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The last undefeated team in the Big Ten is... Indiana?!?! The Hoosiers went on the road and dominated Wisconsin en route to a 31-17 win.

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B1G 2023 East Division Preview

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So it turned out I wrote a lot more than I thought, so I'm splitting it up into posts by division. First up: The East

 

TL:DR Expectations

:osu: Ohio State - 10-2, East Division Champ, projected Elo = 32

:PSU: Penn State - 10-2, East Division Co-Champ, projected Elo = 11th

:michigan: Michigan - 9-3, projected Elo = 8th

:maryland: Maryland - Well I'm just tootin my own horn here. 7-5/8-4, projected Elo = 35th

:msu: Michigan State - 6-6, projected Elo = 60th

:rutgers: Rutgers - 4-8, projected Elo = 63rd

:indiana: Indiana - 4-8, projected Elo = 81st

 

Now for the meaty part

2023btc_logo.svg Preview

 

 

East Division

 

:osu: Ohio State (4.5 star prestige)

coached by

:osu: @fever_ful (4 star prestige)

 

Ohio State had a solid 2022 season, going 8-1 in conference play with their only loss to Nebraska in week 5. They climbed up the rankings throughout the year, going 3-0 OOC with wins against Arizona State, Ohio, and LSU (in Indianapolis). In week 16 they beat Michigan and appeared poised for a playoff berth before losing a heartbreaker CCG game to Nebraska 28-38 and missing the playoff. They were able to bounce back and beat Kentucky in the Citrus bowl to finish 12-2 overall. They were ranked 8th in the final poll, 13th in my pre-bowl Elo ratings.

 

They were not great on the ground, but QB Matt Ballard did enough through the air to carry them to plenty of close wins. Their defense was solid, not out of this world but DE Cece Condon (5/5 contain) was voted the conference defensive player of the year and really helped the defense force 17 takeaways which was their real strength ranking 2nd in the B1G.

After the season, DT Collin McCartney (4.5/4.5) and Returner D.J. Barnes (5/5) went pro, being selected in the 3rd and 4th round of the NFL draft. They lost K Mike Rice (3.5/3.5) to transfer, and their graduated contributing players include: FB Colin Benedict (4/4), C William Beckman (4/4), FS Nathaniel Thurman (3.5/3.5), FS Amir Clarke (3.5/3.5), CB Isaiah Edmonds (3.5/3.5) and Jacob Love (3.5/3.5).

Their returning stars include RS JR QB Matt Ballard (5/5) who looks to be even better this year and will work together with RB Julius Wesley Jr. (5/5) to improve upon last year’s statistics. WR Emmanuel Lamier had 560 yards last year as a freshman and will look to improve on that mark. TE Jonas Schumacher (4.5/4.5) had over 1200 yards and returns for his senior season as a preseason 2nd team all American.

While their skill players are quite good, the offensive line could hold this team back. The average starting lineman on this years team is a 2.5/3.75 player and nobody has a potential higher than a 4.0. That is definitely this teams weakness and it will be interesting to see how they scheme around the deficiency.

 

Ohio State’s 2022 recruiting class ranked 35th nationally with 3 4.5* and 4 5*. Of those, a pair of special teamers (K Cameron McCoy and P Drew Stanfield) will be taking over as true freshman. WR Dajuan Page is the other new recruit who looks to play a key role.

JuCo transfer Damien Atkins will slot in at DE opposite 1st team all American Cece Condon to give the line a pair of 5/5s.

 

The linebacking corps is fairly mediocre with the exception of RS JR ILB Nazir Flowers (4.5/5) who had 4 pass defenses last year from the LB position and will be the anchor in the middle who will need to rally everyone around him.

On the back end, RS JR CB A.P. Crosby (4.5/4.5) had 5 picks last year and should lock down his side of the field. Unfortunately the rest of the corners are completely new, with new freshmen Jahmir Vereen (1.5/3) and Gavin Sproles (1/3.5) looking to take over the other corner position. FS Loto Polu (3/3) will also be a new starter, and looks fairly mediocre with SS Aziz Harvey (4.5/5) who had 3 INTs last year helping him out.

Overall, the defense was fairly average last year in terms of yardage and points, but had a ton of takeaways and will likely try to follow the same formula this year. On offense the skill positions are loaded and are sure to go after some quick hitting spread action to negate the offensive line weakness.

 

In terms of expectations for next year, there are wildly differing expectations.

They will have the 28th most talented roster in the nation and my Elo has them projected to take a step back and slide to 32nd overall, while the Chicago Tribune has them at 19th projecting a 9-3 record.

