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2015 Week 11 Big Ten Roundup

Michigan had another thriller in 2015 and they came out on top once again. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)
Michigan had another thriller in 2015 and they came out on top once again. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

2015 Week 11 Big Ten Roundup

#3 Ohio State Buckeyes at Illinois Fighting Illini

Result: Ohio State Win 28-3

Ohio State did not have any issues dealing with Illinois despite a slow start on offense. JT Barrett returned at quarterback and went a solid 15 of 23 for 150 yards with a touchdown and interception. He was also effective with his legs running for 74 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

Ezekiel Elliott continues to have an excellent season, albeit without the fanfare of over players in the nation. He ran for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 carries. Elliott has now ran for 100 or more rushing yards in 15 straight games dating back to last year.

Michael Thomas was the leading receiver with 6 catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, Jalin Marshall caught 4 passes for 38 yards, and Nick Vannett had 3 grabs for 31 yards. Ohio State struggled on third down with only 4 conversions on 13 attempts, but did convert 2 of 3 fourth down attempts. They put up 460 yards of offense.

Illinois struggled to put together any big drives. Wes Lunt went 23 of 47 for 241 yards, but struggled to find his top playmaker in Geronimo Allison (1 catch for 38 yards). Josh Ferguson was held to 49 yards on 12 carries while also having 5 catches for 26 yards. Desmond Cain had 10 catches for 102 yards for his second consecutive big game for the freshman. Malik Turner finished with 5 catches for 61 yards. Illinois went 5 of 17 on third down and put up 261 yards of offense.

Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) has a big game next week at home against Michigan State while Illinois (5-5, 2-4) faces Minnesota on the road.

Maryland Terrapins at #13 Michigan State Spartans

Result: Michigan State Win 24-7

Michigan State played a large portion of their game against Maryland without quarterback Connor Cook, but that was not much of an issue as the defense stifled the Terrapins on offense.

Connor Cook struggled in his playing time going 6 of 20 for 77 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Backup Tyler O’Connor went 6 of 11 for 44 yards and a touchdown pass to Macgarrett Kings who finished with 4 catches for 48 yards to lead the team. R.J. Shelton had 3 catches for 35 yards while Aaron Burbridge was held to just 3 catches for 27 yards.

10 different Michigan State players registered a rush, but Gerald Holmes had the most rushes going for 83 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The Spartans put up just 262 yards of offense and went 6 of 16 on third down. It was clear they were not the same offense with Cook out.

Maryland was led by Perry Hills again, but he only went 14 of 30 for 140 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He finished second on the team in rushing as well with 39 yards on 16 carries. Caleb Rowe also had some time at quarterback, but went 3 of 5 for 42 yards with 2 interceptions.

Wes Brown had 52 yards rushing on 12 carries while Brandon Ross had the lone touchdown via the rushing game for Maryland. Amba Etta-Tawo led Maryland with 5 catches for 63 yards and Levern Jacobs had 3 catches for 55 yards. Maryland actually outgained Michigan State by 27 yards (289 to 262), but went 4 of 16 on third down.

Maryland (2-8, 0-6) faces Indiana next weekend at home with a chance to keep Indiana out of a bowl game. Michigan State (9-1, 5-1) has the tough task of going on the road to the Horseshoe and play Ohio State.

Purdue Boilermakers at #18 Northwestern Wildcats

Result: Northwestern Win 21-14

Northwestern used a dominant rushing attack to power their way to 8-2. The Wildcats threw only 24 passes the entire game and needed a late touchdown to get past Purdue 21-14.

Clayton Thorson went 9 of 19 for 82 yards with an interception after an injury scare last week knocked him out against Penn State. Zack Oliver went 2 of 5 for 50 yards and threw an interception as well. Justin Jackson ran for 116 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. It was his 6th game with over 100 yards rushing and Northwestern is 6-0 when he runs for over 100 yards this year.

