The Big Ten is filled with iconic figures, but where statues and retired jerseys now reside, there was once just a signed letter of intent and unfulfilled potential. You know the household names in the heartland today and in the annals of history, but who are the players that will fill the void left by the starts of today moving on? We look at each team in the Big Ten, and who has the best chance of being the next superstar for good ‘ole State U.
First up, we’ll take a look at the East Division team-by-team:
Gone is running back Jordan Howard who made a splash in just one year running over opposing defenses. Gone too is Nate Sudfeld who beat up all other Big Ten quarterbacks in the stats department. And since the chess pieces are still being moved around by Kevin Wilson, we’d be re-missed if we didn’t stay on the offensive side of the ball. For that look no further than sophomore-to-be wide receiver Nick Westbrook.
The chances of the Hoosiers letting it fly around the yard plenty this fall are about as good as gray skies entering the equation come late November in the Midwest. And although Indiana returns its top three receivers in 2016, at 6-3 with plenty of speed, Westbrook is going to breakout at some point this season. If he doesn’t take over as the favorite target at some point this year, it’s almost a guarantee in 2017.
To say the Terps are a work in progress would be a bigger understatement than saying Donald Trump needs a new hairstyle. Regardless, someone has to step up as the main cog in an offense that was far too inconsistent in 2015. Though new head coach DJ Durkin, he’s had stops at places like Michigan and Stanford, and there’s a good bet that, he’s married to a tough nosed approach that revolves around running the ball.
Enter stage left sophomore running back Ty Johnson. At 5-10, 184 lbs., Johnson showed flashes of his game-changing abilities last year with 250 yards on just thirty-five carries (7.1 avg.), but simply failed to get enough opportunities in a season of trial and error for the Maryland offense. Look for that to be different in 2016. Durkin will want his defense to be well rested, and he’ll likely feature Johnson and the running game as long as he can withstand the pounding.
You know it, I know it, and almost every football geek on the planet knows it. Defensive tackle Rashan Gary is going to be an absolute beast for Michigan. He was the consensus No. 1 recruit last year, and for good reason. Gary possesses an uncanny blend of size, speed and power that has many believing he can contribute immediately.
The maize and blue sky appears to be the limit for this kid, and don’t think his freshman status will keep Harbaugh and company from allowing him to be a part of a defense that should be more than formidable yet again. This might not be the monster of all years for him, but those days appear to be on the horizon sooner rather than later.
Michigan State Spartans
There are plenty of pieces to replace on offense for Mark Dantonio’s crew, but there’s one guy that continued to get rave reviews from players and coaches alike for his play-making abilities in the spring. All-everything quarterback Connor Cook is gone to graduation, but at least presumptive starter Tyler O’Connor will have a potential stud in the making to throw to with wide receiver Donnie Corley lining up on the outside.
It’s not often that a guy is singled out so often as a recurring theme, but veteran and rookie players alike have continued to sing the praises of Corley’s speed, athleticism, football IQ and work ethic. Just a freshman, Corely is a sponge, and at 6-3 has the size and abilities to go up and make the tough catches, while also displaying speed to simply out run defensive backs. The Spartans will need to find a replacement for guys like Aaron Burbridge, and Corley seems to fit the bill.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Running backs seem to grow on Buckeye trees in Columbus, so you’re almost always looking for the next great one. Beanie Wells gave way to Carlos Hyde who gave way to Ezekiel Elliott who will give way to … Mike Weber.
If it weren’t for injuries and an absolute boss in Elliott already toting the mail in the ‘Shoe, you’d likely already have Weber jersey’s being made and sold in the local Buckeye Corner (unofficially of course). Urban Meyer might start the year with a running back by committee approach, but when healthy, Weber has the speed, power and vision to be the next good one in Columbus. He’s a good bet to take over the lions’ share of carries once things begin to get serious down the stretch.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Head coach James Franklin is still trying to get the Penn State program into the same conversations as brethren Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan, but he has huge holes to fill on the defensive line with the graduation of defensive tackle Anthony Zettel who is off to the NFL.
Though undersized at 6-1, and 267 lbs, former end turned tackle Kevin Givens is the likely heir apparent. Coming from seemingly nowhere in the spring, all Givens did was record 2 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss in the one half of the annual spring game.
