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Big 10 Preview ’16 (8.12.16)

Hail to the Victors or Dot the “I” at the Horseshoe? The Big Ten has been picking itself off the mat after years of being considered the more boring and slower conference. Now, the conference has two great contenders with Michigan and Ohio State. The Wolverines have finally held up their end of the bargain after a rough “Rodriguez-Hoke” Era. Harbaugh returned and breathed new life into the historic Michigan program. Many have said Harbaugh v. Meyer is the new Bo Schembechler v. Woody Hayes and I would have to agree. We have yet to see the hostilities between the coaches, however, I think the fire is just getting ready to be lit.

I know, I know, I have not forgotten about Iowa. The Hawkeyes started a surprising 12-0 last year before finishing the season 12-2. Iowa was very close to winning the Big 10 title game and going to the College Football Playoff in 2015 before faltering late. I think Iowa is still absolutely a contender for the Big 10 and playoff in 2016. I put Michigan and Ohio State up there to spark the conversation, however, make no mistake about it, I think Iowa is right there with them. The Hawkeyes return C.J. Bethard at quarterback and they hope he can be healthy for a whole season this year. Iowa has 3 returning starters on the offensive line and return a very good Senior wide receiver in Matt VanderBerg. On defense, the secondary brings back Desmond King and the defensive line has three players with starting experience. Iowa does have difficult schedule but they play Wisconsin and Michigan at home.

Michigan brings in transfer quarterback John O’Korn from Houston to lead the offense. O’Korn has been pushed by Shane Morris and Wilton Speight during the offseason and spring. This is year two of the Harbaugh revival and I think the offense will improve this year. The Wolverines bring back All-American tight end Jake Butt and All-Big-Ten receiver Jehu Chesson to help the quarterback. Harbaugh made an emphasis to run the ball and I think returning 4 of 5 starters on the offensive line will help. The defense returns a great amount of experience and talent. Harbaugh poached Don Brown from Boston College to be the defensive coordinator of the Wolverines. Don Brown built an elite defense at BC and there is no doubt he can do the same with the talent in Ann Arbor. The secondary has playmakers all over the field with Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers.

The Buckeyes only bring back 6 starters from the 2015 team. Ohio State has had an incredible run of recruiting under Urban Meyer and the 2016 NFL Draft finally came calling. Cordale Jones, Ezekiel Elliot, Joey Bosa, Michael Thomas and many more were drafted to the NFL. Luckily, Meyer has been preparing for this and has recruited incredibly well. The offensive line could see Isaiah Prince and Jamarco Jones step up at tackles. In the secondary, we should see players like Malik Hooker, Cam Burrows, and Erick Smith be playmakers for the Buckeyes. Most importantly, the Buckeyes return JT Barrett at quarterback. Barrett could have won the Heisman trophy in 2014 had he not injured his foot during the Michigan game.

In the end, I have to pick Michigan to win the Big 10 in 2016. The Wolverines have a lot of momentum riding into this season thanks to their huge bowl win over Florida. Harbaugh has recruited well and has been successful everywhere he has been. Michigan should have a top 5 defense as well as a top 20 offense to match. Jim and company have to travel to Columbus this year in what will be a difficult matchup to determine who plays in the Big 10 Championship game. I think the Wolverines will be up to the task while the Buckeye inexperience needs a year to be corrected.

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