2014 brings more realignment to college football and in this particular case it’s the Big Ten. Rutgers and Maryland join the numerically challenged conference to bring the total now to 14. Also changed are the division names which go from the controversial ‘Leaders’ and ‘Legends’ Divisions to the much more geographically correct ‘East’ and ‘West.’
Today, I’m looking at the odds on who will represent the Big Ten East in the Big Ten Championship Game. As of today, this looks like a two-horse race.
Indiana 33/1 – The Hoosiers started well last season and were competitive in several games before losing. They eventually finished 5-7. The schedule presents some tough road games against SEC East Champ Missouri, MAC Champ Bowling Green and Big Ten Division Champ Ohio State. There’s a chance for the Hoosiers to get six wins but there is no room for error.
Maryland 50/1 – The Terrapins start their inaugural Big Ten Season coming off a 7-6 season in which they went just 3-5 in their division. Their first season features trips to Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State but they do get division heavyweights Michigan State and Ohio State at home. I don’t see the Terps getting to .500 this year.
Michigan 5/1 – Hard to believe that Brady Hoke is on the hot seat but he is. The Wolverines have struggled against the two teams they cannot afford to struggle against; Michigan State and Ohio State. Michigan is expected to vie for titles every season and they haven’t. Former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has come aboard to straighten out this offense. The Wolverines have trips to both of their rivals in East Lansing and Columbus and host Appalachian State in the opener and we all know what happened last time they came to the Big House. I see another struggle for Michigan in 2014. Eight wins would be welcome.
Michigan State 13/5 – The Spartans are in prime position for not just another Big Ten Title run but perhaps a shot at the four-team playoff as well. QB Connor Cook is back and as confident as ever and although they have a few guys to replace defensively, I expect that unit to be very good again. The schedule has one daunting road game at that’s a long trip to Oregon. The only other road game that poses a threat is at Penn State in the finale. The great news is that Sparty gets Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska in Spartan Stadium. The game with the Buckeyes will decide the East Division title.
Ohio State 5/2 – The Buckeyes’ schedule is almost as favorable as Michigan State’s with daunting road games at MSU and Penn State. Outside of that, Urban Meyer’s charges will get Virginia Tech, Cincinnati and Michigan at home. OSU was 12-0 last season before Meyer suffered his first defeat as their head coach in the Big Ten Title Game. Braxton Miller is back, but the offense does have Carlos Hyde to replace. Because of Meyer’s recruiting they will be a national contender again and that trip to East Lansing could decide their fate on several levels.
Penn State NL – The Nittany Lions are still ineligible to win the Big Ten East Division title. I expect an above .500 season from new head coach James Franklin.
Rutgers 100/1 – After a road trip to Washington State in the opener, the Scarlet Knights have four of the next five at home. Among them are Michigan and Penn State. Rutgers received no favors from the scheduling department as they drew the top two teams from the West in Wisconsin who they get at home and Nebraska where must travel. With other away games at Navy and at Ohio State, the Scarlet Knights will be lucky to get to .500 this season.