He’s quick off the line and possesses instincts towards the ball that simply can’t be taught. He was tabbed as the surprise of the spring by the coaching staff, but don’t let it be a shock if he’s the next in line of many Penn State defensive linemen who end up playing on Sundays.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Former Ohio State D-coordinator Chris Ash inherits a program in turmoil and it’s unlikely to be an overnight strip-mall build towards relevance — especially in the same neighborhood as the Buckeyes, Wolverines and Spartans. Needless to say, the new coaching staff will be looking for star power immediately. Unfortunately for him, the pickings are somewhat slim.
One guy to keep an eye on however is incoming freshman running back Trey Sneed. At an unpolished 5-10, 205 lbs, Sneed is one of four freshman that enrolled early, and was recently the only true freshman to be “knighted” — having his black-stripe removed from his helmet signaling a welcome to the program type moment. He has the work ethic, leadership and skill set to be a star in the Rutgers backfield. It might not happen this year, but he’s got everything in front of him to be a showcase back.
Can Illinois or Indiana’s QB change spark either program?
We’ve nearly hit the halfway point for some teams in the Big Ten, and that means time for plenty of reflection. Two programs have done plenty of that over the past week, as both Illinois and Indiana have gone in different directions with their starting quarterbacks.
Earlier this week, Illinois announced that Jeff George Jr. would be the starter. It was a move few didn’t see coming given the anemic production of the Illini offense with Chayce Crouch at quarterback.
Indiana wasn’t far behind, as head coach Tom Allen revealed redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey would become the sole quarterback to play going forward. It ended four weeks of a two-quarterback system in place.
Both decisions seems smart on paper, but which one will make the biggest impact on their team?
Case For Peyton Ramsey:
Sometimes you win the job out of necessity and some times you win the job because you’ve outplayed everyone else. For me, the latter is true for Ramsey.
One of the most undertold stories of this season has been Indiana’s struggles in the pass game. Everyone saw them carve up Ohio State’s defense for over a half and assumed all was good. Well, Lagow has been ineffective and Ramsey has added a different dimension to an offense trying to find an identity.
To date, Ramsey has split time with Lagow in four games. He’s completed 60.4 percent of his pass (besting Lagow’s 56.3 mark) for 316 yards (6.6 yards per attempt, compared to 6.4 for Lagow). In just 48 attempts this season, Ramsey has equaled Lagow’s TD number at 4, while throwing just one interception.
Throws like this one to Simmie Cobbs for an 18-yard TD is the spark and kind of performance Ramsey can produce:
With an offensive line in flux, Lagow’s immobility has shown to be a big issue. He’s got the arm, but it really isn’t any good when you are under pressure and can’t move? Lagow’s got minus-30 yards on the season, meanwhile Ramsey is second on the team with 117 yards on 34 carries in his limited time on the field. That’s good production for a team searching to get back to the wild offensive numbers they are used to putting up.
A spark is needed, but so is consistency more than anything. Ramsey provides both and for a Hoosiers team that has a ton of talent around him, this should be the calming influence needed to help this team get to a bowl game.
That’s especially the case when you notice how Allen and his teammates respond to his mentality on and off the field.
“It’s more collective. It was really just this game. It was more of a buildup over time,” Allen said earlier this week, via Indiana’s Scout website. “We love both guys, awesome people. … There’s just a grit to (Ramsey), a toughness to him. He’s got a linebacker mentality to how he works.”
Case for Jeff George Jr.:
Illinois is in the middle of a youth movement on both sides of the
George also isn’t a first time starter. He played starter last season, being inserted in to the toughest of road situations possible — a freshman on the road at Michigan. That experience can be helpful for sure, and something George Jr. brought up in talking to the media this week.
“I’m excited to go out there and try to make something happen and try to get this offense rolling. I think I can do my part,” George Jr. said, via IlliniInquirer. “I feel like I know how tough it is to win a game. We went through some ups and some downs last year and now nothing is new.”
There’s also the fact that it did seem as if his connection with the likes of Malik Turner, Mike Dudek and Co. was better than Crouch’s was.
Look, something had to happen, because with Crouch at QB the Illini offense became as one-dimensional as Minnesota’s offense often was with Mitch Leidner behind center the past two years. It didn’t work well for the Gophers, and with a defense still figuring out who it is for the Illini, that would’ve been disastrous the rest of the way.
This is also a great opportunity to showcase George Jr. against the toughest of competition. He’ll go up against a schedule that includes Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin still to go.
Head coach Love Smith seems to be going with a sink or swim mentality to this team — pushing younger players to the brink to see if they respond or fold. Putting George out there as the starter the rest of the way is more of that, and it may be that the rest of his teammates respond to that idea more than they did with Crouch.
