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Bigly Ten Preview

The offseason has been full of ad-nauseum NFL talk. Let’s change it up and preview the Big Ten for the upcoming football season.

Top TIER

Penn State: AP Rank 6th  DEFENDING BIG TEN CHAMPIONS

Penn State is the defending Big Ten champion after clown stomping Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game last year. The Nittany Lions also beat Ohio State in one of the greatest games I have seen live at Beaver Stadium; but Penn State was screwed over and not given a playoff game due to losses to Michigan and Pittsburgh while injured.

Penn State returns loaded for 2017 with almost their entire offense (sans WR Chris Godwin and center Brian Gaia) in-tact. Running back Saquan Barkley is a legit Heisman candidate after a 1,496 yard 18 TD season in 2016. QB Trace McSorley (29 TDs and 8 ints but only 57.9%) had a great first year starting in 2016.

McSorley has a ton of weapons (Saeed Blacknall, Desean Hamilton, Deandre Thompkins, Irvin Charles and Mike Gesicki) and an ingenious OC in Joe Moorehead. Godwin was the leader with 982 yards and 11 TDs though so another will have to step up. Gesicki had 679 yards and 5 TDs at tight end. Hamilton was better in previous seasons but nabbed 506 yards with 1 TD in 2016. Deandre Thompkins is a deep threat (16.3 YPC) with 440 yards and 1 TD. Barkley had 400 yards receiving with 4 TDs. Blacknalll is a big WR with 347 yards and 3 TDs in 2016. Irvin Charles only got two balls but one went for 80 yards and a TD. The Nittany Lions are loaded with experienced weapons.

Penn State’s offensive line is finally an actual strength again with experience. Brandon Mahon and Andrew Nelson are veteran senior tackles.  Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern excelled as young players last year. McGovern moves to center from guard. Steven Gonzalez takes over the right guard spot as the lone new starter with some experience.

Penn State’s defense is still very strong despite losing their senior defensive Ends (Sickels and Schwann), CB John Reid (injury) and LB Brandon Bell.

Shareef Miller and Torrence Brown are talented young defensive ends. Penn State is loaded at DT with Curtis Cothran, Parker Cothren, Kevin Givens and Robert Windsor. Jason Cabina returns at Mike LB and can do it all at LB in coverage and against the run with great leadership. Manny Bowen returns with experience at Will LB with speed. Cameron Brown and Koa Famer will split time at SAM LB and both are good in coverage.

Penn State has experience at CB with senior Christian Campbell and Grant Haley. Marcus Allen is a legit All-American candidate at free safety and Sophmore Ayron Monroe is the new face at strong safety for Brett Price’s defense. Coach James Franklin got a six year contract extension and will see what he can do as the defending champion.

Penn State will travel to Iowa, Ohio State, Northwestern, Maryland and Michigan State. They host Pitt, Michigan and Nebraska in big games. Penn State should win the big ten if they can beat one of Michigan (home) or Ohio State (away).

http://www.espn.com/college-football/team/schedule/_/id/213/penn-state-nittany-lions

Ohio State: AP Rank 2nd

JT Barrett is still the Buckeyes QB. I feel like he’s been starting there forever. Barrett had 24 TDS and 7 interceptions in 2017 with 61.5% and 2,555 yards. Mike Weber is a dangerous redshirt sophomore at running back that earned 1,096 yards at 6 YPC in 2016 with 9 TDs in 2016.

The Buckeyes lost Curtis Samuel (RB/WR) to the draft (771 rushing yards and team lead with 865 receiving yards) and have new starting receivers. Binjamin Victor (64 yards), Parris Campbell (121 yards) and Terry McLaulin (114 yards) are the top wide outs and Marcus Baugh (269 yards and 2 TDs) mans the tight end spot. Ohio State has some question marks here.

The offensive line should be really good with Senior Jamarco Jones at left tackle and Isaiah Prince (Jr) at right tackle. Michael Jordan is the left guard, Billy Price is a redshirt senior replacing Pat Efflien (3rd round pick to Vikings) at center. Matthew Burrell is a young right guard.

Ohio State’s defense is still stacked with Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa at defensive end. Tracy Sprinkle is a senior DT and Dre-Mont Jones is a redshirt sophomore. Chris Worley is the new Mike for Raekwon McMillan (3rd round pick to Dolphins) along with Jerome Baker at Will and Dante Booker at SAM.

Ohio State lost a lot in the secondary with cornerbacks Marcus Lattimore and Gareon Conley both going in the first round. Safety Malik Hooker went in the first round as well. Ohio State will try to reload on the back end this season under Urban Meyer. Ohio State is always a threat to win the Big Ten even with a lot of youth.

The Buckeyes host Penn State and Michigan State but travel to Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa. Ohio State has a big non-conference game in Week 2 hosting Oklahoma.

http://www.espn.com/college-football/team/schedule/_/id/194

Michigan: Rank 11th

The Wolverines are ranked 11th under Jim Harbaugh in his third season with the Wolverins. Wilton Speight returns at QB after an 18 TD 7 interception season for 2,538 yards. Michigan has new freshman WRs with Dylan Crawford and Eddie McDoom (cool name, man).  Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh are both gone and in the NFL. Wolverine fans better hope these young guys can play well early for Harbaugh.

