The Big Ten East is one of the most competitive divisions in college football. Here are five questions that will shape the division this season.
The big ten predictions 2021 is a college football preview that will look at the upcoming season for the Big Ten East.
When you live in a division with a college football juggernaut, how do you measure your own success? In the late 2010s, Penn State and Michigan both developed into top-10 programs, Indiana recently fielded its greatest team in 30 years, and Michigan State isn’t far off from its best run of success since the 1960s. They’ve all contributed to the Big Ten East being the second-best division in college football on average.
However, since Penn State’s White-Out victory against Ohio State in 2016, the Buckeyes have gone undefeated in the East division. There have been a few scares (42-35 against Indiana in 2020, 52-51 against Maryland in 2018, 39-38 and 27-26 against Penn State in 2017-18), but the Buckeyes have dominated a strong division for years. They’re at their greatest long-term level of quality ever, even as a college football powerhouse. And, given how they’ve continued to recruit under Ryan Day — their 2021 class was their third top-two class in five years — there’s no reason to believe a downturn is imminent.
However, there may be a few more vulnerable times ahead. Justin Fields and Trey Sermon, as well as seven defensive starters, are no longer with the Buckeyes. The skill level is undeniable, but if they aren’t as consistent in 2021, any number of teams — hungry Penn State and Michigan programs seeking for rebounds, an experienced and smart Indiana wanting to complete the job after coming so close last year — may benefit. We know who the favorite is in this matchup, but it’s not as easy as Ohio State has made it seem in previous years.
Let’s take a look at the Big Ten East!
Bill Connelly will preview a different division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 every week for ESPN+ during the summer, eventually covering all 130 FBS schools. In one convenient graphic, the previews will contain 2020 breakdowns, 2021 previews, and a short history of each club. So far, the series has covered Conference USA East and West, MAC East and West, MWC Mountain and West, Sun Belt West and East, top and bottom half of the AAC, seven Independents, ACC Atlantic and Coastal, Pac-12 North and South, top and bottom half of the Big 12 and the Big Ten West.
Toggle between the following teams: Rutgers | Michigan State | Maryland | Indiana | Michigan | Penn State | Ohio State
Rutgers won three games and finished 97th in SP+ in Greg Schiano’s first year back in Piscataway. It also gave unmistakable cause for hope.
Projections for 2021
SP+ projected rank: 94th
The average number of predicted victories is 3.3. (1.4 in the Big Ten)
Temple (75 percent chance of winning), Delaware (75 percent chance of winning) (69 percent )
Toss-ups: Syracuse (45 percent), Illinois (45 percent) (35 percent )
At Northwestern (32 percent), Michigan State (30 percent), Maryland (17 percent), Indiana (9 percent), Michigan (8 percent), Wisconsin (6 percent), Ohio State (5 percent), and Penn State (5 percent) are the most likely to lose (4 percent )
* Likely wins are games in which SP+ predicts a scoring margin of more than seven points, or a victory probability of more than 65 percent. Likely wins are the polar opposite, while relative toss-ups are everything in between.
The Scarlet Knights will have an opportunity to improve on last year’s victory total by playing five teams ranked 75th or below, but there won’t be much room for mistake.
In 2020, we learnt a lot about Rutgers.
This is going to take some time. The Scarlet Knights were more competitive than they’d been in a long time because to a lot of optimism, trick plays (new coordinator Sean Gleeson was permitted to have some fun last season) and strong special teams. They won the same number of conference games as they did from 2016 to 2019, and they lost three more by a single point.
Even if the basic numbers weren’t outstanding, this was significant improvement. The Scarlet Knights had to dominate special teams and force turnovers to win since opponents had a significantly higher success rate (46 percent to 35 percent) and a higher explosive play percentage (14 percent to 9 percent). That’s not a formula for long-term success.
