Every season since Maryland and Rutgers joined the Big Ten back in 2014, the winner of the conference has come from the East division.
Last year, Michigan demolished Iowa in the conference title game en route to their first ever berth in the College Football Playoff.
So why don’t we start out this preview of the division with the defending champs hailing from Ann Arbor.
In what was the most successful season under head coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan won the Big Ten but lost to eventual national champion Georgia in the Orange Bowl—a College Football Playoff semifinal. They finished with an overall record of 12-2 (8-1 in Big Ten play).
This season, they’re losing some starters on that scary defense from last season, most notably Aidan Hutchinson, who was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft. Still, the defense should be interesting to watch.
On offense they will be lead once again by senior quarterback Cade McNamara, but they’ll be looking for a new primary running back with the departure of Hassan Haskins. Michigan should be a very good team again this season in my opinion.
The Illini will be taking them on in Ann Arbor on November 19th. The last time they faced each other was in 2019, when the Wolverines won 42-25.
Ohio State Buckeyes
It was unusual not seeing Ohio State win the Big Ten last season—much less their own division. Expect them to come back with a vengeance this season.
The defending Rose Bowl champions went 11-2 last season and are entering their fourth season under head coach Ryan Day.
The offense should be incredibly dynamic as they look to reclaim their East supremacy. C.J. Stroud will be a Heisman contending quarterback and Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be an electric wide receiver.
Ohio State QB CJ Stroud Is The Odds Favorite To Win The Heisman Trophy In 2022 pic.twitter.com/pgbSwAkutj— The Buckeye Nut (@TheBuckeyeNut) July 4, 2022
Expect a lot of high scoring wins for the Buckeyes (as usual).
The Illini will not play the Buckeyes during the regular season.
Michigan State Spartans
Following an 11-2 record in head coach Mel Tucker’s first season—including winning the Peach Bowl—Sparty looks to be in good hands.
@Coach_mtucker @MSU_Football #ChopLife pic.twitter.com/rzTRQljWL9— ☆Jayden Wayne☆ (@JaydenWayne8) June 4, 2022
Without former Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker this season, the run game might take a bit of a dip. Quarterback Payton Thorne will have to step up to maintain last season’s offensive production.
Defensively, the Spartans are welcoming in a handful of young players to the lineup. They’ll hope to help out Michigan State’s defensive struggles from last season, when they gave up an average of 441.9 yards per game. An improved defense will be key to their success.
The Spartans will come to Champaign on November 5th to take on the Illini, the first meeting between the two since the Illini beat them 37-34 in 2019.
Penn State Nittany Lions
After starting the season 5-0, the Nittany Lions finished with a disappointing 7-6 record and a bowl game loss to Arkansas.
Entering their ninth season under head coach James Franklin, the Nittany Lions are hoping to fix what went very wrong to end the season.
The offense started out strong behind quarterback Sean Clifford, but after their first loss their production took a downturn—they only scored over 30 points once for the rest of the season.
The defense held their own but could only do so much if the offense could not produce.
Expect some big adjustments for both sides of the ball.
The Illini do not have a matchup with Penn State during the regular season.
Maryland is coming off a decent season for the program, finishing 7-6 after a capstone Pinstripe Bowl victory.
In what will be their fourth season under Michael Locksley, Maryland should have a dynamic offense behind the arm of Taulia Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa finished 10th in the country in passing yards. Expect Maryland to love the pass game this season once again, winning their games in shootouts.
The Terps and Illini do not play during the regular season.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Scarlet Knights finished 5-8 last season and snuck into the Gator Bowl after Texas A&M had to skip due to COVID-related issues.
In his 14th season at the helm in Piscataway, Greg Schiano is looking to get back to another bowl game.
One of the offseason’s bigger questions will involve their offensive scheme: will they bring back that two quarterback system they had last season?
Keep in mind the that Scarlet Knights ended the season on a 2-8 run after a promising 3-0 start, so they’re hoping for more success in Big Ten play this time around.
The Illini and the Scarlet Knights do not play during the regular season.
To finish it off, we have the team who finished last in the division this past season, Indiana.
In what was sort of a shocking season for the Hoosiers after their impressive 2020-21 season, they’ll be looking for a lot of changes.
They finished with a record of 2-10 including a winless effort in conference play (0-9).
Entering their seventh season under Tom Allen, the Hoosiers will be looking to get back to bowl game appearances after having back-to-back postseason trips in 2020 and 2021.
They should expect a lot more from the offense this season. Last year, they disappointingly averaged around 17 points per game.
The Illini will travel to Bloomington for a Friday night matchup against the Hoosiers on September 2nd. The last time these two met was in 2017; the Hoosiers won 24-14.