sean Clifford’s 2022 numbers ( 2822 passing yards, 64% completion rate, and a ratio of 24 TDs to 7 INT) & consistency. One of the glaring similarities of the 3 teams, is their star power at RB! Michigan’s, Blake Corum & Donovan Edwards, Ohio States’, TreVeyon Henderson & Miyan Williams, & Penn State’s, Nate Singleton & Kaytron Allen, these teams may have the best, one & one A depth, @ RB, in the nation! While the Nittany Lions lose 3 of their top 4 receivers, they brought in (via the transfer portal) All MAC receiver, Dante Cephus (48 receptions, 744 yards,15.5 YPC, & 3 TDs) from Kent State & Malik McClain, a Florida State transfer (17 receptions for 244 yards & 3 TDs) and return, WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith (24 receptions for 389 yards, 16.2 YPR & 4 TDs). Given more consistancy @ QB and the untapped talent, this group should produce at a higher level then the 2022 addition! As far as the O-Line is concerned, start with the fact that PSU has the best left tackle, Olu Fashanu, in the country! While their center, Hunter Nourzad, is getting all B-10 pre-season recognition. PSU defense, as ranked by Phil Steele, has the #1 D-Line (tied with UM & OSU), the #1 LB unit (tied with OSU, UM & UW) & the best secondary in the B-10 (all by their lonesome)! On the national stage, Steele has PSU with the 3rd best D-Line (followed by OSU, Iowa, & Michigan 4 thru 6), The 4th best LB crew in the country (followed by Michigan {5} & {6} Wisconsin), & the #1 secondary in all of America (followed by Iowa @ 6 & Michigan @ 7)!

This is the last year for divisional play in the B-10 and, in my opinion, these two (East & West Divisions) could be the best Divisions in the history of B-10, dating back to the Leaders & Legends Divisions!

In the West, the Iowa vs Wisconsin show down in Mad-Town on Oct. 14 should set the table for the division winner to close out the B-10 West championship! For Badgers fans, what an experience awaits them! Beginning with the Iowa game on the 14th, followed by an away game in the ‘Land of Lincoln’, to take on Bielema & Leonhard (who is somewhere out there, if not on the field) and then Fickell, Tressel, and Bucky, take on Brutus, Ryan Day, and the Buckeyes on Oct. 28 @ Camp Randall. Man. how cool is that!

Then, of course, the B-10 East, where three teams have an excellent shot at the CFP in 2023. The head to head match-ups begin with PSU @ OSU, on Oct. 21st, @ the Horse Shoe! SCFP has Ohio State winning @ home & forcing the Lions into can’t lose again play-off mode! Then the next week, Brutus travels to Madison, as does the Game Day Crew, and shockingly, falls to Bucky and a ‘bombed’ Wisconsin crowd, that thinks its December 5, 1933 and that the 21st Amendment has just been enacted (an ‘I’ll have one’ mentality permeates the stadium)! The Bucks’ loss leaves Michigan alone a atop the Big Ten East! That is until Nov. 11th, when the Wolverines travel to Happy Valley to do battle with the Nittany Lions. SCFP says it’s UM, not ‘Daniel, in the Lion’s Den’, the Lions have dinner as PSU knocks Michigan from the unbeaten ranks and creates a 3-team gridlock, atop the B-10 East! Then comes ‘The Game’ Nov. 25th, OSU heads north to the “Big House”, and loses to UM, for the third year in as many and suffers its 2nd lost in the B-10. This leaves PSU & Michigan tied for 1st with one loss apiece. This tie favors Penn State as they won the head-to-head and removes the Bucks from CFP consideration.

This translates to, (if the Lions beat the Badgers in the B-10 Championship Game) PSU is in the CFP! But what about the Wolves? Where does it leave a one loss Michigan? To answer that, we need to travel back in time to Sept. 23rd, review the OSU/ND result, and then consider what the Irish did coming forward in time. Michigan fans should cheer, as painful as it may be, for the Bucks in that South Bend encounter and then for the Irish vs USC & Clemson. As those teams are favored to win and likely will win their respective conferences. This would leave UM & ND (assuming the Irish win out) with an identical record of 11-1. That said, Michigan would have beaten OSU, who in this scenario, would have given the Irish their only loss. If SC wins the PAC 12 & Clemson the ACC, again all good for the Wolves, via ND beating those conference champs & the OSU/ND & OSU/UM outcomes! While Michigan is still dependent to what happens in the Mighty SEC and to a lesser extent, on B-12 results (Texas @ Alabama game for one). These results give the B-10, a 2nd opportunity to have 2 teams in the CFP, in as many years!

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