Receiver Bo Melton, interior linemen Nick Krimin, Cedrice Paillant, and Bryan Felter, defensive end Mike Tverdov, defensive tackle Julius Turner, linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi, corners Avery Young and Tre Avery, and kicker Valentino Ambrosio and punter Adam Korsak are all Big Ten-level players, as are kicker Valentino Ambrosio and punter Adam Korsak. Schiano also dabbled in the transfer market this summer, bringing in return specialist Joshua Youngblood (Kansas State) and cornerback Patrice Rene (North Carolina), among others.
Rutgers in 2020: What We Didn’t Know
When will there be clarity at QB? Last season, three quarterbacks played 100+ plays under center; Noah Vedral led the way and ran the ball effectively, but he only averaged 4.0 adjusted net yards per throw attempt (which adjusts for sacks, touchdowns and turnovers). Johnny Langan had the greatest ANY/A average (6.7) but was mainly a short-yardage and red-zone man. Artur Sitkowski (5.4 ANY/A over 85 attempts) transferred, while Johnny Langan had the highest ANY/A average (6.7) but was primarily a short-yardage and red-zone guy (56 rushes to 13 pass attempts). Your ceiling is only as high as your quarterback, and Rutgers’ isn’t very high.
The history of Rutgers in a single graph
Frank Burns led RU to a level of success that no one other has achieved. The Knights won 8.4 games each year on average from 1974 through 1980, including an 11-0 season in 1976.
Rutgers ended a two-decade losing streak in the late 1990s, winning 14 games in a row from 1996 to 2002 under Terry Shea and subsequently Schiano.
Schiano’s program construction eventually came together. In 2003-04, RU won nine games, then went on to win six bowl games in his last seven years, including an 11-win season in 2006.
After Schiano departed for the NFL, the program rapidly regressed, going from 15 wins in 2012-13 to 12 wins in 2014-15 to only nine victories in the four years from 2016 to 2019.
Schiano is back, and he showed some potential last season.
Payton Thorne returns to Michigan State to contend for the starting quarterback position. Carlos Osorio/AP Photo
Michigan State looked, in its first season under Mark Dantonio, like a Dantonio team: strong defense, devastatingly inept offense. When is Mel Tucker likely to make a change?
Projections for 2021
SP+ projected rank: 59th
The average number of predicted victories is 5.1. (3.2 in the Big Ten)
Youngstown State has a 96 percent chance of winning, while WKU has an 81 percent chance of winning against Rutgers (70 percent )
Northwestern (58 percent), Maryland (38 percent), Purdue (35 percent), and Nebraska are all relative toss-ups (35 percent )
Michigan (32%), Indiana (24%), Penn State (22%), Miami (12%), and Ohio State (12%) are the most likely to lose (9 percent )
The Spartans are expected to win four of their first six games and none of their remaining games. Any chance of winning a bowl game will need a quick start.
What we discovered about Michigan State in the year 2020
Changing the DNA of a software takes time. Tucker is a defensive end, and he discovered some interesting components in Drew Beesley and others. State forced passing downs and avoided huge pass plays, but there wasn’t much of a pass rush, and the Spartans let opponents off the hook a little too much on passing downs.
They were hammered in the field position department and, more often than not, on the scoreboard, thanks to a terrible offensive (122nd in success rate) and bad punting. They defeated Michigan and upset Northwestern, but their other five games were all lost by a combined score of 40-14. They fell to 65th in SP+, their lowest position since 2006, the year before Dantonio took over. That isn’t the kind of symmetry you’re looking for.
Tucker brought in 14 transfers, but it’s possible that the old Michigan State may stay the new Michigan State for a lot longer.
What we learned about Michigan State in 2020 that we didn’t know before.
What is the final form of this crime intended to take? Tucker’s offensive coordinator, Jay Johnson, followed him from Colorado to MSU. In terms of trends, his playcalling in East Lansing in 2020 was the polar opposite of what he established in Boulder in 2019 — throwing often on standard downs, running more than average on passing downs, and a lot of pace. He seems to adapt to his personnel’s abilities, but… it’s not quite obvious what those abilities are.
