1. Michigan State Spartans– They are a top five team in the country. Since the Kirk Cousins days, Michigan State will enter the 2014 season with the same quarterback in Connor Cook. This kid is good. He hasn’t lost a game big ten play since becoming a starter as he has a record of 9-0. The biggest piece coming back for this Spartans team is Jeremy Langford who can establish himself as one of the premiere back in the nation today. Jeremy will give this team the balance on offense that it needs. There will be some questions on the defensive side of the football. They will be without two defensive linemen from last season and they lost their star in the secondary in Darqueze Dennard.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes– It was a sigh of relief when Braxton Miller announced he’d be back for his senior season. That’s a great thing but the pieces around him will be different from what we saw last year. Four starters from the offensive line are gone as is Carlos Hyde as well. This offensive front could be what makes or breaks this team. You play as well as those five guys up front and Braxton does take some unnecessary hits but knowing how Urban operates as a coach, he will get the right pieces in for his football team. They have a tough schedule. They’ll square off with the four best teams in the West this year in Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa and Wisconsin.
3. Michigan Wolverines– The pressure to win is building up in Ann Arbor under Brady Hoke. For these Wolverines to be where they know and feel they should be, it starts at the quarterback position. They need better consistency from Devin Gardner this year. Devin has shown some signs of being a potential Heisman candidate. With some offensive pieces gone from last season, others will have to step it up. Whether it be tight end Devin Funchess or another guy. The defense shouldn’t be an issue as they return seven starters from a year ago. To some people, Brady is on the hotseat in Ann Arbor. It’s a put up or shut up year for him and the Wolverines.
4. Penn State Nittany Lions– Penn State has their third head coach in as many seasons. After the incidents surrounding this team in 2012, all these guys want to do is move forward and play football. Bill O’Brien is gone now and vibrant James Franklin is in. Christian Hackenberg will be under center and Penn State returns nine of the eleven starters back on defense which will be huge for these guys. The two toughest games on their schedule are a trip to Ann Arbor and Ohio State coming to town on October 25th. If Coach Franklin can fix some of the holes with this team, don’t be surprised if they have a winning record.
5. Indiana Hoosiers– Under Kevin Wilson, they’ve improved some. From one win to four wins to five wins. They have no questions on offense. Since Wilson became their head coach, the offense has taken major strides and they have been potent. The defense is what needs some tuning up. They ranked last in the big ten last season giving up 527 a game and that won’t win football games. In a seven week span, Indiana plays Ohio State, Michigan, Rugters, Michigan State and Penn State. Those math-ups will say a lot about this team and what direction they will be headed in.
6. Rutgers Scarlet Knights– It’s the beginning of a new era for Rugters football. Kyle Flood definitely has his work cut out for him in 2014. They will definitely have a more challenging schedule as they enter the Big Ten. Some good news is that they have eight starters returning on offense and the defense lost four starters but they still have some key pieces in tact.
7. Maryland Terripans– Just like Rugters, this will be the start of a new beginning for Maryland Terripans football. They’ve improved under Randy Edsall year by year. Their schedule looks extremely challenging. They have a few non-conference games against West Virginia and Syracuse before they kick off conference play and they have a tough schedule within the conference. They have to play Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin. They have ten of eleven starters returning on defense.
Prediction: I like Ohio State to win the Big Ten East. Replacing Hyde won’t be easy but in football the next man must step up and I feel these Buckeyes will play with a huge chip on their shoulders after losing the Big Ten title game last year then losing in the Orange Bowl to Clemson will motivate them coming into the 2014 season. Braxton deciding to come back was huge and if he can stay healthy, he will be productive. Ohio State goes as far as Braxton Miller takes them.