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-by Evan McShane, Contributing Writer; Image: Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson runs the football. (Image Source: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Bloomington, IN—Here’s a look at the Big Ten East power rankings heading into the summer:
Head coach Jim Harbaugh enters his fifth season as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines with some less than impressive results thus far. During Harbaugh’s tenure, Michigan has an impressive 38-14 record, to go along with a 26-9 conference record. However, the Wolverines have failed against their rivals and have lost three consecutive bowl games. Although Michigan lost several players to the NFL Draft, quarterback Shea Patterson will look to improve as he returns for his second season in the Big Ten. Despite a handful of missed opportunities on the football field, Harbaugh has put on a clinic in terms of recruiting since he arrived at Michigan. The Wolverines have consistently had one of the top-rated recruiting classes in the conference and in the country. This year is no exception. The talent has been in place, will this finally be the year Michigan lives up to their expectations under Jim Harbaugh?
Ohio State will begin a new era under head coach Ryan Day this season. The Buckeyes lost quarterback Dwayne Haskins to the NFL, but as always, they have plenty of capable reinforcements. While the Ohio State defense struggled at times last season, this year they will return 18 or their top 20 leading tacklers. The biggest addition to the 2019-20 Buckeyes is quarterback Justin Fields. Fields is one of the highest rated football recruits out of high school ever recorded. The former Georgia Bulldog transferred to Ohio State this offseason and was granted a waiver for immediate eligibility. Running back JK Dobbins should be poised for a huge season as the Buckeyes will likely run the ball more with a dual-threat quarterback. While there are several questions about this Ohio State team as they begin life without Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes have the talent to win the conference yet again.
Relative to the hype, last season was hit or miss for the Spartans. Many analysts pegged Michigan State as a potential playoff team until an early loss at Arizona State quashed their hopes. Quarterback Brian Lewerke dealt with a bothersome shoulder injury for much of the season. If he is healthy, Michigan State could experience much more success next season. Last year, the Spartans touted one of the very best defenses in the entire country. Much of their talent is returning and Michigan State will again be tough to beat in 2020. Can the Spartans stay healthy? If so, their ceiling might be as high as any Big Ten team.
Trace McSorley couldn’t do it by himself last year, although he came close. The Nittany Lions season was upended with back-to-back home losses against Ohio State and Michigan State early in the year. Penn State hung on and won the games in which they were favored, only to lose to underdog Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl. Tommy Stevens, a 6-foot-5 blue chip recruit, was expected to step in and start at the quarterback position, but he has entered the transfer portal. Penn State still has loads of talent on its roster, but there are many questions about where the production will come from. Will the Nittany Lions’ talent outweigh their inexperience, or is head coach James Franklin and Penn State due for a regression?
As is too often the story in Bloomington, the Hoosiers failed to make a bowl game. After racing out to a 3-0 non-conference start, Indiana posted a lackluster 2-7 record in conference play. The Hoosiers were constantly hampered by a limited offensive attack. Consistent and stout defensive play wasn’t enough to put IU over the top against the most formidable conference foes. Hoosier fans can only hope next year will be different with an intriguing three-way quarterback battle brewing. Freshman Jack Tuttle, who transferred to IU from Utah, will get a chance to start, as will fellow RS freshman Mike Penix and junior Peyton Ramsey. With a new offensive coordinator and several returning starters, Indiana hopes to exceed expectations in 2019.
Maryland hired Mike Locksley from Alabama to be their new head coach in a decision met with varying opinion. The Terrapins lost a lot of talent on defense and quarterback Kasim Hill is recovering from a knee injury. The quarterback position is up in the air for Maryland, but regardless of who wins the job, the Terrapins will likely take a dual-threat approach featuring a steady dose of read options and quarterback runs. Maryland’s defense surrendered 30+ points on seven occasions last year. No matter how explosive their offense can be, Maryland will have to drastically improve their defense if they want to become bowl eligible next season.
Rutgers has been utterly abysmal since joining the Big Ten in 2014. Chris Ash will have another year to redeem himself and the program. One thing the Scarlet Knights showed flashes of last season is the ability to generate some big plays. Freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski struggled taking care of the football, but he did demonstrate the ability to stretch the field. Sitkowski will need to limit his mistakes if he’s going to make the most of his strong arm. Explosive running back Raheem Blackshear will also return for the Scarlet Knights. If Rutgers is going to have any success in 2020 it will be because their offense is hitting another gear. If the offense stutters, it could be another dreadful season in New Jersey.
To read more from Sammy Jacobs and his staff at HoosierHuddle.com, click here.
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