Warren Long had 6 rushes for 52 yards and 2 touchdowns while Thorson had 48 yards on 7 carries. Miles Shuler even ran twice for 30 yards. Solomon Vault had 2 catches for 53 yards to lead the team. Northwestern ran for 250 yards as a team and finished with 382 yards of offense. They were solid on third down going 8 of 17.

Purdue did not play poorly, but could not get some of their drives going to threaten the Northwestern defense. David Blough went 26 of 45 for 287 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Markell Jones had 58 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, but the run game was largely held in check by Northwestern.

Domonique Young led the team in receiving with 5 catches for 107 yards thanks to his 68 yard touchdown grab early in the game. Markell Jones had 68 yards on 5 catches while DeAngelo Yancey caught 4 passes for 39 yards. Purdue’s offense had 360 yards and went 8 of 19 on third down.

Purdue (2-8, 1-5) will have a second straight road game next week with a trip to Iowa. Northwestern (8-2, 4-2) has a road game next week as well. They will play Wisconsin in Madison with the Badgers coming off a bye week.

#14 Michigan Wolverines at Indiana Hoosiers

Result: Michigan Win 48-41 in double overtime

Michigan survived yet another late game scare to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive. Indiana lost another close game to keep them winless in conference play.

Jake Rudock had himself a game going 33 of 46 for 440 yards with 6 touchdowns and one pick. He was able to pass at will on the defense while also leading the team in rushing with 64 yards. De’Veon Smith had 58 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Jehu Chesson had a big game as well catching four (!) touchdown passes to finish the game with 10 catches for 207 yards. Amara Darboh had 8 catches for 109 yards and the eventual game winning touchdown while Jake Butt had 7 grabs for 82 yards and a score. Michigan put up 581 yards of offense and went six of 12 on third down.

Nate Sudfeld had a solid game going 20 of 34 for 220 yards and a touchdown. However, the story was running back Jordan Howard rushing for 238 yards and 2 touchdown on 35 carries against what had been a stout Michigan defense. Simmie Cobbs had 4 catches for 86 yards and Ricky Jones had 4 catches for 42 yards. Indiana put up a staggering 527 yards of offense against Michigan and went a combined 9 of 22 on third and fourth downs.

Michigan (8-2, 5-1) faces Penn State next week on the road while still having a chance to win the Big Ten East division and play in the Big Ten Championship. Indiana (4-6, 0-6) has to win their final two games to make a bowl game, but they are both winnable. They face Maryland next week on the road before playing against Purdue in two weeks on the road.

Nebraska Cornhuskers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Result: Nebraska Win 31-14

Nebraska followed up their big win last week against Michigan State with a nice victory over Rutgers on the road.

Tommy Armstrong had an up and down day going 14 of 21 for only 188 yards. He had 3 touchdowns through the air, but also threw 3 picks. Imani Cross ran for 90 yards on 20 carries. Cethan Carter had his best game in 2015 going for a not only 32 yard touchdown run, but also catching 4 passes for 57 yards and another score. Jordan Westerkamp was relatively quiet catching 3 passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. Nebraska put up 362 yards of offense and went 5 of 11 on third down.

Rutgers was led by Chris Laviano at quarterback, but he only went 13 of 27 for 165 yards and 2 interceptions. Janarion Grant had the lone passing touchdown for Rutgers throwing to Laviano on a trick play for the 5 yard score.

Josh Hicks had 61 yards rushing on 12 carries while Robert Martin had 12 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown. Leonte Carroo came back from injury to post a team high 62 yards on 4 catches. Janarion Grant had 4 catches for 58 yards as well as his passing touchdown. Rutgers posted 259 yards of offense, but went 3 of 14 on third down and did not convert any of their 4 fourth down attempts.

Nebraska (5-6, 3-4) will need to win the final regular season contest on November 27 against Iowa to make it to a bowl game. That game will be at home so the Huskers will have that in their corner. Rutgers (3-7, 1-6) faces Army on the road next week in their final non-conference game.

Minnesota Golden Gophers at #5 Iowa Hawkeyes

Result: Iowa Win 40-35

A defensive game was expected between Minnesota and Iowa, but the offenses took over the show as Iowa held on for a 40-35 victory to stay undefeated.