The quarterback competition is between Temple transfer and quick-passing quarterback. Anthony Russo and Payton Thorne, both all-or-nothing, plus a pair of all-or-nothing talents out wide (Jalen Nailor and Ricky White). Transfer to Wake Forest Kenneth Walker III is also a capable yards-after-contact back, but efficiency is a problem everywhere.
In a single graph, Michigan State’s history may be shown.
From 1950 through 1952, Biggie Munn’s Spartans won 26-1 with two national championships before joining the Big Ten and going 9-1 in 1953. It was a nice adjustment.
MSU’s best season under Duffy Daugherty was 1965-66, when they went 19-1-1 and claimed two national championships behind players like Bubba Smith and George Webster.
Nick Saban was replacing George Perles before winning championships at LSU and Alabama, beating No. 1 Ohio State in 1998 and finishing 10-2 in 1999.
MSU hired Dantonio in 2007 after four losing seasons in five years. Three Big Ten championships, three AP top-10 finishes, and six years with double digit victories followed.
MSU finished 27-24 in Dantonio’s last four seasons, then went 2-5 in Tucker’s first season. This is a pivotal year in the program’s development.
Maryland went from thrilling victories (35-19 against Penn State) to depressing defeats in just five games (43-3 to Northwestern, 27-24 to Rutgers). So, what’s next?
Projections for 2021
SP+ projected rank: 32nd
The average number of predicted victories is 7.1. (4.6 in the Big Ten)
Howard has a 99.9% chance of winning, Kent State has a 95 percent chance of winning, Rutgers has an 83 percent chance of winning, and Illinois has an 83 percent chance of winning (76 percent )
Michigan State (62 percent), West Virginia (56 percent), Indiana (51 percent), Michigan (49 percent), Minnesota (41 percent), Iowa (39 percent), and Penn State are all relative toss-ups (37 percent )
At Ohio State, the Buckeyes are likely to lose (19 percent )
Mike Locksley’s Terps may have a great season if they can maintain any sort of consistency. Consistency, on the other hand, hasn’t been seen at College Park in a long time.
Maryland in 2020: What We Learned
On the offensive side, is there any upside? Check. My marginal explosiveness metric adjusts for field position and looks at the size of a team’s successful plays. Maryland was first in the FBS in marginal explosiveness (fifth rushing, seventh passing)… yet rated 72nd in success rate. There was an all-or-nothing weapon wherever you looked, from quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa to running back Jake Funk (now a Los Angeles Ram) to each of the top four receivers — Dontay Demus Jr., Brian Cobbs, Jeshaun Jones, and blue-chip freshman Rakim Jarrett. As a consequence, there’s a lot of inconsistency. Maryland scored 3, 45, 35, 11, and 24 points in five games.
The only starters who have left are Funk and center Johnny Jordan; experience won’t be a problem in 2021, and Locksley hired offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who has a lot of experience, to help stabilize the offense.
Maryland in 2020: What We Didn’t Learn
Is it possible for the run defense to catch up to the pass defense? Following a poor start in which they allowed 43.5 points per game and 6.7 yards per play against Northwestern and Minnesota, the UM defense tightened up, allowing just 24.3 and 4.6 against Penn State, Indiana, and Rutgers, respectively. The key to the victory was a stout pass defense. Opponents continued to target rookie cornerback Tarheeb Still, but he intercepted eight passes and only allowed a 46.5 passer rating. Last year’s top five defensive backs are all back, as is one of the best interior pass rushers in the country in tackle Mosiah Nasili-Kite. It will be difficult to overlook the Terps.
That would be much more meaningful if you weren’t able to run all over them. In four of their five games, UM allowed at least 234 running yards and ranked 79th in rushing success rate allowed. Locksley also added experienced defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and three ESPN 300 linebackers, including five-star Terrence Lewis. If the Terps can keep opponents from getting ahead of schedule, they might be a top-30 defense.