However, the coaches poll has them 12th overall and the B1G preseason preview is predicting a 12-0 playoff run to cap off the careers of some of their senior stars.

Their 2023 OOC includes relatively easy games against Arizona State and Akron and a more competitive matchup with Virginia Tech. They also draw Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska in their crossover matchups.

 

I think 12-0 is a little too much to ask for, but if they can split the Penn State – Michigan matchups and get a few favorable breaks I think the seniors can will this squad to a divisional championship and berth in the B1G title game before the team takes a step backwards in 2024.

 

:michigan: Michigan (5 star prestige)

coached by

:michigan: @jmjacobs (4.5 star prestige, B1G Commish)

 

Michigan had a very up and down 2022 season. They started the year off losing by 3 to Alabama on the road before winning 11 including their OOC with Notre Dame and liberty leading up to a monumental clash with Ohio State with presumably a playoff spot on the line. They lost that matchup at home 26-14 missing the B1G CCG and the playoffs. They did beat Florida in the Tampa bowl to finish 11-2 (8-1 in conference) but were oh so close to much bigger games. They wound up 10th in the final poll and 8th in my final Elo rankings before the bowl game.

Michigan made their bones on defense, ranking first in the conference in both yards and points allowed. Their offense was no slouch either, scoring 32 ppg and was in the top tier statistically with Michigan State and Ohio State.

 

Their success was quite balanced as QB Evan Perkins (4/4.5) and RB Nick Rowland (5/5) put up solid seasons, falling just slightly short of all conference mentions. Both players are back as is top WR Tyler Sterling (5/5). Their next 2 WRs both graduated and the hope is that receiving TE Ashton Benton (4.5/4.5) steps up his numbers slightly to compensate. Michigan did rely heavily on a dominant offensive line which stays mostly consistent as the only departure is OG Max Painter (4/4.5) who declared early for the NFL. Still remaining is OT Gabe Morrison (5/5) a preseason all-american 1st teamer along with C Miguel Prato (4/5) who was 2nd team preseason. While their new OGs are ok if not great, the only real weakness is at the other OT position where they may be forced to plug in either a 3/3 or a new freshman 1/4.

 

On defense, Michigan faces a huge exodus. OLB Logan Bowser (4.5/5) was an early declaration for the NFL draft going in the 2nd round. CB Zion Evans (5/5) went in the first round, ILB Alex Hutton (5/5) went in the second round, FS Kai Alston (4.5/4.5) and SS Eric Pritchett (4.5/4.5) were also drafted. Combined with other graduations and the defense will look almost entirely new this season. The only returning starters of note are DE Lukas Ott (4.5/4.5) and CB Victor Austin (3.5/5). DT Mason Ragland (3.5/5) saw some sporadic action last year and will be the anchor at nose tackle this season. SS Paul Cline (3.5/4.5) is the only other defensive player with a potential over a 4.0 so there does look to be a little bit of regression on the defensive side of the ball.

Surprisingly, Michigan was quite active in the transfer portal, picking up OT Malachi Linton, C Elias Jarrett, and OG Leonard Post (all 3/3s). FS Jalen Calloway (3.5/3.5) and RB Kenneth Love (4/4) were sacrificed to the portal for a rather lopsided trade overall.

 

In terms of recruiting, Michigan’s incoming class ranks 29th nationaly with 2 4.5* and 3 5*. Of these players, the biggest star is WR Antonio Jackson (3/5) who looks to make an immediate contribution. K Colin Powell (1/4) is the only other new recruit to have seized a starting job so far.

 

What to expect next year:

RNN looks for the offense to replace the defense as the best part of the team, grading Michigan as the 3rd best expected offense and the team to have the 24th best pass rush.

The Chicago Tribune has them as preseason 23rd with a projected 8.4-3.6 record while the preseason poll has them at 14th. My own Elo poll is more bullish on them with a preseason 8th place ranking although they only have the 26th most talented roster.

 

In OOC they play Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, and Cal, all winnable games. However, with so much churn on the back end I think they go 9-3 in a holding pattern kind of year.

 

 

:PSU: Penn State (5 star prestige)

coached by

:PSU: @grv413 (5 star prestige)

 

In 2022 Penn State was one of the teams getting the short end of the stick with the Michigan-Ohio State-Michigan state triumvirate having such great years. Those three losses plus an upset loss to Minnesota meant that the season was not a huge success. They did beat Pittsburgh, Boston College, and North Carolina OOC which was a meh slate, but after preseason top 20 expectations they wound up 8-5, unranked and lost the pinstripe bowl to Virginia.