Mitch Leidner had another big game through the air again going 19 of 27 for 259 yards and a touchdown. He also had a rushing touchdown along with 32 rushing yards. Shannon Brooks showed off his wheels and arm with a 42 yard touchdown pass to Drew Wolitarsky and rushing for 86 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

KJ Maye had 7 catches for 106 yards to keep his hot streak going. In the last 4 games, Maye has caught 34 passes for 374 yards and a touchdown. In the first 6 games, he had 22 catches for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Brandon Lingen had 6 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown for his second 100 yard receiving game in the last 3 contests. Wolitarsky finished with 3 catches for 71 yards and the score from Brooks. Minnesota put up 434 yards per game and went 5 of 10 on third down.

C.J. Beathard went 18 of 26 for 213 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, but did have success on the ground. He had 50 yards and 2 scores on 10 carries while LeShun Daniels ran all over the field to the tune of 195 yards and 3 touchdowns on 26 carries. Jordan Canzeri ran just 10 times for 31 yards in his return from injury.

Matt VandeBerg recorded 6 catches for 74 yards, Henry Krieger Coble had 3 catches for 61 yards, and George Kittle had 5 grabs for 44 yards. Tevaun Smith had 2 catches for 35 yards. Iowa racked up 506 yards of offense and went an excellent 10 of 15 on third down.

Minnesota (4-6, 1-5) can still make a bowl game by winning out and it begins next week at home against Illinois. Iowa (10-0, 6-0) clinches the Big Ten East title with a win at home against Purdue next week.

Check back next Sunday for a recap of Week 12’s Big Ten action.

2015 College Football Preview: Big 10 East

Ohio State won the 2015 College Football Playoff Championship. Can they do it again in 2015? (Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)
Ohio State won the 2015 College Football Playoff Championship. Can they do it again in 2015? (Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

2015 College Football Preview: Big 10 East

Part fifteen of Sports Enthusiasts’ 2015 College Football Preview takes a closer look at the Big 10 East division. We will also take a look at the Big 10 Championship game, giving a prediction of that projected contest as well. Below is a look at each of the conferences already previewed as well as the previews still to come.

MAC East Division – July 1

MAC West Division – July 3

Mountain West, Mountain Division – July 7

Mountain West, West Division – July 10

C-USA East Division – July 14

C-USA West Division – July 17

The American East Division – July 21

The American West Division – July 24

FBS Independents – July 28

Sun Belt – July 28

Big 12 – July 31

ACC Coastal Division – August 4

ACC Atlantic Division – August 7

Big 10 West Division – August 11

Big 10 East Division – August 14

Pac-12 North Division – August 18

Pac-12 South Division – August 21

SEC East Division – August 25

SEC West Division – August 28

Let’s take a closer look at the Big 10’s East Division.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

Urban Meyer took over in 2012 and led Ohio State to a 12-0 record, but the Buckeyes were not eligible for the postseason. In 2013, the Buckeyes were on their way to the National Championship, but lost to Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship game and then also lost to Clemson in the Orange Bowl to fall to 12-2. In 2014, Ohio State suffered a shock loss at home to Virginia Tech in the second game before reeling off 13 straight wins including the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship. 2015 looks like more of the same for Ohio State: excellence.

Ohio State will have seven starters back on offense from a unit that put up 44.8 points and 512 yards per game. Of course, the trio of JT Barrett, Cardale Jones, and Braxton Miller will be back with Miller moving from quarterback to wide receiver. Barrett threw for 2,834 yards with 34 touchdown and 10 interceptions before Jones came in for the injured Barrett and threw for 860 yards with 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in the final three games. Ezekiel Elliott is returning at running back after rushing for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns. Most of the receivers return sans Devin Smith (33 catches for 931 yards and 12 touchdowns). Michael Thomas (54 catches for 788 yards and 9 touchdowns), Jalin Marshall (38 catches for 499 yards and 6 touchdowns), and Dontre Wilson (21 catches for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns) are back along with Miller moving over from QB. The offensive line has four starters back and this offense will continue to be one of the best in the nation.