Maryland’s history summarized in a single graph
Jim Tatum turned Maryland into a powerhouse for a few years. From 1951 through 1955, his Terps won the AP championship in 1953, won ten games three times, and placed in the top ten four times.
UM was an ACC juggernaut in the 1970s, winning three conference championships and finishing 11-1 with a Cotton Bowl berth in 1976, thanks to great defenders like Randy White and Joe Campbell.
When alum Ralph Friedgen became coach in 2001, the Terps hadn’t won more than six games in 16 years; they went 31-8 in his first three seasons before progressively declining.
In its debut season in the Big Ten, UM finished 7-6. They have yet to have their second winning season.
Maryland’s football history is littered with highs and lows. Under Locksley’s leadership, the Terps have gone through ups and downs from week to week! Perhaps that will change in 2021?
Will Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. be able to recover from his torn ACL and return to form for the Hoosiers? Carlos Osorio/AP Photo
Indiana finished 12th in the AP poll in 2020; the two times the Hoosiers finished higher (1945, 1967), they were back at the bottom three years later. Tom Allen’s job is only getting started.
Projections for 2021
SP+ projected rank: 27th
The average number of predicted victories is 7.0. (4.7 in the Big Ten)
Idaho (99 percent), Rutgers (92 percent), WKU (88 percent), and Michigan State are the most likely winners (76 percent )
Minnesota (58 percent), Purdue (57 percent), Maryland (49 percent), Cincinnati (43 percent), and Michigan (43 percent) (42 percent )
Iowa (33 percent), Ohio State (32 percent), and Penn State (32 percent) are all likely to lose (31 percent )
In 2020, Indiana’s victory total surpassed its statistical output. If it occurs again, no game in 2021 will be beyond reach. However, if the reverse occurs, there are many potential losses.
In the year 2020, we learnt a lot about Indiana.
The smallest details are crucial. In victories against Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Indiana was outgained by 2.2, 1.7, and 0.9 yards per play, respectively. The Hoosiers’ success rate (41.7%) was just ahead of their opponents’ (40.3%), and although they produced a lot of spectacular plays, they also allowed a lot. It’s difficult to go 6-2 with that recipe.
They did, however, succeed at the little things. They outplayed their opponents in field position, dominated in the red zone, and created more turnover chances. That is something that can be replicated. They were 26th in SP+ last season and return 16 starters. Although considering them Big Ten contenders may be a stretch, the Hoosiers are expected to have another good season.
What Indiana didn’t teach us in 2020
It’s inconvenient to miss out on IU. Interceptions account for approximately 21 to 22 percent of a team’s passes defensed (INTs or breakups); deviate from that, and you’ll likely witness regression to the mean. Last year, Indiana’s percentage was 33%, with 17 interceptions and 35 breakups. Reduction in turnover is on the way.
The Hoosiers’ ferocious pass defense, on the other hand, isn’t going away. Safety Jamar Johnson is gone, but the rest of the secondary is back, including Tiawan Mullen, Jaylin Williams, and Reese Taylor, who may be the finest cornerback trio in the conference. Micah McFadden and Cam Jones, both linebackers, are outstanding blitzers.
Will the offensive be able to maintain its consistency? Despite having Ty Fryfogle and Whop Philyor, Indiana’s passing success percentage was 90th. After quarterback Michael Penix Jr. tore his ACL against Maryland, things slowed significantly, although Penix was erratic himself, completing 56 percent of his throws and ranked 44th in Total QBR.
To make up for the loss of Philyor and RB Stevie Scott, Allen brought in transfers like USC RB Stephen Carr, FSU slot D.J. Matthews, and Texas A&M WR Camron Buckley. The benefits are obvious, but a bit more consistency would go a long way.
In a single graph, Indiana’s history may be shown.
