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Jamzz

[2023] Big Ten East Season Preview

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It's almost time for the 2023 season so today we will be taking a look at the Big Ten East division. We'll take a look at some of the best players on each team, the biggest games to look out for, and make some predictions at the end of it.

 

Indiana Hoosiers :indiana:

 

Players to Watch

RB Kamar Blackmon 6-1 229 (Jr) Arsenal Tech (Indianapolis IN) 4.0 of 4.0 [Power]

DE Vondrae Ledbetter 6-6 266 (So) New Deal (New Deal TX) 4.0 of 4.5 [Blitz]

 

Indiana looks to bounce back after a 4-8 season that was highlighted by a big win over Nebraska and featured multiple close losses to quality teams. The large majority of the team was young after many of the team's best players graduated in 2021, which means this upcoming team is hoping to make a run at another bowl game. On offense the focal point will once again be Kamar Blackmon. Indiana has been a run first team for a few seasons now and Blackmon has been a big part of that for the last two seasons. He ran for over 1000 yards last season and if Indiana expects to have success it will be thanks to him. QB Rangi Grey was shaky last year, to say the least but he seems to have progressed well following an impressive performance in the spring game. He loses Freddie Jackson to the pros but Jackson was never his preferred target last year as he seemed to like to look for his tight ends. On defense Vondrae Ledbetter is back and expected to have a big year. He showed up as Indiana's best player on defense as a redshirt freshman last year, with 8 sacks and 6 TFL, and he should only improve. With the addition of JUCO transfer Anquan Everett at DT Ledbetter should have less of the load to carry and can focus more on what he does best, and that's rush the passer. Outside of the DL the Indiana defense looks average at best. ILB Jaden Durant will have to step up his play this year. The secondary doesn't have a star player anywhere but they do have many similar players who can play off each other well and have shown glimpses of great play. I would be remiss to ignore All-American P P.K. Crowe who won the Ray Guy award last season.

 

Biggest Game of the Season

Week 8 vs Maryland

 

There are a number of games to choose from here. Week 16 vs Purdue would be a good chance but Indiana is going to be the underdog in that one per usual. This game against Maryland could be the difference between making a bowl and missing one, so that's why I've chosen it. Indiana gets a chance to avenge a bad loss from last season that sent their season on a downward spiral and if they do so it could mean a 6-6 year.

 

Prediction: 5-7

 

Indiana has a winnable non-conference slate and then starts off the conference schedule with some easier games before they get into the rough part of the season. If they get off to a hot start they could absolutely go bowling, but that will mean a few wins against Rutgers, Wisconsin, Maryland, possibly Michigan State or someone else to make it happen. It's doable but it's an uphill battle with the division they find themselves in.

 

Maryland Terrapins :maryland:

 

Players to Watch

OT Joel Bragg 6-2 330 (Fr) John Carroll (Bel Air MD) 3.5 of 5.0 [Run Blocking]

OLB Freddie Hendricks 6-1 247 (Sr) Lejeune (LeJeune, NC) 5.0 of 5.0 [Blitz]

 

Maryland had an incredibly disappointing season last year, going 2-10 with wins over Indiana and New Mexico State. They were expected to take a step back with the loss of Marquise Simpkins and co., but no one anticipated it to be as big as it was. This year they bring an interesting mix of experienced talent with some players at skill positions that need to step up. QB Brian Andersen and RB Marc Beasley took the reins of the offense last year and were not very good. If these two players don't put up much better numbers this year then it will be more of the same for Maryland despite their talent elsewhere. Maryland does have some greta players on the offensive line to make it work, including OT Joel Bragg, and guards Jeremiah Carlson and Jude Scherer. The offense should be much better this year behind these three players. Their OL rating last year was pedestrian but I expect significant improvements this year. On defense they look better too. Their front seven looks scary with OLBs Freddie Hendricks and Tyler Matthews, in addition to DT DeMarco Pitts and DE Matthias Delaney. Their secondary is no joke either. CB Isaiah Simpkins appears to be ready to make a big jump forward, and he has star FS Adam Carroll behind him to help out. This team doesn't seem to have many glaring weaknesses. On offense you could say they don't have many weapons to give the ball to, and that's completely fair, but outside of that they seem like a very well-rounded team.

 

Biggest Game of the Season

Week 13 vs Ohio State

 

Maryland has a few difficult games before this one but this one kicks off a tough three week stretch between top Big Ten teams. This stretch will show whether or not Maryland is ready to prove they're amongst the best teams in the conference, or if they're still the middle of the pack team we've come to expect from them recently. 

