1. Ohio State Buckeyes– An embarrassment in riches to say the least—especially at quarterback with Braxton Miller, Big Ten Player of the Year J.T. Barrett and national title hero Cardale Jones, the Buckeyes will enter the fall as arguably the best team in the country. They got off to a rocky start last season, but the old saying is true: It’s not how you start, but how you finish. Urban Meyer has the talent across the board to get back to the College Football Playoff and repeat as National Champions. Leading receiver Devin Smith is now in the NFL with the New York Jets, so I expect Ohio State to come out and run the football to open things up for the passing game. Ezekiel Elliott is a Heisman contender that will be the rock to this high-powered offense. The offensive side of the ball is stacked and their defense, which is one of the best units in the nation, will continue to slow teams down. Many key guys will return including All-American defensive end Joey Bosa. With these factors going for them, look for it to be another successful year in Columbus for the Scarlet and Gray.
2. Michigan State Spartans– Mark Dantonio has raised Michigan State Spartans football from a perennial UM doormat and “little brother” and turned it into a real bully and one of the best programs in the nation. They have won at least eleven games in four of the last five years and they will be focused on making another run at a Big Ten title especially with Heisman hopeful Connor Cook under center who decided to come back for his senior season. The offense will have big shoes to fill after losing Jeremy Langford to the NFL. Sparty’s offense has talent and some of the younger players will have to step up and contribute early on. Michigan State has finished in the top ten in total defense for the past four seasons. The vaunted secondary may struggle this year, as they will look to replace star corner Trae Waynes.
3. Penn State Nittany Lions– One of their biggest issues from last season was their offensive line. James Franklin’s team began 2014 4-0 then struggled as the season went along. Talented—yet underachieving quarterback Christian Hackenberg is back and will look to have a bounce-back season in 2015 after throwing 12 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions the previous year. This offensive line—which was extremely thin—gave up a Big Ten-worst 44 sacks and when you are pressured constantly as a quarterback, it’s very frustrating because you just tend to throw the ball up in the air and normally that ends up resulting in turnovers. They return seven starters on defense which is a positive and they were the conference’s best defense from a statistical standpoint.
4. Michigan Wolverines– They finally got the guy they’ve wanted for years. After some down years with Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, Jim Harbaugh is back in Ann Arbor where he once threw touchdown passes as the new head coach. This is a home run move by Michigan and this shows they want to win and win now. The offense will have its work cut out for them. Devin Funchess, who was their leading receiver is gone and this will put pressure on Amara Darboh as the go to receiver. The defense was a strong point. They finished seventh nationally in total defense. If the offense can improve and the defense can pick up from where they left off last year, we could see a big improvement from a season ago.
5. Maryland Terrapins– What a debut season for Randy Edsall and Maryland in the Big Ten. What a difference a year can make. Maryland lost its quarterback, defensive coordinator and eleven starters from its line up from a team who last year got to a bowl game. The running game will look to improve as they ranked amongst the bottom of the conference last year. New defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski will look to get a new defensive scheme in tact after losing Brian Stewart and his 3-4 defense. Seven wins after making your debut in a new conference is impressive but lets see if they can build and improve off that.
6. Indiana Hoosiers– Head coach Kevin Wilson is on the hot seat. Indiana has improved as the years have gone along but they haven’t taken that next step as a program. The Big Ten East has gotten tough so that means that Indiana will have to make improvements to compete. Tevin Coleman will now be playing on Sunday’s for the Atlanta Falcons and quarterback Nate Sudfield returns after sustaining a shoulder injury. The defense has to get better. Giving up more than 430 yards a game won’t cut it.
7. Rutgers Scarlet Knights– They are still a question mark to some. Head coach Kyle Flood will be under a tremendous amount of pressure. The roster is revamped for Flood to keep his job, it’s a bowl game or bust. The offense has questions at major positions starting with the quarterback. To be competitive, the defense will have to improve as they were the worst defense in the entire conference.
Prediction: Ohio State will win this division once again. Everything is there for them to do so. The best head coach in the country in Meyer, a running back with the potential to have a great season in “Zeke” and one of the best defenses in college football anchored by Bosa.