Final Verdict: Peyton Ramsey
This one is easy for me. Ramsey has more weapons to work with in the form of wide receivers like Simmie Cobbs and Luke Timian in the fold. He also has a decent running back in freshman Morgan Elison, who is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and has 310 yards in four games so far this season.
As for Jeff George Jr.? Sure, he’s got the same freshman running back with potential as Indiana does, but he’s not set up for success like Ramsey is. Mike Dudek is a weapon and Malik Turner can be good…but Turner has also been inconsistent to say the least.
George also has a bigger body of work, and that body of work suggests a pretty average quarterback at best. He’s completing just 43.1 percent of his passes for 681 yards and five touchdowns to seven interceptions in five games played in his career.
Call me crazy, but those numbers don’t inspire me.
Let’s see who can play better, but if there’s someone who has already shown the ability to succeed under pressure, that has been Ramsey. I’ll take his numbers, situation and moxie over George any day of the week.
talking10 Power Poll: Surprises galore in Week 1 poll
We’re back…after a long offseason, the staff is finally back to watching football, crunching numbers and giving you our opinions on all things Big Ten football.
It also means our weekly staff Power Poll is back as well.
This season we’ve got five staff members voting every week. That includes the following names:
Andy Coppens – @AndyOnFootball
Phil Harrison – @PhilHarrisonCFB
Philip Rossmann-Reich – @RiseNU
Dave Fitzgerald – @BuckeyeFitzy
Zach Worthington – @Worthyton
Normally the opening week of the season provides little in the way of knowledge, but that certainly wasn’t the case in 2017. Dare we say the first week of action for the Big Ten was highly entertaining?
You can say that, and we did over at the #B1GRewind Show.
But, how did all of that excitement shake out when it came time to vote? Let’s take a look at the official poll for Week 1:
Let’s just say things were a bit wackier than usual, huh?
- Only three teams lost this week, yet it was a winner, Illinois, coming up dead last and it wasn’t even close. The Illini’s unimpressive three-point win was also our winner for “Disappointment of the Week” on the #B1GRewind show…so perhaps their last place finish in the power poll this week was really warranted. It also appears that hanging tough with ranked teams meant a lot to our voters.
- While the rest of the college football world is in love with Ohio State…our staff is much more in love with the Nittany Lions…well not “much more” but they won out with three first place votes and OSU falling outside the top two in one voters mind.
- It appears there is going to be an interesting battle for the middle of the pack over the next few weeks. Michigan State was No. 7 in this poll, but had just a three-point lead on No. 10 Nebraska. Let’s just say the next few weeks should shake out the middle a bit more.
- Speaking of close fights…the battle between Michigan and Wisconsin for the third spot should be an interesting one indeed. Can Wisconsin’s offense keep up the high-scoring and keep UW ahead or will Michigan’s exciting youth movement grow up fast enough to challenge for the top of the East division and thus our poll as well?
Indiana Hoosiers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Preview: Welcome to the Big Ten in Week 1
The 2017 season kicks off with a Big Ten matchup for the first time in years. Join us as we preview the Buckeyes vs. Hoosiers.
When: Thurs., Aug. 31; 8pm ET
Where: Bloomington, Ind.; Memorial Stadium (52,929)
All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 72-12-5
Last Meeting: Ohio State win 38-17 (2016)
Welcome officially to the 2017 college football season my fellow Big Ten nuts out there. There couldn’t be a more perfect way to start the season than by hitting the ground running with some B1G football, and that is exactly what we get on Thursday night as the Ohio State Buckeyes and Indiana Hoosiers collide in Bloomington, Ind.
This game may not be a marquee matchup, but it is a Big Ten game and there are plenty of storylines all around this one. We’ve got ex-Indiana head coach turned Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson against his old team. We’ve got two quarterbacks with a lot to prove entering their senior seasons and a whole cast of new characters on the Buckeyes sideline.
We’ll start to get answers to a lot of big questions, but let’s kick our preview off with a look at the most burning question entering this game.
1 Burning Question: What offenses will we really see?
Indiana and Ohio State provide plenty of intrigue, you know, with the whole Kevin Wilson as co-OC vs. his old team and all that. But, the biggest question burning in my mind is just what both offenses will actually look like in Week 1.
Will the Hoosiers keep the offense that Wilson laid the foundation for or will we see some wrinkles? What about Wilson’s influence on Urban Meyer’s power-run version of the spread offense. That isn’t exactly Wilson’s cup of tea and it appears that the passing game is going to be critical to success for the Buckeyes in 2017.