Bo McMillin’s 1945 Indiana Hoosiers, who defeated Michigan, thrashed rated Minnesota and Purdue teams by a combined 75-0 and ended 9-0, are the greatest IU team ever.
On their route to the Rose Bowl, John Pont’s 1967 Indiana Hoosiers went 7-0 in one-score games and defeated No. 3 Purdue. The University of Indiana is still waiting for a return flight to Pasadena.
IU hadn’t had a winning season in 11 years until Lee Corso — the Sunshine Scooter himself! — led them to a Holiday Bowl victory and an 8-4 record.
Indiana only had one winning season from 1995 to 2011. Kevin Wilson boosted hopes following a 1-11 start by leading the Hoosiers to the bowls in both 2015 and 2016.
Allen’s Indiana Hoosiers are 14-7 in the past two seasons, with back-to-back SP+ top 30 finishes. Is there any way he can raise the bar even higher?
Jim Harbaugh’s time at Michigan was marked by great success and an inability to defeat Ohio State. His Wolverines, on the other hand, underachieved in 2020.
Projections for 2021
SP+ projected rank: 23rd
The average number of predicted victories is 7.3. (5.0 in the Big Ten)
NIU (97 percent), Rutgers (92 percent), WMU (89 percent), and Northwestern (86 percent) are the most likely winners at Michigan State (68 percent )
Indiana (58 percent), Maryland (51 percent), Nebraska (47 percent), and Washington are all relative toss-ups (42 percent )
Ohio State (34 percent), Penn State (33 percent), and Wisconsin (33 percent) (29 percent )
Despite a 2-4 season, SP+ gives the Wolverines the benefit of the doubt because of their long-term success and recruitment. With four opponents ranked 14th or above, even a top-25 finish could only result in a 7-5 record.
In 2020, we learnt a lot about Michigan.
Things may easily go apart. Michigan had an average SP+ rating of 36.6 in the seven years previous to Harbaugh’s arrival. However, in Harbaugh’s first year, the Wolverines moved to 10th place and averaged a 9.8 ranking during his first five seasons.
Last year, the winning formula crumbled. Don Brown, the defensive coordinator, lacked the pass rush and cornerback performance to carry out his aggressive system, and UM moved from allowing 20.7 to 34.5 points per game. Meanwhile, a pair of rookie quarterbacks struggled: Joe Milton made too many errors and was benched in favor of Cade McNamara, who performed well against Rutgers but struggled against Penn State. After the season opener, Michigan only scored more than 24 points once.
Harbaugh fired Brown and replaced him with Mike Macdonald, a former Ravens assistant who worked with John Harbaugh. Milton and others were reassigned. After a year of considerable upheaval on the two-deep, the coaching staff will undergo even more changes.
What Michigan didn’t teach us in 2020
Who will be the quarterback of the future? Macdonald isn’t the only significant acquisition. Former Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman was also brought in by Harbaugh. Bowman’s career has been plagued by injuries, which has left him inconsistent — in five games, he’s had a raw QBR of over 80 and under 35. However, if McNamara is not yet a reliable alternative, he might ensure a higher floor at the position.
How many tried-and-true players are on the roster? Hassan Haskins is an outstanding running back, receivers Ronnie Bell and Cornelius Johnson have had their moments, linebacker Josh Ross is excellent both rushing the passer and dropping into coverage, and cornerback Gemon Green has won a few fights despite being thrown into the fire.
With this schedule, any significant rebound in 2021 will require some tactical upgrades from Macdonald and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, as well as breakouts from a number of highly touted youngsters, particularly second-year receivers Blake Corum and A.J. Henning and defensive backs Andre Seldon and Jordan Morant.
In a single graph, Michigan’s history may be shown.
The 1947 Michigan Wolverines are the greatest team that has never won a national championship.
Bo Schembechler was hired by UM in 1969 after Bump Elliott’s rocky (sorry) stint. In 21 years, he has managed 16 top-10 finishes and 10 Rose Bowl berths.
