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BIG10 East 2020 Preview: who's the best in the midwest?

BIG10 East 2020 Preview: who's the best in the midwest?

It’s been quite the offseason for all college football fans. We’ve been left with nothing to dig our competitive hands into, as the wave of the Coronavirus has brought all college sports to a complete halt—including one of my personal favorites, spring ball. 

Of course, spring ball feels like a lackadaisical warmup for everyday college football fans—but for FanPants fans, it’s about as exciting as finding the last package of toilet paper at the store. For the players and coaches, it’s a preview of what is to come in the following months, as they solidify positions and tactics for the fall. 

There are few words to describe how it feels to have spring balled ripped from our hands quicker than a strip-sack, but I think Nick Saban embodies it well.  

Now that we’ve aired our grievances, let’s talk BIG10 East and why Ohio State might have coach Saban doing that again this year. 

Over the last five years, the BIG10 has made great strides in producing teams that not only compete with the SEC but also compete for national titles. With a mixture of strong coaching, wicked talent, and some blue-collar grit, the BIG10 has established itself as a top tier conference, tieing the SEC for most top 10 teams in the 2020 preseason ranking

That being said, the East division packs a diverse mixture of talent that is both top shelf and rock bottom. At the top rests national no.2 Ohio State and no.5 Penn State—both teams coming off strong seasons and looking to leverage their veterans deep into the fall. Michigan quickly follows at no.16, having shown out in a New Year’s Six bowl game the last two years. 

Indiana finds themselves sitting right in the middle, hoping that Michael Penix Jr will step up, after Peyton Ramsey transferred to Northwestern. And, at the bottom half of the division sits a few squads looking to rebuild including Michigan State, Maryland, and Rutgers. 

The BIG10 is looking to have another season where it sends multiple teams to the CFB Playoff, but before you get too excited about playoff talk, let’s see who’s gonna win the East this fall.


1. Ohio State

The Buckeyes are back and looking to lift a few trophies this season after falling short of a national title in the CFB playoff last year. Ryan Day is heading into his second season at the helm, and his squad is ready to decimate competitors. 

With Justin Fields, a leading Heisman candidate, and recent-transfer running back Trey Sermon, from Oklahoma, on the offensive side of the ball, it’s tough to think many programs have the defense to match. On the defensive end, they did lose a star in Chase Young but retained some talent with Dallas Gant and Sevyn Banks—both of which played 14 games last season. 

As a national championship favorite and winner of the last three BIG10 championships, it’s only right to put Ohio State at the top of this list. 


2. Penn State

James Franklin is a big fan of working on New Years’. Since his appointment in 2015, he has led the Nittany Lions to New Year’s Six games the last four out of five seasons, with a sizable win last year over Memphis. This year, they’re looking to do the same as they flex the no.12 recruiting class in the nation. 

Where Penn State will be most lethal this season is the tight end position. Franklin has established the role as a beacon of PSU football, churning out All Americans like Pat Freiermuth and 2018 NFL draft pick Mike Gesicki. With no.3 tight end in the 2020 class, Theo Johnson, coming in this spring, the fans in Happy Valley should be eager to see what he can bring to the table. 

There’s a shot we see Ohio State and Penn State dueling it out for the top rank, but when October 24th comes around and the two meet, it will be a BIG10 battle like no other. Because Penn State still has a few positions to establish before they can make a run at OSU, they’re taking the number 2 spot in the East. 


3. Michigan

The Big House has been awfully quiet since Jim Harbaugh started his tenure as head coach. He’s led them to some stunning wins and heartbreaking losses, none of which have resulted in a BIG10 title. With the departure of 2-year starter Shea Patterson, the Wolverines are looking to fill the quarterback position with one of their two backups, Dylan McCaffery (Jr) and Joe Milton (Soph), who’ve both seen minimal time under center. 

With a moderate schedule, you can anticipate another 7-9 win season for the maize and blue as they did bring on highly recruited, dual-sport athlete, Gaige Garcia, who will be running the ball and the wrestling mat at Michigan. But, don’t expect them to make a serious run at the BIG10 title, as they have to overcome bitter rival Ohio State in their final game of the season. Because of this, you’re going to find them in the number 3 spot on our list. 


4. Michigan State

The Spartans experienced a fall from grace last season as they posted a mediocre 4-5 in the conference and saw the resignation of long-time MSU legend Mark Dantonio. His retirement came as a shock to players and fans alike, especially after the NCAA took Dantonio to court for violating recruiting policies. Before the major announcement, the Spartans also watched 9 players enter the transfer portal, as well as their top receiver, Cody White, declare for the NFL draft. 

To bring calm to the chaos, Michigan State hired Colorado head coach, Mel Tucker, who earned his stripes under Nick Saban during his time in East Lansing. Tucker brings a new type of attitude to the locker room, that will hopefully ignite the Spartans to a winning season—he’s already sold running back Connor Heyward on the idea, stirring him to retract his transfer portal. 


5. Indiana

After boasting one of the best seasons in Indiana football history, the Hoosiers have seen a bleak and dark offseason. First, we saw the announcement of a few players entering the transfer portal, including QB Peyton Ramsey who is now a Northwestern Wildcat. Then, we witnessed the indefinite suspension of breakout tight end Peyton Hendershot—who went for 52 receptions, 622 yards, and four touchdowns last season. 

As Tom Allen sifts through his depth chart, he will have to find some leadership in Michael Penix Jr, their new starting quarterback, who only saw action in the first 5 games of 2019. With a daunting schedule that includes 3 games against national top 10 teams, I don’t expect to see another history breaking season from the Hoosiers, which puts them at number 5. 


6. Maryland

Maryland is hoping to rebuild after losing some critical components of their offense to the transfer portal and the NFL draft. In the backfield, the Terps lost two high-performance running backs with Anthony McFarland and Javon Leake, but are looking to replace them with two talented freshmen

The real question Maryland fans will be asking is, who their field general will be when kickoff comes? After watching two senior quarterbacks pursue their final seasons elsewhere, the Terps are left with two scholarship quarterbacks, Josh Jackson, and Lance LeGendre. Jackson started 9 games in 2019, totaling 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns before breaking his ankle. LeGendre is a wild card who can bust out of the pocket for 50-yard touchdowns, but miss 5-yard slants. As a young bull, he still has time to grow his knowledge and bring his passing skills up to par with his legs. 

It could be a rocky one for Maryland in the BIG10 East, especially in the latter half of the season, which put them here at number 6. 


7. Rutgers

It’s looking much brighter in New Brunswick than it did last week. In the wake of COVID-19 and the pause of all college sports, Greg Schiano is making moves, securing four 2021 commits in six days. This move propels their recruiting class to number 20 in the nation, smashing their 2020 ranking of 64th. 

Scarlet Knights fans can hold their breath knowing that a strong season could be upon them if they can wait out one more. After putting up a goose egg in 2019 conference play, there’s nothing more important than securing a win at the early start of the year—which is highly probable in the first three games. From there, the slope gets slick fast. The second half of the fall is slammed with national championship contenders and BIG10 bullies that could send Rutgers into a spiral. 

Don’t put your weekly betting money on Rutgers to go big this year, I wouldn’t recommend it—which puts them here at the bottom of the East. 

If you’ve read all of this and think you have a better prediction, we want to hear it. Shoot us a message on Instagram @thefanpants and prepare your prediction for next week when we cover the BIG10 West.