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Of the two divisions in the Big 10 this one is generally regarded as the toughest because Ohio State resides here. Throw in former perennial powerhouses Michigan and Penn State and the name recognition is surely there. And the Spartans at Michigan State have had their moments in recent years.
But, the division belongs to Ohio State and they rule the roost over everyone else. However, they are more vulnerable than they have been in awhile as they head into the 2021 season. They will start the season with a QB who has never thrown a pass in a college football game. That is always an ominous thing and is a great concern. It is Ohio State and they obviously have talent at that position but it hasn’t been proven yet. They also lost a great running back to the NFL and must find linebackers on defense as their top four from last year are gone. That all adds up to a chance for the others in the division to move up.
Indiana broke through last year and finished with a 6-2 record. Can they repeat that in 2021? They have a dynamic QB in Michael Penix Jr. and if he is healthy he might be the best at his position in the entire conference. But, he suffered a second ACL injury to his right knee and it is yet to be determined how much that will hamper his mobility. Their conference schedule is formidable and they will have to be even better this year.
Penn State returns 17 starters including QB Sean Clifford and WR Jahan Dotson. The Nittany Lions return six starters on a defense that will need to be much better this year than they were last year. They have a potential NFL first rounder in LT Rasheed Walker and expect to see a lot out of Baylor transfer RB John Lovett.
Michigan has question marks at QB that need to be solved before they can think about championships again. The running back position is strong and the receivers and offensive line should be better than in 2020. The defense returns 9 starters and they need to improve on a so-so performance that yielded far too many points. The Wolverines are probably another year away from contending.
Rutgers, Maryland, and Michigan State figure to battle it out for the last 3 places in the division as usual. Whoever beats who will probably emerge as the 5th place finisher. Michigan State has had a lot of success in the past and will be back but they are probably a year away. Rutgers just doesn’t seem like a good fit in this conference and why Maryland left the ACC is another puzzle to me.
I would really like to say that someone else will win this division beside Ohio State but I just can’t make that jump.
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