 

Prediction: 7-5

 

Maryland will be the clear favorite in many of their games this season and the clear underdog in a few as well. As their team continues to grow I expect them to start to challenge the Michigans and Penn States of the conference but I don't think that time has come yet. Their talent alone should carry them to a bowl game if they get a little extra help then I could see them pushing forward into a higher end bowl game but I don't see them getting further then that in 2023.

 

Michigan Wolverines :michigan:

 

Players to Watch

RB Nick Rowland 6-0 213 (Jr) Berrien Springs (Berrien Springs MI) 5.0 of 5.0 [Speed]

DT Mason Ragland 6-6 312 So Hudson Area (Hudson MI) 3.5 of 5.0 [1-Gap]

 

Michigan has seemed to find themselves in position to take the conference every year for the last few years but just can't do it. Whether it be Penn State, Purdue, Ohio State, or Nebraska to knock them out of contention for the conference title, it always happens. This year looks like it could be the exact same. Consistent as ever, they bring in a strong team that will compete but they have multiple challenges that look like they'll be hard to beat. That said, Michigan will be hard to beat just like they always are for any team as well. On offense RB Nick Rowland will be the star. They should have more balance this year as Evan Perkins continues to improve and he'll have the likes of Tyler Sterling and Antonio Jackson to throw to. OT Gabe Morrison and C Miguel Prieto will be the centerpieces of the OL, and will have to pick up for some of the inexperienced teammates they have next to them. On defense they are young, but as talented as ever. DT Mason Ragland is expected to improve a lot and CB Victor Austin will need to play up to his potential and not his skill level to keep teams from throwing heavily on Michigan. They're linebacking corp is definitely the team's weak spot. It's a mix of less talented and young players that teams like Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State will absolutely look to exploit. For as good as the offense is, the defense is just as young and it might turn Michigan games into high scoring affairs this year. I have no doubt that their defense will be fine against lesser quality teams but if they want to keep up with top ten teams then they'll have to score some points.

 

Biggest Game of the Season

Week 16 @ Ohio State

 

Is it really up for debate? The Game has a good chance of deciding the division once again this year, and although Penn State might have something to say about that but for the last two years these have been the best teams in the division and as of right now they seem to still be. Even if this is not for the division, chances are one of these teams will need this game to win the division or make the playoff and the other's season would be made just by getting this one.

 

Prediction: 10-2

 

Michigan is still a very good team, but I don't think they're as good as Ohio State. I think there's a decent chance they run the table before that game but a schedule of Purdue, Penn State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame are going to be tough to win every game against. Michigan is knocking on the door to the playoff once again but it's going to take some big wins to get there and I don't think they'll get them.

 

Michigan State Spartans :msu:

 

Players to Watch

QB Isaac Tyson 6-4 215 (Jr) Kenmare (Kenmare ND) 4.5 of 5.0 [Hybrid]

DE Rangi Petana 5-11 264 (Sr) Garaway (Sugarcreek, OH) 4.5 of 4.5 [Blitz]

 

Michigan State is a weird team. Last year they went 10-2 after the emergence of Isaac Tyson, who likes like he could be a star at the college level, maybe the pros in the future. They did this though, with very little talent compared to their counterparts atop the Big Ten. They return this year with Isaac Tyson and a few other solid players, but still not much talent elsewhere. On offense the team is kind of empty outside of Tyson. They do have TE Samuel Hare who is expected to be the number one target this year, but they don't have another player whose current skill is above 3.0 except another TE and a FB. They'll need some unexpected performances out of RB Gabe Geiger and the OL if they expect to go 10-2 again. On defense it's a little bit better. Their DL is pretty solid. Rangi Petana, Kuruk Snell, and Griffin Martino should be enough to keep other team's running games in check, which they will certainly need in the Big Ten. OLB Connor Bradshaw should put up a good amount of tackles and sacks that can keep the team in games as well. Their secondary, however, is weak to say the least. The highest rated current skill is 3.0. Like Indiana, they're basically asking for teams to throw a lot against them. True freshman FS Lavonte Nunn might already be the most talented player in that secondary. Overall, what Michigan State is good at, they do as good as anyone in the conference. What they are bad at is as bad as the worst in the conference.