The defense also returns seven starters from a group that allowed 22 points and 342 yards per game. Joey Bosa returns on the line after recording 53 tackles, 13.5 sacks, and 7.5 tackles for loss while being named 1st Team All-American last year. He will miss the opening game against Virginia Tech along with Jalin Marshall. Joshua Perry (124 tackles, 3 sacks, and 5.5 tackles for loss) and Darron Lee (81 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 9 tackles for loss) return at linebacker after those two were the #1 and #3 tacklers last year respectively. The secondary has three starters back led by Vonn Bell (92 tackles, 6 pass breakups, and 6 interceptions) and Tyvis Powell (76 tackles, 4 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions). The defense will be solid once again and could improve on the numbers they allowed last year.

Ohio State opens up with Virginia Tech on the road and will surely be looking to exact a measure of revenge. Their final three non-conference games are at home against Hawaii, Northern, Illinois, and Western Michigan. The Buckeyes will face Indiana, Rutgers, and Michigan on the road while playing Maryland, Penn State, and Michigan State at home. From the West, Ohio State has Minnesota (home) and Illinois (road). Ohio State is clearly the team to beat not only in the East, but all of the Big 10. Ohio State has an excellent chance at running the table and making it back-to-back National Championships in 2015.

2. Michigan State Spartans

Since 2010, Michigan State has been one of the elite teams in the Big 10 with four season of at least 11 wins. 2013 was the best year under Mark Dantonio when they went 13-1 winning both the Big 10 and the Rose Bowl that season. 2014 was another very good year with MSU going 11-2 including that incredible come from behind win against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. What will 2015 bring?

The offense has seven starters back led by quarterback Connor Cook. Cook threw for 3,214 yards with 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The trio of Madre London, LJ Scott, and Gerald Holmes will look to replace the production of Jeremy Langford (1,522 yards and 22 touchdowns). The top two receivers are gone, but returning are Macgarrett Kings (29 catches for 404 yards and a touchdown), Josiah Price (26 catches for 374 yards and 6 touchdowns), and Aaron Burbridge (29 catches for 358 yards and a touchdown). RJ Shelton is coming over from running back after grabbing 16 passes for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns. The offensive line has four starters back as well. The offense put up 43 points and 501 yards of offense last year and probably will not match those numbers. However, they can still put up plenty of offense with Cook commanding the offense.

The defense has seven starters back from a group that allowed 21.5 points and 316 yards per game. The line has three starters back in Lawrence Thomas (30 tackles and 3 sacks), Joel Heath (29 tackles and 2.5 sacks), and Shilique Calhoun (39 tackles, 8 sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss). The linebacking unit has Ed Davis (48 tackles, 7 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss) and Darien Harris (48 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and an interception) back. The secondary has Darian Hicks and RJ Williamson (59 tackles and 3 interceptions) back to help against the pass. The numbers Michigan State allowed in 2014 were pretty good and could improve even more in 2015.

The Spartans have Western Michigan on the road to start the season before a big game at home against Oregon. They round out non-conference play with Air Force and Central Michigan at home as well. In conference, they will face Rutgers, Michigan, and Ohio State on the road while playing Indiana, Maryland, and Penn State at home. From the East, MSU has to play Purdue (home) and Nebraska (road). Michigan State has a chance to win the East if they can upset Ohio State on November 21 along with everything else falling in place. At the least, Michigan State should see another 10+ win season under Dantonio.

3. Michigan Wolverines

Brady Hoke came to Michigan in 2011 with a lot of hype. In his first year, he seemed to validate the hype by going 11-2 and leading Michigan to a Sugar Bowl victory. The next three seasons were all downhill for the Wolverines as they went 8-5 in 2012 to 7-6 in 2013 to 5-7 in 2014, which ended Hoke’s tenure at Michigan. Enter Jim Harbaugh for 2015 and he has created a lot of excitement as well as the constant headlines without coaching a game at UM. What could the actual football season produce then?

