Big Ten East Division preview


Maryland running back Anthony McFarland (5) runs the ball against Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett (92) during the Buckeyes’ 52-51 win over the Terrapins last season.

Maryland running back Anthony McFarland (5) runs the ball against Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett (92) during the Buckeyes’ 52-51 win over the Terrapins last season.


AP Photo

Michigan State linebacker Joe Bachie (35) tackles Michigan running back Karan Higdon (22) during a game at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., last season.

Michigan State linebacker Joe Bachie (35) tackles Michigan running back Karan Higdon (22) during a game at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., last season.


AP Photo

Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey (12) tries to escape from the grasp of Michigan defensive lineman Kwity Paye, bottom, in a game last season.


AP Photo

Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson (2) throws a pass against Indiana during a game last season in Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.


AP Photo

BIG TEN EAST DIVISION

Indiana

Last year: 5-7, 2-7 Big Ten, sixth in the East

Returning starters: 17 (7 offense, 8 defense, punter, kicker)

Players to watch: QB Peyton Ramsey, RB Stevie Scott, WR Nick Westbrook, WR Donavan Hale, OT Coy Cronk, LB Reakwon Jones

The big questions: Can Indiana make its first bowl trip since 2016? If it does, can it win a bowl game for the first time since 1991? Will quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who threw 19 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions last season, keep the starting job? How much of an effect will new offensive and defensive coordinators have on the Hoosiers, who ranked 10th in the Big Ten in points scored and points allowed in 2018?

Coach’s quote: “We don’t plan to run a two-quarterback system. Obviously it’s happened in the past and it’s been successful other places, but the plan is to pick one and let him be the man.” — Tom Allen

Maryland

Last year: 5-7, 3-6 Big Ten, fifth in the East

Returning starters: 8 (3 offense, 4 defense, kicker)

Players to watch: QB Josh Jackson, RB Anthony McFarland, DB Antoine Brooks Jr., LB Keandre Jones

The big questions: Will Josh Jackson, a Virginia Tech transfer who threw for 2,991 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2017, bring some balance to Maryland’s offense, which ranked No. 20 nationally in rushing and No. 121 in passing last season? Can the Terrapins’ defense, which gave up 33 or more points in six games last season, get better? Will linebacker Keandre Jones, who transferred from Ohio State, become an impact player?

Coach’s quote: “As they like to say, the third time’s a charm. I’m hoping that’s the case here for me at Maryland.” — Mike Locksley, who was a Maryland assistant twice earlier in his career

Michigan

Last year: 10-3, 8-1 Big Ten, tie for first in the East

Returning starters: 15 (8 offense, 5 defense, kicker, punter)

Players to watch: QB Shea Patterson, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones; WR Nico Collins, OL Jon Runyan Jr., CB Lavert Hill

The big questions: Jim Harbaugh was hired amid much fanfare in 2015 to make Michigan football elite again, so is this the year it wins a championship and beats Ohio State for the first time in the Harbaugh era? Will the hiring of former Alabama co-offensive coordinator Josh Gattis unleash quarterback Shea Patterson and a good group of receivers in a no-huddle spread offense? Can someone emerge as a No. 1 running back?

Coach’s quote: “I think that is where I would pick us.” — Jim Harbaugh about predictions Michigan will win the Big Ten championship.

Michigan State

Last year: 7-6, 5-4 Big Ten, fourth in the East

Returning starters: 20 (10 offense, 8 defense, kicker, punter)

Players to watch: QB Brian Lewerke, WR Darrell Stewart, WR Cody White, RB Connor Heyward, DL Raequan Williams, DL Kenny Willekes, LB Joe Bachie, CB Josiah Scott

The big questions: Can Michigan State’s defense get enough help from the offense to be a Big Ten contender? The 2018 Spartans ranked tenth nationally in total defense but their 18.7 points a game on offense was No. 125. Can quarterback Brian Lewerke bounce back from a shoulder injury that made him ineffective last season? Do the Spartans have the toughest road schedule in the Big Ten with games at Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern?

Coach’s quote: “I expect great things from him and I expect him to return to his sophomore status and am very excited to watch him play.” – Mark Dantonio on quarterback Brian Lewerke

Ohio State

Last year: 13-1, 8-1 Big Ten champion

Returning starters: 14 (4 offense, 9 defense, kicker, punter)

Players to watch: QB Justin Fields, RB J.K. Dobbins, WR K.J. Hill, WR Chris Olave, DE Chase Young, DE Jonathan Cooper, DB Jordan Fuller

The big questions: Will first-year coach Ryan Day continue the incredible success Urban Meyer had in seven seasons at Ohio State? Will Georgia transfer Justin Fields fill the hole left when Dwayne Haskins (4,831 yards passing and 50 touchdowns) went to the NFL? Will the much-criticized linebackers and defensive backs improve?

Coach’s quote: “The thing up front is going to be interesting.”— Ryan Day on the competition for playing time on the offensive line where there will be four new starters.

Penn State

Last year: 9-4, 6-3 Big Ten, third in the East

Returning starters: 13 (5 offense, 6 defense, kicker, punter)

Players to watch: QB Sean Clifford, RB Ricky Slade, WR K.J. Hamler, TE Pat Freiermuth, DE Yetur Gross-Matos, DB Garrett Taylor

The big questions: Is Cincinnati St. Xavier graduate Sean Clifford, known more for his big arm than for his mobility, a good fit in James Franklin’s offense in which all but one of his starting QBs has run at least 75 times in a season? Can Penn State compete for a Big Ten championship with as many as eight first-year starters on offense?

Coach’s quote: “We probably have more question marks this year than we’ve had over the last couple years. We are young, we are talented.” — James Franklin

Rutgers

Last year: 1-11, 1-9 Big Ten, seventh in the East

Returning starters: 13 (6 offense, 5 defense, kicker, punter)

Players to watch: QB Artur Sitkowski, RB Raheem Blackshear, RB Isaiah Pacheco, WR Bo Melton, CB Damon Hayes

The big questions: How many wins does coach Chris Ash need to keep his job after going 7-29 in his first three seasons? Can quarterback Artur Sitkowski, who was rushed into action as a true freshman last season, regain some confidence after throwing four touchdown passes and 18 interceptions in 2018? Where will the Scarlet Knights find playmakers in an offense that scored only 19 touchdowns all season last year?

Coach’s quote: “It all starts with the offensive line and the quarterback. Everything that we are going to do is driven by those two positions.” – Chris Ash

Maryland running back Anthony McFarland (5) runs the ball against Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett (92) during the Buckeyes’ 52-51 win over the Terrapins last season.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2019/08/web1_Anthony-McFarland.jpgMaryland running back Anthony McFarland (5) runs the ball against Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett (92) during the Buckeyes’ 52-51 win over the Terrapins last season. AP Photo
Michigan State linebacker Joe Bachie (35) tackles Michigan running back Karan Higdon (22) during a game at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., last season.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2019/08/web1_Joe-Bachie.jpgMichigan State linebacker Joe Bachie (35) tackles Michigan running back Karan Higdon (22) during a game at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., last season. AP Photo
Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey (12) tries to escape from the grasp of Michigan defensive lineman Kwity Paye, bottom, in a game last season.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2019/08/web1_Peyton-Ramsey.jpgIndiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey (12) tries to escape from the grasp of Michigan defensive lineman Kwity Paye, bottom, in a game last season. AP Photo
Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson (2) throws a pass against Indiana during a game last season in Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2019/08/web1_Shea-Patterson.jpgMichigan quarterback Shea Patterson (2) throws a pass against Indiana during a game last season in Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. AP Photo

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