The east is the beast in Big Ten Football. Though that doesn't appear likely to change in the near future, last year Iowa came within a whisker of claiming the crown for the west. 

In one of the greatest drives to win a football game that you likely will ever see, Michigan State drove 82 yards on 22 plays in nine minutes four seconds to win, 16-13. Not only did the drive assure Michigan State winning the Big Ten Championship Game, they also won a spot in the College Football Playoff.

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Back to the now, The following is a predicted order of finish for the eastern division in the 2016 regular season:

  • 1) Ohio State
  • 2) Michigan
  • 3) Michigan State
  • 4) Penn State
  • 5) Indiana
  • 6) Maryland
  • 7) Rutgers

7) Rutgers

The good news is the team returns 15 starters from last year's squad. The bad news is last year's team went 4-8. New coach Chris Ash will be working with upper-class men in most of the starters.

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That's good news because the change in offense the new coordinator brings will be a huge one. Defensively, new coordinator Jay Niemann will be running a 4-3, with the front four being the defensive's strength. Last season, Rutgers averaged giving up 35 points per game. A number that must improve if the overall record is to improve.    With a difficult schedule and all the changes, The Scarlet Knights will be fortunate if they win as many as last year. 

6) Maryland

If you looked solely at the offensive and defensive averages last year, you couldn't tell the difference between the Terrapins and Rutgers.

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Maybe that's why both have new coaching staffs. Both teams also have a way to go to catch up with the big three in terms of talent within the division. Overall talent is an important issue that Maryland and Rutgers will need several recruiting cycles to fix. Without seeing how well the coaching staffs have done by watching the teams play, Maryland's easier out-of-conference schedule gives them a clear leg up on Rutgers this season.

5) Indiana

Indiana finished the season 6-7 in 2015. The record isn't much to be excited about. However, a closer look shows a seven point loss to Ohio State (27-34), a three point loss to Rutgers (52-55), an eight point loss to Iowa (27-35), a seven point OT loss to Michigan (41-48) and a three point OT loss to Duke (41-44). That's five one score games lost. Take all five and this is a 11-2 team.

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While that's not likely, it does show the Hoosiers were much closer to being an upper tier team than their record reflects. With 13 starters returning, Head Coach Kevin Wilson has a lot to work with. The numbers reveal an offense that is ranked 24th in the nation and a defense ranked 117th. Pretty obvious where the opportunities lie here. 

4) Penn State

Head Coach James Franklin enters year three with a third straight top twenty five recruiting class.

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He has also brought in a new offensive and defensive coordinator. Last season, Penn State averaged nearly 23 points per game and ranked number 101 nationally. The new coordinator, Joe Moorhead is installing a no-huddle spread offensive system. With the improvement in talent overall, and assuming the coaching is good -- and it is -- they should show immediate improvement in the offensive numbers. Co-defensive coordinator Brent Pry was promoted to defensive coordinator when Tennessee lured Bob Shoop  away to become the Volunteers defensive coordinator in the off season.

The Nittany Lions started last season 7-2 but lost the last four games, finishing 7-6. Three of the four losses were one score games. This team is close. Very close. James Franklin is a good football coach. The schedule is no gimmie, but there are some opportunities. People in Happy Valley need to continue showing patience. The wins are coming -- and soon -- very soon.

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