The offense for Michigan has eight starters returning from a group that produced a lackluster 20.9 points and 333 yards per game. There will be a battle for the quarterback duties between Iowa transfer Jake Rudock (2,436 yards with 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions last year) and Shane Morris (128 yards and 3 interceptions in backup duty). The running back trio of De’Veon Smith (519 yards and 6 touchdowns), Derrick Green (471 yards and 3 touchdowns), and Drake Johnson (361 yards and 4 touchdowns) will be joined by USC transfer Ty Isaac (236 yards in 2013). Devin Funchess has departed, but the next four receivers all return. Amara Darboh had 36 catches for 473 yards and 2 touchdowns, Jake Butt had 21 catches for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Jehu Chesson won 14 catches for 154 yards. There are four starters back on the offensive line and the Michigan offense should be able to produce much better this year compared to 2014.

The defense has seven starters back from a unit that allowed 22.4 points and 311 yards in a solid year. The line has two starters back from a unit that allowed 118 rushing yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. The top returning linebacker this year will be Joe Bolden after recording 102 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss last year. The secondary will be strong with three returning starters and Stanford transfer Wayne Lyons. Lyons had 124 tackles in 22 starts in his three years at Stanford. Jarrod Wilson will be safety again this year after recording 50 tackles last year, which was good enough for third on the team. The defense will be solid once again, even in Harbaugh’s first season.

Michigan has a tough non-conference schedule with the opening game against Utah on the road before three straight home games versus Oregon State, UNLV, and BYU. In conference, they will play Maryland, Indiana, and Penn State on the road and take on Michigan State, Rutgers, and Ohio State at home. From the East, Michigan faces Northwestern (home) and Minnesota (road). Harbaugh should be able to lead Michigan back to a bowl game and might have a chance to reach 10 wins with a victory in the bowl game.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions

Bill O’Brien took over in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and did quite well given the sanctions levied against Penn State. He led PSU to back-to-back winning seasons going 8-4 in 2012 and 7-5 in 2013. The Nittany Lions were not eligible for a bowl either season due to the scandal and O’Brien left to take over the Houston Texans in the NFL. James Franklin became head coach in 2014 and led PSU to a 7-6 record and one point win in the Pinstripe bowl over Boston College.

The offense will have eight starters back from a group that put up 20.6 points and 335 yards per game. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for 2,977 yards with 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while being considered by some as the top prospect of the 2016 NFL Draft. Akeel Lynch ran for 678 yards and 4 touchdowns despite only starting two games last year. Three of the top four receivers are returning led by DaeSean Hamilton, who had 82 catches for 899 yards and 2 touchdowns as a freshman. Geno Lewis (55 catches for 751 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Chris Godwin (26 catches for 338 yards and 2 touchdowns) return as well. With four starters back on the offensive line, the offense should perform better in 2015 with a year of Franklin’s schemes under their belts.

The defense was excellent in 2014 allowing just 18.6 points and 279 yards per game. They now return seven starters from last year including the second through sixth leading tacklers. The line has Austin Johnson (49 tackles, 1 sack, and 5 tackles for loss) and Anthony Zettel (42 tackles, 8 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, and 3 interceptions) back from a unit that allowed only 100 yards rushing per game and 2.9 yards per carry. Two are back at linebacker led by Nyeem Wartman, who had 75 tackles (#2 on team). They do lose Mike Hull, who was fantastic in 2014 with 140 tackles, 2 sacks, and 8.5 tackles for loss. The secondary will have three starters back in Trevor Williams (27 tackles, 5 pass breakups, 2 interceptions), Jordan Lucas (58 tackles, 2 sacks, and 9 pass breakups), and Marcus Allen (58 tackles, 1 sack, and 3 pass breakups) to make this one of the better secondaries in the Big 10. The defense could match last year’s numbers, but at the very least, should be solid again.