Chris Evans is the top back after 614 yards at 7 YPC on 88 carries in 2016 with top back Deveon Smith gone. Ian Bunting is the new tight end replacing All-American Jake Butt.

The Wolvers have two freshman guards in Ben Bredeson and Michael Onwenu. The center is a senior in Patrick Kugler. Tackle is solid with experience in Mason Cole (Jr) and Jusann Bushell-Beatty (Jr).

The Wolverines play a hybrid 3-4/4-3 on defense and lost talent here. Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley and Ryan Glasgow are all gone on the Defensive line. Linebacker Ben Gedeon plays for the Vikings now. Jabrill Peppers was a first round pick to Cleveland and Jourdan Lewis is on the Cowboys. Michigan has a young defense especially in the secondary with three freshmen and one sophomore.

Michigan hosts Ohio State but travel to Penn State and Wisconsin. The Wolverines play Florida in Week 1 in Arlington, Texas.

http://www.espn.com/college-football/team/schedule/_/id/130

Wisconsin: Rank 9th

The Badgers were a defensive team and won the weak Big Ten West last year. Alex Hornibrook returns as QB but only had 9 TDs and 7 interceptions. Corey Clement was the top back and is now gone from the Badgers. Bradick Shaw is the new lead back after 457 yards on 88 carries with 5 TDS. Jazz Peavey returns at WR after leading the team with 635 yards and 5 TDS. Tony Fumagalli returns at tight end with 580 yards and 2 TDS.

The Badgers line is young with two sophomores, two juniors and one freshman at right tackle. Ryan Ramcyzk is gone after being selected in the first round by the Saints.

Wisconsin had power in the defense but lost TJ Watt and Vince Biegel to the NFL. Chris Orr also has an injury at ILB which is a big blow to their defense. The Badgers hope their experience defensive line of Conor Sheehy, Olive Sagapolu and Chikwe Obasih can lead the way. Garret Dooley and Zack Baun will be the new pass rushers for Watt and Biegel.

The secondary has experience with Derrick Tindal, D’Cota Dixon and Natrell Jamerson. Scott Nelson is a freshman who should start at corner.

Wisconsin benefits from playing the weak West and avoiding most of best East teams (other than Michigan). Their non-conference schedule is weak and the Badgers could win the West again. Nebraska and Iowa will be their top competition in the West.

The Badgers travel to BYU, Nebraska and Minnesota. They host Iowa, Maryland and Michigan in the biggest games.

http://www.espn.com/college-football/team/schedule/_/id/275

Second TIER

No other Big Ten is ranked. Here are the next few teams that could compete.

Nebraska

Nebraska returns a lot of starters but lost QB Tommy Armstrong to graduation. They have experienced players though and coach Mike Riley has them playing better. They could win the West over Wisconsin.

http://www.espn.com/college-football/team/schedule/_/id/158

The Cornhuskers host Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin. They travel to Penn State and Minnesota.

Michigan State

The Spartans had a down year but coach Mark Dantonio has built up this program previously. The Spartans have a lot of youth still at QB, offensive line and WR. LJ Scott returns at running back though and can be a good rusher. Scott had 994 yards and 6 TDS in 2016.

The Spartan defense has a good mix of experience but lost Malik McDowell at DT to the draft. Sparty won’t win the East but they could upset a few teams.

Michigan State hosts Penn State but go to Ohio State, Northwestern and Michigan this year. Sparty also hosts Notre Dame, Iowa, Western Michigan and Maryland.

http://www.espn.com/college-football/team/schedule/_/id/127

Iowa

The Hawkeyes are always decent under Kirk Ferentz. They lost their QB CJ Beathard (3rd round to 49ers) so will have a new signal caller. Iowa upset Michigan last year and always gives Penn State trouble in Iowa. Penn State plays in Iowa early this year.

Akrum Wadley had over 1,000 yards rushing last season and should run well in 2017. Iowa’s defense has a good amount of experience as well with plenty of seniors and juniors. Iowa could has a good shot at the West.

http://www.espn.com/college-football/team/schedule/_/id/2294

Iowa hosts Penn State and Ohio State but visit Wisconsin, Michigan State, Northwester and Nebraska.

Third TIER

Minnesota, Maryland and Northwestern are the best of the rest. Indiana can be competitive but still lose plenty of Big Ten games. They host Ohio State in Week 1 this Thursday. Purdue is bad and not good. Rutgers is just plain garbage. Lovie Smith is still at Illinois. I wonder if they will ever get a good defense in the future. We’ll see if any of these teams can pull off an upset or two.

It should be a fun year of Big Ten action. Let’s see if Penn State can repeat as champions. If they win it again, they better be the playoff representative out of the Big Ten.