So, if you’re watching this game, keep a close on just how different or not these offenses are for the 2016 versions we saw. Whichever one either adjusts best or executes the old version best is likely to come away the winner on Thursday night.
2 Key Stats
21: That is Ohio State’s current winning streak against the Hoosiers.
Ohio State has beaten up on a lot of teams over the years, but few have been beaten up as bad as the Hoosiers have been. Even with the resurgences of the IU program to respectability, it hasn’t changed the fact that they can’t seem to beat the Buckeyes ever. Indiana’s last win in the series came back in 1988, a 41-7 beat down of the Buckeyes. Why is that relevant to this game? Well, that win also took place in Bloomington, Ind. and a 21-game win streak is long for anyone, including the Buckeyes.
152.2: That was Indiana’s rushing average per game in 2016.
It also happens to be a low-water mark for a program that became one of the Big Ten’s best rushing attacks over the course of the previous three seasons. Last season showed that the depth that was once there had become depleted. Even with 1,000-yard rusher Devine Redding in the mix, the Hoosiers slipped to 11th in the Big Ten in rushing. While the passing attack will always get the big attention, the silent and deadly run game needs to return in Bloomington for the Hoosiers to have success.
3 Key Players
Mike Majette, RB (Indiana): Why is a guy you’ve likely never heard of so vital to the cause for the Hoosiers? Well, one of the best-kept secrets to the Hoosiers rise under Kevin Wilson was the ability of the run game. From 2013 to 2015, the Hoosiers ranked no worse that fourth in the Big Ten in rushing offense. Last season saw a dramatic falloff as Jordan Howard left for the NFL draft and the Hoosiers were just 11th in the Big Ten in rushing. Majette played in just eight games, but put up a healthy 4.6 yards per carry in his sophomore season. If the Hoosiers want to win tonight, Majette needs to be a star and right now, that is a big question mark.
J.T. Barrett, QB (Ohio State): If you would’ve told me that we haven’t seen J.T. Barrett win a Heisman Trophy following his freshman season, I would’ve thought you were crazy. Yet, Barrett hasn’t lived up to the potential shown in his first season. Now, we have Barrett working with a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. All the talk this offseason has been how Barrett can improve as a pocket passer and as a true dual-threat quarterback. Will Wilson’s influence on the offense be a spark for Barrett or has he hit a ceiling? With Indiana’s improving defense, he will be tested tonight.
Damon Arnette, CB (Ohio State): Sometimes there is nothing like being thrown in to the deep end of the pool. While Arnette got game action in his freshman season — making 21 tackles and picking off one ball — there’s a difference between being a bit player and “the guy.” Arnette steps in to starters role for the first time and he’ll likely have the biggest test of the season going against quality names like Simmie Cobbs, Nick Westbrook and Donavan Hale. Can he pass this test early on? If not, it could be dangerous news for the Buckeyes hopes in 2017.
The Buckeyes defensive line is scary good, but the rest of the team is a bit suspect in terms of experience heading in to the opener. While there is a ton of potential and recruiting talent, let’s see it on the field. Personally, I believe the OSU defense has a scare put in to them for the first half of the game at the very least. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Hoosiers putting up 17 points in the first half before being shut down after adjustments are made at halftime.
This will be best Memorial Stadium atmosphere ever: Perhaps atmosphere and Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. don’t always go hand-in-hand (unless you’re talking about one of the worst in the Big Ten).
Score: Ohio State 34, Indiana 17 (Listen here for more on the game).
talking10 Pick’Em league has arrived!
Join our staff in a season-long Big Ten predictions challenge! Come on…you know you want to know our picks and beat up on us for bad plays!
We’ve had fun on the talking10 podcast giving you previews and predictions over the last few seasons. This year we’re turning that up a notch around here.
Yes, you can now play along with us each and every week! Welcome to the talking10 Pick’Em league brought you by Yahoo! Sports.
Each week you’ll hear us make our picks on Wednesday night and filling out our sheets live on the Podcast. You can play alongside all of our staff and shame us as you win or we get to laugh at you as we rise to the top.
This Pick’Em league is free of charge and is for more than just bragging rights. The winner at the end of the season gets a special prize package from us here at talking10. So join up with the following information:
League ID: 3991
Finally, please make sure to make your team name your Twitter handle or your first & last name so we have a way to reach out to you once the season is over….if you win!
We dare you to beat us! We double dog dare you!