 

They had a passable offense, with RS FR QB Dillon Sneed (2.5/5) having rather mediocre numbers through the air, and picking up a little bit on the ground. Sophomore RB Sione Salanoa (2/4) put up 1100 yards on 4.69 ypc to round out the attack. Their receivers were similarly non-descript but every single contributor returns so the hope is that they make a big jump and 2023 sees an offensive boost.

On the offensive line, OT Alex Vasili (5/5) went in the first round of the draft, but rising So Eric Lanier (3.5/5.0) looks to take as place as stalwart left tackle. The rest of their line is comprised of experienced 4/4 players so this could be the strength of the team that propels them to better season.

Defensively the story is similar, a fairly young front 7 that performed well last season comes back even stronger for 2023. While ILB Bradley Rainey (5/5) went 6th overall in the draft and CB Ahmed Holman went in the 7th round their recruiting success is showing itself here. DE Oghale Adelangwe (5/5) comes back for his senior season after a 1st team all-american year in 2022 and is on a ton of early awards watchlists. DT, DE, and ILB are all stacked with 5 stars, although the outside linebackers are slightly weaker looking at ¾ and 3.5/3.5 players there. Overall though, running against this team should prove to be quite difficult.

In the secondary CB Javier Glover (3.5/3.5) is tentatively the guy here after recording 3 interceptions last year. The other positions are filled with new 4.0 potential players who are entering the rotation and looking to prove themselves. They will certainly get their chance as PSU should see plenty of quick passing attacks to avoid their great front 7.

 

They were active in the transfer portal gaining 2 players and losing 4 others, but nobody of note.

This year recruiting slipped a tiny bit, ranking 32nd nationally with 4 4.5* and 2 5*. Every single one of them is redshirting though aside from JuCo WR Dominic Dixon (5/5) who immediately steps in as yet another weapon for QB Sneed.

 

I actually could see Penn State having a much improved year in 2023. RNN has them pegged as the 14th best offense, they were 19th in the preseason poll and the Chicago Tribune has them at 13th projecting a 9-3 year and a conference championship.

They have the 9th most talented starting 22 and my Elo has them at 11th for 2023. In terms of expectations, I think this is a team that needs to gel a little more and should get more and more fierce as the season progresses. However they face TCU right out of the gate in week 1 which should be a big matchup for them but I don’t know if they will be quite ready to pull that win off. Pitt and Temple OOC should be easy wins and they get an easy Iowa and Northwestern plus Nebraska draw from the West. I think that they should run the conference table and split the Michigan – Ohio State games. They may drop an upset early in the season but overall I think this team should go 10-2 and has a real shot at the conference crown.

 

:maryland: Maryland (3.5 star prestige)

coached by

:maryland: @tsweezy (3 star prestige)

 

Smh y’all think I’m going to spill all the secrets for my own team?

 

Suffice to say, 2022 was a huge disappointment going 2-10 leading to coach thesam taking the UNH job and tsweezy coming in from Eastern Michigan where he went 13-7 over the last two seasons. That should be the expectations here for Maryland as they have top 40 talent on the team and very wildly different expectations for 2023. They were in the others receiving votes category in the preseason poll and 18th in BCS rankings. However the Chicago Tribune has them at 56 and projects a 6-6 record so it’s fair to say they are a bit of an unknown quantity. With an OOC of Eastern Michigan, Duke, and NC State it should be quick to find out how good they really are. Sweep those games and an 8 win season could be in view. Win 1 or 2 and 5-7 looks likely. If they somehow drop EMU then College Park may burn to the ground.

 

For what it’s worth my Elo has us going 35th which is about what I’d hope for with the goal of hitting 7 wins and going bowling.

 

:msu: Michigan State (3.5 star prestige)

coached by

:msu: @SlinkyJr (4.5 star prestige)

 

Michigan State had a surprisingly great 2022 year considering the talent on their team. They took care of a fairly weak OOC schedule that included Texas State, Temple, and Western Michigan. In B1G play, while many of their wins were close ones, they still swept the schedule apart from losses to the two East heavyweights Ohio State and Michigan. Even then they played both top 10 teams close and won the Holiday bowl against Colorado to finish 11-2. They were rewarded in the polls finishing 12th with a 10th place Elo ranking from me.

 

The story of their success rested almost solely on the shoulders of QB Isaac Tyson (4.5/5). RB Gabe Geiger went for almost 1000 yards as a RS FR 2/3.5 but Isaac had a phenomenal year throwing for almost 3500 yards with a 31-5 TD:INT ratio. Their receiving and TE corps were very young last year and all come back in 2023 so look for this offense to be even better in 2023. Their offensive line loses OG Jonah McCullough (5/5) who was drafted in the 2nd round. Outside of him and freshman C Manuel Ochoa (1/5), nobody else on the line had a potential over 3.5 so it was even more impressive to see the offense performing so well.

