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ESPN college football expert Phil Steele says that while Michigan is capable of winning the East Division and the Big Ten championship, he still predicts a third-place finish for the Wolverines in the division.

Steele says Ohio State will claim the East and make the College Football Playoff (pay site). He says Penn State will finish second in the division, followed by Michigan, Indiana, Michigan State, Maryland and Rutgers.

Steele on Michigan: “If this pick were based purely on the talent on the field, the Wolverines would be No. 1 or 2 in the Big Ten, as coach Jim Harbaugh has done a great job recruiting, despite the plethora of NFL talent (11 draft choices in 2016) that was lost. This team still has plenty of skill, but it does draw Wisconsin out of the West and has to play both the Badgers and Penn State on the road as well as host a loaded Ohio State team. While Michigan last year lost three of its last four games, its three losses were by five combined points. Despite picking the Wolverines third here, I believe they are fully capable of winning the East and the Big Ten.”

Michigan travels to Penn State on Oct. 21 and to Wisconsin on Nov. 18, one week before the rivalry game against Ohio State in Ann Arbor.

As for the Spartans, Steele says, “The Spartans were 1-8 in Big Ten play but actually outgained league opponents by an average of 35.4 YPG.”

Phil Steele’s Big Ten predictions:

East

1. Ohio State

2. Penn State

3. Michigan

4. Indiana

5. Michigan State

6. Maryland

7. Rutgers

West  

1. Wisconsin

2. Northwestern

3. Nebraska

4. Minnesota

5. Iowa

6. Purdue

7. Illinois

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