Penn State opens with a road game at Temple before facing Buffalo, San Diego State, and Army at home to close out the non-conference slate. Rutgers, Indiana, Michigan will be coming to State College while PSU will travel to play Ohio State, Maryland (Baltimore), and Michigan State. From the West, Penn State will take on Illinois (home) and Northwestern (road). The Nittany Lions should be better in 2015 and could have a chance to win 10 games with an upset or two.

5. Indiana Hoosiers

Kevin Wilson has been in charge at Indiana since 2011 and has yet to make a bowl game. He has an overall record of 14-34 and his best chance of making a bowl game was in 2013 when the Hoosiers went 5-7. The offense has not been much of an issue under Wilson while the defense is the Achilles heel in his tenure thus far. Will the defense be good enough to reach 6-6 in 2015?

The offense has seven starters back after putting up 25.1 points and 405 yards per game. Gone is Tevin Coleman, who ran for 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns. Replacing Coleman is UAB transfer Jordan Howard, who ran for 1,587 and 13 touchdowns in 2014. He probably will not match Coleman’s output, but he is quite the pick up to replace him. Nate Sudfeld started the first six games throwing for 1,151 yards with 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, but suffered a shoulder injury that knocked him out for the year. Zander Diamont came in to start the last six and threw for 515 yards with 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions. He was also more mobile than Sudfeld and ran for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns. Receiver is a bit of a concern with the top returning target in J-Shun Harris. Harris had only 18 catches for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns. Camion Patrick has transferred from junior college while Dominique Booth (8 catches for 70 yards) and Simmie Cobbs (7 catches for 114 yards) could step up. There are four starters back on the offensive line to provide ample time for the receivers and running backs. The offense should be able to improve this season with a healthy quarterback.

The defense has five starters back from a unit that allowed 32.8 points and 434 yards per game. Those numbers were the best under Wilson in his tenure, but will need to get better if Indiana is to make a bowl game this year. The line has three starters back led by Nick Mangieri, who had 37 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception. TJ Simmons is the lone linebacker returning after recording 72 tackles (#2 on team), 2 sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss. The only returning member of the secondary is Antonio Allen, who led the team with 74 tackles, but also had 1 sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 2 interceptions. The defense will probably have similar numbers to last year, which puts the burden on the offense.

Indiana opens the year with three home games against Southern Illinois, Florida International, and Western Kentucky. Their final non-conference game is on the road at Wake Forest, but they could be 4-0 heading into conference play. In division play, Indiana has Ohio State, Rutgers, and Michigan at home while facing Penn State, Michigan State, and Maryland on the road. From the West, Indiana has to play Iowa (home) and Purdue (road). If Indiana goes 4-0 in non-conference play, they have an excellent chance at reaching 6-6 by winning two of three against Rutgers, Maryland, and Purdue.

6. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Kyle Flood started at Rutgers in 2012 when they were still in the Big East. He went 9-4 in this first year, then dropped down to 6-7 in 2013 when Rutgers was in The American. 2014 was the first season of Rutgers’ Big 10 career and it ended well with an 8-5 record and a 40-21 dusting of North Carolina in the Quick Lane bowl. 2015 could a rough year for Rutgers after early success in the Big 10.

The offense will have five starters back from a unit that put up 26.7 points and 390 yards per game. Quarterback will most likely go to Chris Laviano, who threw for only 107 yards with 1 interception in backup duty behind Gary Nova last year. There is a plethora of running backs returning with the top five rushers from 2014 all back. Paul James started the first four games and rushed for 363 yards with 5 touchdowns, but was injured and missed the rest of the year. Desmon Peoples was the top rusher with 447 yards and 3 touchdowns while Josh Hicks ran for 440 yards and 2 touchdowns. Robert Martin added 434 yards and 7 touchdowns while Justin Goodwin had 328 yards and a touchdown. The top receiver returns for Rutgers in Leonte Carroo, who caught 55 passes for 1,086 yards and 10 touchdowns. Janarion Grant also returns after having 25 catches for 312 yards. There are three starters back on the line and there is plenty of pieces in place for the offense to match last year’s numbers.

