BIG TEN EAST DIVISION
Last year: 6-7, 4-5 Big Ten, fourth in East
Returning starters: 15 (5 offense, 9 defense, kicker, punter)
Players to watch: QB Richard Lagow, WR Simmie Cobbs, WR Nick Westbrook, OT Coy Cronk, TE Danny Friend, LB Tegray Scales, CB Rashard Fant
The big questions: Will IU find a running back to replace Devine Redding, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2015 and 2016? Can quarterback Richard Lagow (19 touchdown passes, 17 turnovers) cut down on bad decisions? With nine returning starters, will the defense be able to build on the dramatic improvement it made last season?
Coach’s quote: “We made great improvement last year defensively, from 2015 to 2016. We were not satisfied with that. We want to be a top 25 defense. “ — Tom Allen
Last year: 6-7, 3-6 Big Ten, fifth in East
Returning starters: 14 (6 offense, 6 defense, punter, kicker)
Players to watch: QB Caleb Henderson, OT Damian Prince, WR D.J. Moore, RB Anthony McFarland, DE Jesse Aniebonam, LB Jermaine Carter Jr.
The big questions: Can the Terrapins stop being pushed around by opposing defensive lines and offensive lines after giving up 49 sacks last season and being outscored 121-6 by Ohio State and Michigan? Will a recruiting class ranked No. 18 nationally provide an immediate upgrade for a team which had a glaring lack of depth in 2016? Who did Maryland make mad at them that its three cross division match-ups are against Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern?
Coach’s quote: “I think we’re recruiting at a level that will put us in the position we want to be in, which is we’re here to win championships. We’re here to compete, to win it.” — D.J. Durkin
Last year: 10-3, 7-2 Big Ten, third in East
Returning starters: 5 (4 offense, 1 defense)
Players to watch: QB Wilton Speight, RB Chris Evans, WR Tarik Black, C Mason Cole, DE Rashan Gary, DT Maurice Hurst, LB Mike McCray, LB Devin Bush
The big questions: Can Michigan add a third season of 10 wins or more in Jim Harbaugh’s third season as its coach despite losing 11 players to the NFL draft and having only one returning starter on defense? Is Harbaugh serious that QB Wilton Speight (2,538 yards, 18 touchdowns) will have to compete for the starting job? Can the Wolverines produce a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2011?
Coach’s quote: “Young and untalented is bad. Young and talented, that’s good. It’s a good thing.” — Jim Harbaugh
Last year: 3-9, 1-8 Big Ten, sixth in East
Returning starters: 7 (3 offense, 3 defense, punter)
Players to watch: QB Brian Lewerke, RB L.J. Scott, C Brian Allen, WR Hunter Rison, DE Raequan Williams, CB Josiah Scott
The big questions: Is Michigan State still among the Big Ten’s elite program or have last season’s struggles, combined with off the field legal issues, knocked the Spartans from the ranks of the top teams after 36 wins in three seasons? Is Brian Lewerke the answer at quarterback? Will the Spartans get better line play on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense where they had only 11 sacks.
Coach’s quote: “We established ourselves as a championship program inch by inch. There was nothing ever given to us. We have to go back to that mindset and understand that things don’t come easy.” — Mark Dantonio
Last year: 11-2, 8-1 Big Ten, tie for first in East
Returning starters: 15 (8 offense, 7 defense)
Players to watch: QB J.T. Barrett, RB Mike Weber, C Billy Price, DE Tyquan Lewis, DE Sam Hubbard, DE Nick Bosa, LB Jerome Baker, LB Chris Worley, CB Denzel Ward
The big questions: Will OSU challenge for a spot in the College Football Playoff again? Will J.T. Barrett be the Heisman Trophy contender he was in 2014 or the inconsistent passer he has been at times the last two years? Can Ohio State find some productive wide receivers?
Coach’s quote: “I feel extremely strong about the top tier leadership of our team and history shows that usually indicates a good, solid team.”— Urban Meyer
Last year: 11-3, 8-1 Big Ten, champion Big Ten
Returning starters: 18 (9 offense, 7 defense, kicker, punter)
Players to watch: QB Trace McSorley, RB Saquon Barkley, TE Chris Gesicki, WR DaeSean Hamilton, LB Jason Cabinda, FS Marcus Allen
The big questions: Can the Nittany Lions challenge for a spot in the College Football Playoff? How will they handle being the hunted instead of the hunter? Who will fill the spot of cornerback John Reid (torn ACL)?
Coach’s quote: “We think we have a lot of pieces of the puzzle in place. We only had one senior on offense last year and only two seniors on defense, so we were one of the youngest teams in college football.” — James Franklin
Last year: 2-10, 0-9 Big Ten, seventh in East
Returning starters: 15 (5 offense, 8 defense, kicker, punter)
Players to watch: QB Kyle Bolin, RB Robert Martin, WR Janarion Grant, OT Tariq Cole, DT Sebastian Joseph, FS Saquan Hampton
The big questions: Is there any way but up to go for an offense which scored one touchdown or fewer in eight games last season? Will receiver/kick returner Janarion Grant, who missed most of last season with a broken ankle, give Rutgers a big play threat? Can the defense, which allowed 37.5 points a game last season, improve?
Coach’s quote: “We’ve pressed the reset button and it’s a new team, new focus, new commitment, new energy and we’re excited to get going.” — Chris Ash
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