Looking ahead on offense, all their skill players are coming back and should be lethal. Luckily they are fairly practiced at scheming around their offensive line because outside of Center, the rest of their line would be downright pedestrian in the MAC. If they had managed to pull in a star JuCo or 2 there this offense could be one of the best in the country. While they are expected to still be good and Isaac is getting early award buzz, I don’t know how consistently that can be sustained.

Defense was not quite as great, ranking just inside the upper half of the conference. On that side of the ball their linebackers were the key players as OLB Matt Marino (4.5/4.5) was drafted in the third round and OLB Connor Bradshaw (4.5/4.5) is a 1st team preseason all American for 2023.

Their defensive line looks to be fairly strong as well, with DE Rangi Petana (4.5/4.5) on the edge and a pair of 4/4 DTs clogging up the middle. Their back 7 looks to be the real weakness here as outside of the OLBs, only one member of the ILB, CB, FS, SS positions has a potential above 3.5*. True freshman FS Lavonte Nunn (1/4) looks to have already secured a starting position and will have to mature quickly as he will almost certainly be picked on quite often.

 

Interestingly despite their incredible success on the field, Michigan State could not translate that success to recruiting as they somehow wound up 109th in the country with Lavonte as the only 4* croot and no 4.5 or 5.0s. It is a little bewildering how MSU could have such a great season and still not attract any high end talent. While they may be able to pull out another magical season on the back of QB Isaac Tyson, once he leaves this team may plummet down to mediocrity in the future.

Notably, while special teams is usually tough to track and easily glossed over, returner Damian Metz (2.5/4.5) was voted as a 2nd team preseason all American, and if he has a few highlights could spring a few upsets.

MSU did work the transfer portal to make up for the recruiting deficiencies, enticing QB Misu Curtis (3/4) and OLB Abdul Tucker (3.5/3.5) to come in as quite competent backups. However they lost WR Damani Shipp (2.5/3), K Aiden Hayden (3.5/3.5), OG Andrew Stark (2/3), and FB Isaac Youngblood (3.5/3.5) to the portal.

In terms of next year’s expectations, they only have the 63rd most talented roster, although RNN graded them as the 21st best pass rush and the 16th best linebacking corps. Chicago Tribune projects them to go 6.4-5.6 and ranks them 39th while they fell in the preseason ‘Others Receiving Votes’ category.

MSU has an extremely aggressive OOC schedule, with 2 of the 3 most talented teams in the country, TCU and LSU broken up by Central Michigan. Despite last years success they will almost certainly go 1-2 in that stretch although they do draw Iowa, Northwestern, and Minnesota as their cross-division opponents. I just can’t see them taking out Michigan and Ohio State, and think they will pickup another loss or two in addition. I see them as a 6 or 7 win team with this schedule and my preseason Elo has them at 60th for 2023. If Isaac Tyson pulls them to double digit wins he deserves a Heisman and a statue on campus in my opinion.

 

:rutgers: Rutgers (2.5 star prestige)

coached by

:rutgers: @Quasar (3 star prestige)

 

And now it’s time to move onto the less successful half of the division. In 2022 Rutgers padded their schedule with 3 easy wins against New Mexico State, UAB, and Georgia Southern. After that start though, they slipped, with their only wins against Indiana, Minnesota, and Maryland. They were able to secure a postseason bid though, losing the Disney bowl to Army finishing unranked and a 77th place finish in my Elo ratings. Coincidentally they kick off the 2023 season with Army as well which should be interesting to watch.

 

Offensively they were smack dab in the middle of the conference, albeit with a weak rushing attack. QB Blair Sullivan (4.5/4.5) had a 25-13 TD:INT ratio and he graduated leaving the team in the hands of RS FR Omari Ricks-Hargrove (2/5). Going from a pocket passer to a scrambler should be interesting to see, especially with no returning players who recorded a carry last season. RS FR Kahoni Polu (3.5/3.5) will also be taking the reigns here. The strategy will need to change pretty dramatically, and the hope is that Omari can put the team on his back and will them to a few victories. Their receivers aren’t fantastic, but they are all experienced, with 4 players in at least their 4th year in the program and 3.5 potentials.

They do return their entire offensive line, and this is actually a relative strength with a couple of 4.5s and even a 5/5 Center, Beckett Day. Running or scrambling behind the left side of this line could lead to a fair amount of success, but the likelihood is that this team is a year or two away from having a really potent offense.