The defense has slumped the last two years for Rutgers. In 2013, the defense gave up 29.8 points and 413 yards per game with only four starters back. Last year, the defense did worse by allowing 30.2 points and 443 yards per game with seven starters back. There will be five starters back this season with two residing on the defensive line. Darius Hamilton had 45 tackles, 6 sacks, and 5.5 tackles for loss and Djwany Mera had 18 tackles and 1.5 sacks last year will lead the line this year. Quentin Gause is one of two returning linebackers after recording 72 tackles, 1 sack, and 6 tackles for loss. The other is Steve Longa, who led the team with 102 tackles and also recorded 2 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. Just one starter is back in the secondary and that is Nadir Barnwell. He had 29 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 4 pass breakups last year. The defense could struggle again in 2015 for the third straight year.

Rutgers opens the season with Norfolk State and Washington State at home. Their non-conference schedule also includes Kansas at home and a road trip to Army on November 21. Rutgers will face Penn State, Indiana, and Michigan on the road while playing Michigan State, Ohio State, and Maryland at home. From the West, Rutgers has to play Wisconsin (road) and Nebraska (home) in one of the toughest draws. Rutgers will need a couple of upsets to reach another bowl game in 2015.

7. Maryland Terrapins

Randy Edsall came to Maryland from Connecticut in 2011 after leading Connecticut to a Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2010. It has been a steady improvement under Edsall with the Terps going 2-10 in 2011 and 4-8 in 2012. The past two seasons have produced identical 7-6 records. What does 2015 have in store for Edsall and company?

The offense has six starters back from a group that produced 28.5 points and 342 yards per game. Caleb Rowe will take over the quarterback duties. He threw for 489 yards with 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions last year, but does have starting experience dating back to the 2013 campaign. The top rusher last year was quarterback CJ Brown, who had 539 yards, but he has departed. Brandon Ross ran for 419 yards and 4 touchdowns while Wes Brown had 356 yards and 6 touchdowns. They will need to be much more productive in 2015 if the offense is to perform better. Stefon Diggs was the top receiver the last few years, but he has gone on to the NFL. Marcus Leak is the top returning receiver with 20 catches for 297 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jacquille Veil had 16 catches for 230 yards and a touchdown while Amba Etta-Tawo had 10 grabs for 22 yards and 1 touchdown. The offensive line has three starters back, but the losses may hurt the Terps this year.

The defense has only four starters back this season. Last year’s group allowed 30.2 points and 436 yards per game with nine starters returning. Yannick Ngakoue is back on the line after recording 37 tackles, 6 sacks, and 7.5 tackles for loss. The linebacking unit was decimated with no starters returning. Jermaine Carter is the top linebacker returning after recording 27 tackles in 2014. The secondary is the strength of the defense with three starters back including Sean Davis at safety. He had 115 tackles, 1 sack, 3 tackles for loss, and 8 pass breakups last season. Despite the strong secondary, the defense will have some issues with the lack of experience in the front seven.

Maryland opens the season with Richmond, Bowling Green, and South Florida at home before traveling to face West Virginia on the road. They will play Michigan, Penn State (Baltimore), and Indiana at home while going on the road to take on Ohio State, Michigan State, and Rutgers. From the West, they will have to play Iowa (road) and Wisconsin (home). Maryland will get close to bowl eligibility, but may have to settle for a rebuilding year with the lack of experience in 2015.

Overview

The Big 10 East appears to be fairly easy to discern. Ohio State is clearly the top team while Michigan State is the only challenger to them. Michigan and Penn State are in the next tier while Indiana, Rutgers, and Maryland will battle to stay out of the cellar. Below is the predicted order of finish.

1. Ohio State

2. Michigan State

3. Michigan

4. Penn State

5. Indiana

6. Rutgers

7. Maryland

Big 10 Championship

Wisconsin was predicted as the winner of the Big 10 West division earlier this week, which sets up a rematch of 2014’s Big 10 Championship Game. In a game between Wisconsin and Ohio State, we will go with Ohio State to win again and to make the College Football Playoff.

The Pac-12 Conference will be previewed next week with the North Division on Tuesday and the South Division on Friday.