BIG TEN EAST DIVISION
Last year: 6-7, 2-6 Big Ten, fifth in East
Returning starters: 14 (6 offense, 7 defense, kicker)
Players to watch: RB Devine Redding, WR Simmie Cobbs, WR Ricky Jones, OL Dan Feeney, LB Marcus Oliver
The big questions: Who will replace quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who threw for 3,573 yards and 27 touchdowns last season? Will running back Devine Redding emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top rushers after gaining 1,012 yards a year ago as the Hoosier’s No. 2 tailback? Will IU finally figure out how to fix its defense?
Coach’s quote: “We’ve got a good core of guys back. We have four fifth-year seniors in our offensive line. That’s a very, very good group led by one of the best players in the conference, Dan Feeney.” – Kevin Wilson
Last year: 3-9, 1-7 Big Ten, tie for sixth in East
Returning starters: 11 (six offense, five defense)
Players to watch: QB Perry Hills, QB Caleb Rowe, WR Levern Jacobs, CB Will Likely
The big questions: Can new coach D.J. Durkin translate working for Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh as an assistant coach into success with a Maryland program that has looked overmatched in its first two seasons in the Big Ten? Can Durkin win more of the recruiting battles close to home in an area where other recruiters, including Meyer, have had great success in lately? Who plays quarterback?
Coach’s quote: “Recruiting has obviously been our priority. We’re putting a lot of time and effort into that.” – D.J. Durkin
Last year: 10-3, 6-2 Big Ten, third in East
Returning starters: 15 (Eight offense, six defense, kicker)
Players to watch: WR Jehu Chesson, TE Jake Butt, WR Amara Darboh, RB De’Veon Smith, DE Chris Wormley, LB Jabrill Peppers, CB Jourdan Lewis
The big questions: Who will replace Jake Ruddock (3,017 yards, 20 TDs) at quarterback – Houston transfer John O’Korn or Wilton Speight? Will the offensive line, with four returning starters, improve enough for Michigan to challenge Ohio State and Michigan State, who have won a combined 19 of their last 22 games against the Wolverines? Will road games at MSU, Iowa and OSU tell the story of the season?
Coach’s quote: We have big hopes. We’ve got big dreams. We’ve got lofty goals. And all those are achievable.” — Jim Harbaugh
Last year: 12-2, 7-1 Big Ten, Conference champion
Returning starters: 12 (four offense, six defense, kicker, punter)
Players to watch: QB Tyler O’Connor, RB L.J. Scott, TE Josiah Price, WR Donnie Corley, DT Malik McDowell, LB Riley Bullough
The big questions: Who will play quarterback, a position that belonged to Connor Cook the last three seasons? Who will be the go-to receiver with Aaron Burbridge gone? Is having only one starter returning on the offensive line a concern? Is linebacker Ed Davis healthy again?
Coach’s quote: “We lose good players every year, just like every other program. But it seems that when the time comes, as a senior, you have to play your best football and our seniors have their best years. Our guys expect to win.” – Mark Dantonio
Last year: 12-1, 7-1 Big Ten, second in East
Returning starters: 8 (three offense, three defense, kicker, punter)
Players to watch: QB J.T. Barrett, RB Mike Weber, RB Curtis Samuel, WR Noah Brown, DE Tyquan Lewis, LB Raekwon McMillan, CB Gareon Conley
The big questions: Can Ohio State compete for the East Division championship and get to the Big Ten championship game with 16 first-year starters? Will all those lofty recruiting rankings translate into production on the field? Is Mike Weber the next Ezekiel Elliott? Will Noah Brown emerge as the No. 1 receiver? Will J.T. Barrett stay healthy?
Coach’s quote: “It’s a very young team, but talented. This (August) is probably the most critical coaching month that I’ve ever been through.” – Urban Meyer.
Last year: 7-6, 4-4 Big Ten, fourth in East
Returning starters: 14 (seven offense, five defense, kicker, punter)
Players to watch: QB Trace McSorley, RB Saquon Barkley, WR Chris Godwin, WR DaeSean Hamilton, DE Garrett Sickels, LB Brandon Bell
The big questions: Can Penn State improve on the seven wins it has had in coach James Franklin’s first two seasons now that it is back to 85 scholarships? Can Trace McSorley fill the hole left by Christian Hackenberg at quarterback? Will Saquon Barkley have a breakout season after rushing for 1,076 yards as a freshman last fall? Will Penn State’s offensive line improve?
Coach’s quote: “I think there are very high expectations at Penn State, and there should be.” – James Franklin
Last year: 4-8, 1-7 Big Ten, tie for sixth in East
Returning starters: 14 (eight offense, six defense)
Players to watch: QB Chris Laviano, RB Josh Hicks, RB Rob Martin, WR Andre Patton, DT Darius Hamilton,
The big questions: Can Rutgers improve offensively after being held to fewer than 20 points in five games last season? Who is the quarterback, last year’s starter Chris Laviano (16 TDs, 12 INTs), LSU transfer Hayden Rettig or TCU graduate transfer Zach Allen? Can former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash get New Jersey recruits to stay home?
Coach’s quote: “We have some areas that are very strong, both personnel-wise and facilities-wise and support-wise. And we have areas that we need to improve upon.” — Chris Ash