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Submitted by Jim Hurley’s Network on Saturday, July 18, 2015 at 10:14 AM


The Ohio State Buckeyes peaked at the right time last season...surging to a National Championship in dominating fashion despite having to play backup quarterbacks! In the Fall of 2015, they arguably have THREE star quarterbacks who would all be Heisman Trophy candidates if they weren't on the same squad.

Does that mean they'll run up the score every game just because they can't avoid it?! It will be tough for oddsmakers to pin down what the "right" number will be for the Buckeyes in garbage games. Against quality? Well, the early numbers suggest Ohio State will be clear favorites over everyone they play.

Let's see if there are any legitimately scary threats in the Big 10 East division...

Ohio State
2014 Record: 14-1
2014 Rankings: 9 on offense, 19 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Notebook: The offense sure ended their championship campaign looking better than #9 given the 42-35 and 42-20 victories over Alabama and Oregon respectively. You have to assume the defending champs are still the true #1 until somebody "beats the man" to "be the man." A Monday Night season opener at Virginia Tech may be the most dangerous threat on the first two months of the schedule. Michigan State should be second best in the East...but Sparty has to visit Columbus in late November. It's up to OSU to stay focused amidst a friendly schedule.

Michigan State
2014 Record: 11-2
2014 Rankings: 11 on offense, 8 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio
Notebook: Michigan State returns a lot of meaningful talent from a high-quality team that rallied to stun Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. The two losses in that 11-2 mark were to Final Four entries Ohio State and Oregon. Sparty has to play both of those teams again this season. They host Oregon on September 12 in what will be one of the most highly hyped early season showdowns. Win that, and this division should have two teams very high up in the national polls for most of the season. We're looking forward to the mid-October game at Ann Arbor vs. the Wolverines since Jim Harbaugh is now at the helm for Michigan.

Penn State
2014 Record: 7-6
2014 Rankings: 111 on offense, 2 on defense
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: James Franklin
Notebook: Interesting program. That 7-6 record was marred by a 2-6 mark in the Big 10. A bowl win over unimpressive Boston College was an overtime affair. The offense was pathetic as a general rule. We're not seeing what respected publication Athlon is seeing (our annual source for data in these conference previews) in terms of a top 35 finish nationally. The Nittany Lions may trick voters into a high ranking thanks to an extremely easy early schedule. They will be big dogs at Ohio State in mid-October. Both Michigan schools show up on the November slate. Don't expect anything from this team until they find an offense. There is a chance to take a step forward with experience on both sides of the ball.

2014 Record: 5-7
2014 Rankings: 112 on offense, 7 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh (first year)
Notebook: The arrival of Harbaugh makes things very interesting. He's a proven quantity at both the college (Stanford) and pro (San Francisco) levels. He will get immediate results. How far up the ladder will that push them? Early tests at Utah and vs. Oregon State and BYU will tell us a lot. And, this is a group that could close strong once they get the hang of what Harbaugh is teaching. Unless the players just can't handle the pressure, this will be one of the most interesting stories to follow in all of college football this season.

2014 Record: 7-6
2014 Rankings: 109 on offense, 95 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 4 on defense
Head Coach: Randy Edsall
Notebook: The Terps were clearly outclassed by the good teams they faced last season (Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and then Stanford in a bowl...combined loss 186-67!). They'll try to limp to another bowl bid amongst the divisional also-rans. You can see that the defense was hurt by graduation...and it wasn't a good defense to begin with. Kind of a crime that a team ranking #109 on offense and #95 on defense got to play in a bowl. The conference opener vs. Michigan on October 3 may tell us a lot about both of those programs.

2014 Record: 4-8
2014 Rankings: 61 on offense, 93 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Kevin Wilson
Notebook: Some feisty moments in league play (hanging tough with Ohio State for awhile, only losing by six to Penn State) were the only highlights in a 1-7 Big 10 campaign (outside of a win over hapless rival Purdue). Not a lot of high impact talent returning for this overmatched program. This is a team you can pick some spots with if the opponent has reasons to be flat. Otherwise avoid.

2014 Record: 8-5
2014 Rankings: 73 on offense, 98 on defense
Returning Starters: 3 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Kyle Flood
Notebook: Rutgers didn't have a good offense during the years Gary Nova was quarterback. He's gone things could get really ugly. You can see that graduation ravaged the roster. Last year's surprisingly easy bowl win over North Carolina may be the last program highlight for awhile. September home games vs. the likes of Washington State and Kansas will let us know where the Scarlet Knights rank nationally amongst that non-bowl caliber of program.

Not a lot to scare Ohio State! But, you never know for sure how a college football season is going to play out. Michigan State is likely to be prominent from start to finish. Maybe Michigan will add some meaningful depth thanks to Harbaugh's magic.

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Coming up in the NOTEBOOK...

Sunday: College Football Preview...Big 10 "West"
Monday: MLB Series Preview...Pittsburgh at Kansas City
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview...Baltimore Orioles at NY Yankees
Wednesday: MLB Big Game be determined
Thursday: MLB Series Preview...Washington at Pittsburgh
Friday: MLB Series Preview...Houston at Kansas City
Saturday: College Football Preview...SEC "East"
Sunday July 25: College Football Preview...SEC "West"

That's right...we move to the SEC next week to see if Alabama or Auburn has a shot to dethrone Ohio State. Our summer series of conference previews will continue through the month...leading up to our NFL divisional previews that will begin with the start of Preseason action.

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