Beat writers break down Big Ten East

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Brian Lewerke and the Spartans are eager to get the season underway.

Beat writers covering Big Ten East schools break down their teams for The Detroit News. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.


Last season: 6-7, 4-5 Big Ten

Coach: Tom Allen (first year)

Beat writer’s take: “It’s obviously been a winter of upheaval for Indiana, with the coaching change. But internally, the familiarity and respect Tom Allen was able to build in just one season as defensive coordinator has made that transition from Kevin Wilson less difficult than what’s probably perceived elsewhere. Indiana returns a boatload of production on defense, and boasts two of the Big Ten’s best defenders at their positions (linebacker Tegray Scales and cornerback Rashard Fant). But a brand new offensive staff is still installing its scheme and retooling following losses along the offensive line and at running back, so that side of the ball might be a work in progress. If the defense takes another step forward, and the offense catches up in time, a third-straight bowl is definitely a realistic aim.” – Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star, @ZachOsterman

More: Beat writers break down Big Ten West


Last season: 3-6, 6-7 Big Ten

Coach: DJ Durkin (6-7 at Maryland, one year)

Beat writer’s take: “The first year of the DJ Durkin era was a solid success – Maryland overachieved and reached the Quick Lane Bowl and secured the best recruiting class in the history of the program – but expectations will be tempered somewhat in 2017. The Terrapins play one of the most difficult schedules in the country, including five games against teams ranked in the Top 25 of the AP preseason poll. Maryland will have to navigate that slate with a depth chart dominated by underclassmen, including at quarterback, where sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome has won the starting job and will try to make a promising first impression in the season opener at Texas on Sept. 2.” – Roman Stubbs, Washington Post, @RomanStubbs

Freshman receiver Tarik Black is expected to see action early for Michigan.


Last season: 10-3, 7-2 Big Ten

Coach: Jim Harbaugh (78-33, 10 years; 20-6 at Michigan, two years)

Beat writer’s take: “There are plenty of unknowns heading into the season mainly because of so many new faces and returning players who will play larger roles. Wilton Speight brings stability to the offense as a second-year starting quarterback, but he will have several new pieces around him, including three on the offensive line and several freshmen receivers. The front seven should be a strong point for the Wolverines, but expect the raw secondary with all new starters to get tested repeatedly. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he has never coached a team with so few returning starters (five), but he likes the talent he has recruited. The key will be how quickly the three new starters on the offensive line gel and how quickly the defensive backfield comes together.” – Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News, @chengelis

More: Scouting Michigan’s offense

More: Scouting Michigan’s defense


Last season: 3-9, 1-8 Big Ten

Coach: Mark Dantonio (108-59, 13 years; 90-42 at MSU, 10 years)

Beat writer’s take: “After an improbable drop to 3-9 in 2016 and an offseason full of off-field issues, Michigan State is more than ready for the new season to start. It will do so with all sorts of questions as only two seniors are pegged as full-time starters for the opener. The running backs are deep and talented and they’ll need to carry a young group early, led by sophomore QB Brian Lewerke and an offensive line anchored by senior center Brian Allen. The skill positions are talented but young, a similar theme on defense, where the Spartans will start two former walk-ons at end in an effort to spark a non-existent pass rush from last season. Senior Chris Frey and junior Andrew Dowell have taken plenty of snaps, but the Spartans are light on experience in the middle and at both cornerback spots with safety a group effort. Also keep an eye on the kicking spot, where redshirt freshman Matt Coghlin takes over. – Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News, @mattcharboneau

More: Scouting Michigan State’s offense

More: Scouting Michigan State’s defense


Last season: 11-2, 8-1 Big Ten

Coach: Urban Meyer (165-29, 15 years; 61-6 at OSU, five years)

Beat writer’s take: “Ohio State enters this season with experience, talent, depth and hunger. With a number of fifth-year seniors, including quarterback J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes are a seasoned group. Banner recruiting classes the past two years give the roster more depth than it has ever had under Urban Meyer. The 31-0 loss to Clemson in the CFP semifinals has provided extra motivation. There are questions about having to replace three first-round NFL picks in the secondary. The offensive line and receivers have to prove they've improved. But there is no one-year-away talk, as there was in 2016.” – Bill Rabinowitz, Columbus Dispatch, @brdispatch


Last season: 11-3, 8-1 Big Ten

Coach: James Franklin (49-30, six years; 25-15 at PSU, three years)

Beat writer’s take: “The lone game I see the Nittany Lions losing this year is their road trip to Ohio State on Oct. 28. Beating Michigan is always a tall task, and James Franklin has never defeated the Wolverines. But with Michigan losing so many defensive starters and Penn State's prolific offense set to improve, I like the Nittany Lions' chances at home. Road games at Iowa and Northwestern are tough; so is Penn State's trip to Michigan State after facing Michigan and Ohio State back-to-back. But with Trace McSorley more comfortable in Joe Moorhead's scheme and Saquon Barkley poised to contribute even more in the passing game, Penn State is looking at another 11-win campaign” --  John McGonigal, Centre Daily Times, @jmcgonigal9


Last season: 2-10, 0-9 Big Ten

Coach: Chris Ash (2-10 at Rutgers, one year)

Beat writer’s take: “Everyone talks about Rutgers losing to Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State by a combined score of 224-0 in last season. Nobody talks about the losses to Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa by a combined 15 points. With games against Purdue and Illinois in back-to-back weeks, Rutgers could (maybe should) get two Big Ten wins. It’s not far-fetched to call the Maryland and Indiana games winnable, either. But the biggest tone-setter for the season is against Eastern Michigan in Week 2. That’s a must-win against a team coming off a bowl berth. It’s too much to expect Rutgers to jump from two wins to a bowl, but with impact graduate transfers at QB (Kyle Bolin, Louisville), RB (Gus Edwards, Miami) and WR (Damon Mitchell, Arkansas), plus the return of arguably the nation’s best all-purpose player in Janarion Grant, it’s not too much to ask for 4-5 wins and closer final scores in losses. – Ryan Dunleavy,, @rydunleavy