 

Biggest Game of the Season

Week 6 vs Michigan

 

It's tough for me to pick a game for MSU but I've gone with their rivals in week 6. They have a much tougher non-conference slate of games this year and Michigan will be the first conference team they meet. An upset in this game will go a long, long way for Michigan State. If they lose then they'll prove to be what we expect out of them, but if they win then that will add to the legend of Isaac Tyson and prove HC SlinkyJr to be among the best in the country.

 

Prediction: 6-6

 

I might be lower than most on Michigan State this year. I can't see them matching what they did last year, even with Tyson. They play LSU and TCU OOC and then a tough conference schedule so I just don't see them coming close to 10 wins. The weaknesses on their team are just too significant for me to give them wins in their games against high quality opponents, and I think they just sneak out six wins. Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State I have well above Michigan State, and I think they'll have trouble with Minnesota and Maryland as well.

 

Ohio State Buckeyes :osu:

 

Players to Watch

QB Matt Ballard 6-4 221 (Jr) Jackson (Masillon OH) 5.0 of 5.0 [Pocket]

DE Cece Condon 6-1 263 (Sr) Sandwich Community (Sandwich, IL) 5.0 of 5.0 [Contain]

 

Ohio State has been steadily improving the last few years and it seems to all be culminating into a run at the playoffs this season, and possibly the next depending on early decs and how well they can replace their seniors. Matt Ballard may be the best QB in the Big Ten, and Julius Wesley may be the best RB in the Big Ten and they both find themselves in Buckeye uniforms. I won't dwell too long on them as everyone knows about them, but they've both been great players since they were freshman and don't seem like they'll slow up. TE Jonas Schumacher has proved himself a force to be reckoned with as well and might be the number one target this year. Their inexperienced on the OL, which is probably their biggest issue. Fortunately for them that hasn't been an issue for Wesley in the past and Ballard can sling it with or without them. On defense their clock appears to be ticking a bit faster however, as Cece Condon is a senior, and their JUCO replacement for Khairi Bryant is also a senior, Damien Atkins. ILB Nazir Flowers, CB A.P. Crosby, and SS Aziz Harvey are all additional highlights to the defense. As you can see, they have talent all over the field. They don't have a specific position group that's weak on defense, more so specific positions that teams will have to try to target. Outside of Crosby and Harvey they don't have much else in the secondary, for example. OLB Alex Schuster is also a step down in talent compared to the majority of his teammates. 

 

Biggest Game of the Season

Week 16 vs Michigan

 

It can't be anything else really. As I talked about when discussing Michigan, even when these teams aren't good this is their most important game every year, so when they both are good it becomes that much bigger. Going to Happy Valley will be a big game, at Illinois should be a tough game as well, but at the end of the day, none of the compare to The Game. I expect this game to be for the division as it has been the last two years.

 

Prediction: 12-0

 

This might be putting expectations to high but I think they're better than anyone they face in the regular season this year. If I had to pick one game that I think would be the most difficult, I would actually go with @ Illinois week 7, who I think is going to be significantly improved this year. Not to discredit Michigan or Penn State or anyone else, but that will be a young, hungry Illinois team. As you can see, Ohio State is my prediction for Big Ten champs this year.

 

Penn State Nittany Lions :PSU:

 

Players to Watch

WR Dominic Dixon 6-2 212 Sr Palomar College (San Marcos CA) 5.0 of 5.0 [Target]

DE Oghale Adelangwe 6-4 241 Sr St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia PA) 5.0 of 5.0 [Blitz]

 

Penn State hasn't quite recovered since Tanner Bowman graduated but they are well on their way to doing so. The Jack Ramey project was a failure and it is full steam ahead on the Dillon Sneed train. Many fans are expecting a big year out of him as he takes over for his second year, he has plenty of weapons to take Penn State back to glory. RB Sione Salanoa, star WR Dominic Dixon, and TE James Mulholland will all be focal points for Penn State this year. Dixon is a JUCO product and a huge get for the team, they were missing a number one WR and if they are going to compete for the Big Ten title it will be in large part because of him. The OL is very well rounded with LT Eric Lanier leading they way and a well rounded crop behind him. On defense they have some studs as well. Oghale Adelangwe broke out last season and is expected to put up some huge numbers this year. DT Erik McElmore is following in Shamar Ware's footsteps and appears to be ready to take over a large load for the rest of the defense. DE Jerraud Braxton and ILB Xavien Bowers are some of the up and coming young stars of the defense. The secondary is a bit thin however. SS Jonas Newberry is the only member that has a current skill higher than 3.5, which means the likes of Isaac Tyson and Matt Ballard will be looking to hit this part of the team heavily. While running might be close to impossible on Penn State, passing will come a little bit easier.