Following Schembechler’s departure, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr largely maintained the status quo: eight top-10 finishes, six Rose Bowls, and an elusive national championship from 1990 to 2007.
After Carr’s retirement, everything went wrong. They’ve ended unranked eight times in the past 13 seasons, compared to 56 times in the previous 56.
In both 2016 and 2018, Harbaugh’s Wolverines were on the verge of earning a CFP berth, but couldn’t get past Ohio State. In their last 21 games, they’ve only won 11 of them.
After three top-10 finishes in the previous four years, James Franklin’s Nittany Lions started the 2020 season 0-5 before winning four consecutive games. Was it a warning of impending cracks… or simply a poor month?
Projections for 2021
SP+ projected rank: 14th
The average number of predicted victories is 8.5. (5.9 in the Big Ten)
Villanova (99 percent), Rutgers (96 percent), Illinois (93 percent), Ball State (91 percent), at Michigan State (78 percent), Auburn (70 percent), Indiana (69 percent), Michigan (69 percent) are the most likely winners (67 percent )
Maryland (63 percent), Iowa (46 percent), and Wisconsin are all relative toss-ups (40 percent )
At Ohio State, the Buckeyes are likely to lose (34 percent )
PSU has plenty of experience, and the addition of offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is intriguing, but the Nittany Lions must travel to face their three most highly ranked opponents. That’s not ideal.
In 2020, we learned a lot about Penn State.
Brent Pry is a model of consistency. During Pry’s tenure as defensive coordinator, PSU placed 10th, 11th, and 10th in defensive SP+, respectively, from 2017 to 2019. The Nittany Lions dropped to 14th after losing all-world linebacker Micah Parsons to a late-offseason opt-out in 2020. They didn’t make enough negative plays, but once you were behind schedule, they got in the face of your quarterback and stopped drives.
There’s a lot to like about the 2021 defense, which returns the top three linebackers (including sophomore havoc maker Brandon Smith) and all but one defensive back (plus 2019 starting corner Tariq Castro-Fields, who missed two-thirds of last season).
What we learned about Penn State in 2020 that we didn’t know before
Will a rebuilt D-line be able to withstand the test of time? Any doubts about the defense arise up front, where four of the eight regulars, including first-round pick Odafe Oweh, are leaving. Duke tackle Derrick Tangelo and Temple end Arnold Ebiketie are two transfers that may be crucial. Tangelo is the kind of run-stopper they were missing, and Ebiketie has four sacks in six games. If they’re on the same page, the defense will be as well.
Is Yurcich the right person for the job? Franklin hired Minnesota’s Kirk Ciarrocca for 2020 after offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne was hired as the head coach at ODU. During their winning run, PSU averaged 36.3 points per game after a sluggish start. Sean Clifford’s past two games were his best, which is a promising indication.
Franklin, on the other hand, took a chance and dismissed Ciarrocca in favor of Yurcich, a former coach at Oklahoma State, Ohio State, and Texas.
Yurcich’s past five attacks (four as coordinator) have all finished seventh or better in offensive SP+ and averaged at least 38.4 points per game. He takes over a strong RB room headed by Keyvone Lee and perhaps Baylor transfer John Lovett, as well as wideout Jahan Dotson and slot Parker Washington. However, Yurcich’s connection with Clifford will decide the offensive in 2021. For the last two seasons, the third-year starter has ranked in the top 40 in Total QBR, but he has to get into the top 15 or so if PSU is to achieve its full potential.
In a single graph, you can see the whole history of Penn State.
PSU recruited Joe Paterno to take the program to the next level after a slump towards the conclusion of Rip Engle’s 16-year career. Beaver Stadium had a capacity of 46,000 people at the time.
PSU came as near to winning a national championship as it could without winning one from 1968 through 1981, with seven top-five finishes and a Heisman Trophy winner in 1973. (John Cappelletti).