Defensively, Rutgers was very stingy against the pass, although they did not generate very many turnovers. This is a bit surprising considering the secondary is incredibly average both in talent and last years production. This year they have a pair of 4/4 seniors in CB Thierno Foreman and SS Rodrigo Martinez so they may once again have a surprisingly good year there. The front 7 last year looked abysmal with only 2 true freshman in the whole unit having a potential over 3.5. This year they will be relying on a lot of mature 3.5/3.5s, with the exception of DT Shawn Marshall (2.5/5) and DE Dahntay Parks (1.5/4.5) who will be relied upon to create a lot of havoc up front.

 

It is somewhat of a tough sell getting star recruits to come to Piscataway, as Rutgers ranked 71st in recruiting with 4.5 star Dahntay Parks already sliding into a key role and DE Cameron Berry (1/5) getting a redshirt. In the transfer portal they were able to lure RB Isaiah Clinton (4/4) who should step in and provide an upgrade on the ground in 2024.

 

Somewhat surprisingly, the talent on this roster is 59th in the country and my ELO projects them to finish 63rd, a slight uptick. Chicago Tribune has them 91st and projects them to go 2.7-9.3. I’m not quite that bearish, considering they get to face Army, Miami (OH), and Northern Illinois out of conference. I think they have a chance to sweep their OOC and pick off Indiana for a 4-8 finish. If things click right away offensively they could spring another upset or two, but this team, especially defensively, is just not ready to make noise in 2023 and will likely miss a bowl game.

 

:indiana: Indiana (2 star prestige)

coached by

:indiana: @Jamzz (3 star prestige)

 

2022 was a weird season for Indiana. They went 3-0 OOC against Ball State, New Mexico State, and a pretty good Kentucky. However they promptly went winless in conference except for a shocking 28-19 upset of Nebraska in Lincoln in week 10. To reiterate they beat teams that went 9-3, 11-3, 3-9, and 1-10. Quite a spread there. My Elo had them at 65th at the end of the year and the hope is that they turn those flashes of success into more consistent play this season.

 

They were a little below average in everything in the conference last year. QB Rangi Grey (4/4) is not the guy, completing less than 60% of his passes with a 13:9 TD:INT ratio. He did drop a few hundred yards on the ground to complement RB Kamar Blackmons (4/4) 1000 yard season. That ground attack will be their strength this year as 4/5 of their offensive line are run blockers and they lose their best WR Freddie Jackson (4.5/4.5) to the 1st round of the NFL draft.  The cupboard is pretty bare behind him and with a mix of 3.5/4 s on the line they should be a ground and pound team all the way in 2023.

On defense, they were pretty good against the run, and pretty bad against the pass. Not much to talk about here. They lose CB Orlando Archuleta (3.5/3.5) who had 3 picks although they bring back DEs Vondrae Ledbetter (3/4.5) and Micah Brunner (3.5/3.5) who combined for 13.5 sacks last year. Those Des are unquestionably the stars here with other notables including ILB Jaden Durant (4/4) and JuCo transfer DT Anquan Everett (3.5/4). If you can get to the outside or past the first level however it should be fairly easy sailing against a pretty meh back 7, albeit one that’s fairly old.

Interestingly they do return Ray Guy award winner P P.K. Crowe (5/5) who looks to secure another 1st team all American bid this season. So in that sense they should at least win the field position battle in their games.

 

Their recruiting class ranked 83rd with 6 4* which seems commensurate with their performance and expectations considering their team talent is 82nd nationally.

Chicago Tribune has them at 80th in the preseason with a projected 3.5-8.5 record and my Elo has them as 81st.

 

In 2023 they once again have Ball State and Kentucky along with Texas State. They should win 2 of these and maybe they have Kentucky’s number again this season. Outside of that, the only wins I see are maybe Wisconsin and Rutgers. Overall I would think they go 4-8 missing the postseason again.

That's all from me thus far, be sure to tune in next time for the West division preview!

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Oh but Rangi Grey is the guy now

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8 minutes ago, Jamzz said:

Oh but Rangi Grey is the guy now

A surprise to be sure

but a welcome one I’d imagine

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Excellent article. I think Maryland will finish better than you're shooting for here. You've looked extremely strong for an up and coming team.

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I mostly agree with 4-8 for me, with a chance of 5-7. I've been getting close to the upset early on in the season, but I just don't have the studs to go toe-to-toe with a good team for an entire game this season. Next season I think I'll be set with ORH having a full season under his belt

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