Can Anyone Slow Down Ohio State In Big Ten East?
The Ohio State Buckeyes appear to be the cream of the crop in the Big Ten East. Is anyone else – maybe Penn State or Michigan – going to challenge them or will the Buckeyes face little resistance?
The Buckeyes are the clear choice as division champion. The main reason is not complicated: Justin Fields returns at quarterback for the Buckeyes. He led them within an eyelash of a victory over Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals last season. Fields threw only one interception in the first 12 games of the 2019 regular season and scored over 50 touchdowns for the whole year. He was hurt late in the season but still guided Ohio State to a Big Ten championship. He is fully healthy now, which means he can use all of his speed. He is a dazzling dual-threat quarterback and a very good bet to be taken in the first four picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. Just having that – the full package – at quarterback should make Ohio State’s offense elite this season. That should go a long way toward ensuring the Buckeyes will repeat as division champions. Without Fields, they would have been in trouble.
The Nittany Lions host Ohio State this season. Getting the Buckeyes at home is crucial in PSU’s bid to win the division title for the first time since 2016. The Nittany Lions contained Ohio State and Fields better than most last year, limiting the Buckeyes to only 28 points. The Penn State pass rush and secondary were both excellent last year. If they can remain locked in this season, they have a chance to pull off an upset at home and win the Big Ten title. Playing at Michigan will be a test, but the Nittany Lions might be favored in that game.
The Wolverines have struggled so much under coach Jim Harbaugh because they have not found an answer at quarterback. Michigan used to be a quarterback factory, cranking out pros left and right, Tom Brady being the most famous of them all. Michigan generated a lot of NFL quarterbacks – Jim Harbaugh being one of them – even though the Wolverines did not have a sophisticated, advanced offense. The current Michigan problem is less about the system and more about having elite players to run it. As long as the quarterback spot remains a mystery, it is hard to take Michigan very seriously in this division title race.
The Hoosiers’ offense improved a lot in 2019 under offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, but DeBoer left after only one year on the job to take the open head coaching position at Fresno State. This leaves a decent but not elite Indiana team in a bind. The Hoosiers needed DeBoer to get more out of their offense. Their ceiling won’t be that high in 2020.
The Spartans have a subpar passing attack and just watched longtime coach Mark Dantonio retire from coaching. Mel Tucker will step in as the new head coach. This is a transition year for the program. The whole goal is to be ready to compete for the division title next season, in 2021.
The Terrapins haven’t won more than seven games since 2010, and they haven’t won more than six games since 2016. Coach Mike Locksley enters his second season on the job facing all sorts of uncertainties up and down his roster. Maryland will require a lot of time to improve.
The Scarlet Knights get back Greg Schiano, the former coach at RU in the first decade of this century. Schiano went to the pros with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then to Ohio State, before he returned to Rutgers. He inherits a team which finished at the bottom of the Big Ten. He might make Rutgers good, but this is a big structural overhaul, not a quick-fix.