The breakthrough came in the 1980s, when PSU won the national championships in 1982 and 1986, as well as placing in the top three in 1981 and 1985. By 1991, Beaver Stadium had a capacity of 94,000 people.
Paterno was dismissed after the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault scandal, and the NCAA imposed harsh penalties that were later reduced. Franklin joined the company in 2014.
Franklin has a Big Ten championship and three AP top-10 finishes to his credit. Is the upward trend still intact following last year’s short setback?
The Big Ten is the second-best league in college football on average. It may be the greatest in certain seasons, such as 2020. Ohio State is 74-5 in Big Ten play over the past nine years. Goodness.
Projections for 2021
SP+ projected ranking: fourth
9.4 victories are expected on average (6.9 in the Big Ten)
At Rutgers (96 percent), Michigan State (91 percent), Tulsa (90 percent), Purdue (86 percent), Maryland (81 percent), at Minnesota (70 percent), Nebraska (69 percent), Indiana (68 percent), Penn State (66 percent) (66 percent )
Oregon is a relative toss-up (58 percent )
Losses are unlikely to occur.
The Ohio State Buckeyes will undoubtedly be great, but they will be beginning a rookie quarterback and will face some tough September tests (at Minnesota in Week 1, Oregon in Week 2). Can they dodge a stumbling block before reaching fifth gear?
In 2020, we learned a lot about Ohio State.
Honestly? There isn’t much. We pretended Justin Fields had a poor season, which says a lot. Fields was second in Total QBR and the Buckeyes were second in offensive SP+, but he was an overrated letdown because a great defense (Northwestern) got the better of him — but not RB Trey Sermon — and a decent defensive (Indiana) forced a few errors. Sure.
Fields and Sermon, as well as two all-conference linemen, are no longer with the team. This “second is disappointing” threshold will have to be cleared by key new players, most notably a young, new starting quarterback, whether it’s C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller III, or Kyle McCord. This may lead to a few more vulnerable moments.
It’s a different matter if anybody can profit from it. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, all-world receivers, RB Master Teague III, three additional all-conference linemen, and more are still on the roster. Those vulnerable moments aren’t going to last long.
What Ohio State didn’t teach us in 2020
Was Kerry Coombs the appropriate choice for the job? Ohio State moved from allowing 13.7 points per game and 4.1 yards per play to 25.8 and 5.9 in Coombs’ first season after taking over for new BC head coach Jeff Hafley. The strength of schedule had a part, but although the run defense was good, the pass defense was egregiously bad. As Coombs, Hafley’s successor, adopted greater rates of zone coverage with little impact, the Buckeyes placed 104th in passing success rate and moved from allowing a 97.5 passer rating to 143.1.
Maybe Coombs can completely implement and teach the approach he wants with a full offseason and fewer Covid-related interruptions. But he’ll have to do it without seven of the 14 guys who played more than 200 snaps. Cornerback play and the pass rush will almost certainly need to improve if the Buckeyes are to compete for a national championship. The secondary has experience, and ends Tyreke Smith and Zach Harrison may explode up front, but we won’t know for sure until it happens.
The history of Ohio State in a single graph
Ohio State turned to Woody Hayes to improve the program’s postwar image after averaging a 5-3-1 record from 1946 to 1950. It took him a few years to get there, but he did.
Hayes’ team struggled in the 1960s, but a surge in recruitment led to a run of nine top-10 finishes from 1968 through 1979, including the 1968 national championship.
After the Charlie Bauman incident in 1979, Hayes was dismissed. Earle Bruce would set a high standard for the rest of the 1980s.
Neither Bruce nor John Cooper were able to win a championship for Ohio State, but Jim Tressel took over in 2001 and rode a seven-game winning streak to an unexpected 2002 crown.
In nine years, the Buckeyes went 106-11, with eight AP top-6 finishes, five Big Ten rings, and a national championship under Urban Meyer and later Day. It’s not terrible.
The espn college football predictions 2021 is a preview of the upcoming college football season.
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