 

Biggest Game of the Season

Week 1 vs TCU

 

It doesn't get much bigger than this to start the year for Penn State. TCU will be one of the favorites to win the title this year and will definitely be favored week one, but if PSU can pull off an upset they'll catapult themselves right into the playoff conversation a week into the year. Of course the conference schedule is littered with big games but none of them will send the rest of the country a bigger statement than beating TCU week one.

 

Prediction: 9-3

 

Penn State's gonna have a really good team this year and I bet they're very close to upsetting the top teams on their schedule if they don't win them straight up. As Sneed and the rest of their team continues to improve with age they'll be back to competing for national titles, as of right now I think they're a small step behind the top tier of Big Ten teams. They have plenty of great players redshirting and coming through the ranks so it won't be long until they're back, it may be this year if things fall the right way for them.

 

Rutgers Scarlet Knights :rutgers:

 

Players to Watch

QB Omari Ricks-Hargrove 6-0 222 (Fr) Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey NJ) 2.0 of 5.0 [Scrambling]

DT Shawn Marshall 6-1 327 (Fr) Hanover Park (East Hanover NJ) 2.5 of 5.0 [2-Gap]

 

The players to watch for Rutgers go to show the youth of their team. A few high profile graduations following a successful season last year most likely means a step back for them this go around. They have a grand total of four starters on offense and defense that have a current skill higher than 3.5, which will mean some growing pains. Most of the success this season will live and die on the arm and legs of freshman QB Omari Ricks-Hargrove who, while oozing with potential, probably isn't ready to carry a team just yet. Unfortunately for him he doesn't have much help. C Beckett Day will have to carry the load on the OL, and while the OL may be the most talented position group on the team, they are young like the rest of the squad. Not much is expected out of RB Kahoni Polu, maybe he can be an unexpected bright spot for the team. On defense DT Shawn Marshall will have the same role Omari Ricks-Hargrove does with the offense, attempting to use his potential to carry the rest of the team. CB Thierno Foreman and SS Rodrigo Martinez are the experience for the defense and will make it difficult for teams to throw on them as they are without a doubt the best position group on defense for Rutgers. DE Dahntay Parks is also one to look out for in the future, but as of right now he seems unprepared for Big Ten football, and that's what he's being thrust into right away as a true freshman. Overall, it's not hard to find some holes on the Rutgers depth chart.

 

Biggest Game of the Season

Week 9 vs Indiana

 

Indiana will probably be the most winnable conference game for Rutgers, not that they can't win any others, but they will significant underdogs for most of them. The schedule doesn't help them out much with cross divisional games against Nebraska, Illinois, and Purdue. The Indiana game is a home game for Rutgers so maybe the fans can get behind them there  and bring home a good win but other then that I don't see many wins on their schedule.

 

Prediction: 2-10

 

As you could probably tell, I'm not very high on this Rutgers team. Their non conference slate of games are all winnable but I see them dropping at least one of them do to the lack of talent right now on their team, and I think they'll be underdogs in every conference game they play this year. They have a good team to look out for in the future with some solid help coming for Ricks-Hargrove but right now it doesn't appear to be there.

 

 

Some predictions for the division as a whole.

 

Offensive Player of the Division: QB Matt Ballard 6-4 221 (Jr) Jackson (Masillon OH) 5.0 of 5.0 [Pocket] :osu:

Defensive Player of the Division: DE Oghale Adelangwe 6-4 241 Sr St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia PA) 5.0 of 5.0 [Blitz] :PSU:

Special Teams Player of the Division: P P.K. Crowe 5-8 169 (Sr) Richmond (Richmond, IN) 5.0 of 5.0 [Accuracy] :indiana: (yes I added this just to throw him in)

Non Conference Game of the Division: :tcu: @ :PSU:

Game of the Division: Week 16 :michigan: @ :osu:

Division Champs: :osu:

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I only wish I had a like to give. I will have to come back to this later just so I can like it then. Awesome read!

 

You seem to have a lot higher expectations for my team than I even do but its nice to be talked about as a favorite. This should be a really fun year in the conference, the east especially looks like a slugfest.

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Great preview.  I agree with you on MSU.  Tyson may be a stud but the lack of a running threat, weak offensive line and weak secondary will be too much to overcome.  That week 15 game at Maryland could determine if they make a bowl or not.

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