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GI Publisher Zach Johnson predicts the results of the Big Ten East in 2016

The Big Ten East appears to be top heavy once again, but this time it might come down to an old rivalry that will be settled on the final weekend of the regular season.

Big Ten East Champion:  Michigan

Wins:  Hawaii, UCF, Colorado, Penn State, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Illinois, Michigan State, Maryland, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio State

Losses:  None

Big Ten:  9-0

Overall:  12-0

Outlook:  Sure, Michigan doesn't have a proven signal caller on the team yet but I think this team will find a way to win ugly in key situations.  Their toughest tests will clearly be road trips to Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State over the last five weeks of the season.  By that time I believe Harbaugh will know exactly what he can expect out of his offense and he will figure out a way to win close games.

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Big Ten East Runner Up:  Ohio State

Wins:  Bowling Green, Tulsa, Rutgers, Indiana, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Nebraska, Maryland, and Michigan State

Losses:  Oklahoma, Penn State and Michigan

Big Ten:  7-2

Overall:  9-3

Outlook:  Just think of all the talent that Ohio State lost at the end of last year.  All you have to do is pop in a tape of last year's NFL draft and you will find plenty of Buckeyes shaking Roger Goodell's hand.  However, nobody will feel sorry for Ohio State as they still may have the most talent of any team in the Big Ten due to their strong recruiting year in and year out.  In 2016 it will come down to whether or not that talent is ready to perform on the big state, both early and late.  If Ohio State wants to content for a spot in the playoffs they will need that talent early in the season as they have a date with the Sooners in Norman.  If they want to get back to Indianapolis they will need that talent last in the season as Michigan comes to town to close the season, in a contest that will most likely decide the Big Ten East champion.  In both cases I have Ohio State coming up short and settling for a solid, yet unspectacular season in the eyes of Buckeye fans.

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Big Ten East T-3:  Indiana

Wins:  FlU, Ball State, Wake Forest, Michigan State, Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State and Purdue

Losses:  Ohio State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Michigan

Big Ten:  5-4

Overall:  8-4

Outlook:  I kinda like Indiana to make a dent in 2016 in the Big Ten East due to a pair of signature wins for Hoosier head coach Kevin Wilson.  I think Indiana will knock off both Michigan State and Penn State at home this year and make a little bit of a statement.  I love the Hoosiers ability to score points and hopefully they can play just enough on defense to solidify those predictions.

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Big Ten East T-3:  Penn State

Wins:  Kent State, Pitt, Temple, Maryland, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers and Michigan State

Losses:  Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana

Big Ten:  8-4

Overall:  5-4

Outlook:  It could be a roller coast ride in Happy Valley this fall if my predictions are spot on.  I have Lion fans giddy after opening the season with instate victories over Pitt and Temple.  Then doom and gloom as they open Big Ten play with losses to Michigan and Minnesota.  A high returns with a three game winning streak that includes a victory over Ohio State at home.  That ends when Penn State loses two straight Iowa and Indiana, before a good mood returns with victories over Rutgers and Michigan State to end the season.  All in all a solid season for Penn State and just another small step towards reclaiming their rights as a "helmet school".

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Big Ten East T-3:  Michigan State

Wins:  Furman, Wisconsin, BYU, Northwestern, Maryland, Illinois and Rutgers

Losses:  Notre Dame, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State

Big Ten:  5-4

Overall:  7-5

Outlook:  I expect Michigan State to take a step back with the loss of long time quarterback Connor Cook.  However, when I look through my predictions I almost went with a "worst case scenario" for Sparty and put a "L" in their column for a lot of their swing games.  If Michigan State wants to turn an average season into a solid season they just need to flip the switch on Indiana and Penn State and all of a sudden Sparty is back where they belong on the Big Ten East totem pole and contending down the stretch.  Look for Michigan State to ride yet another top tier defense and just play offense in order to give them a rest.

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Big Ten East 6:  Maryland

Wins:  Howard, FIU, Purdue and Rutgers

Losses:  UCF, Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska

Big Ten:  2-7

Overall:  4-8

Outlook:  I expect another down season for Maryland and actually quite a few more, but I do think there is hope for Maryland into the future...unlike Rutgers (see below).  They still have to wake up every morning with the likes of Michigan and Ohio State staring them in the face and they will never reach that status, but Maryland can make strides to eventually reach the second tier in the Big Ten East.  They have a new head coach in D.J. Durkin who seems to be energetic and into recruiting, which is a nice trait to have considering the wealth of talent that Maryland will have access to within a two hour radius of College Park.  They also have a certain shoe company who tends to get excited about Maryland Athletics and would love to see the Terps excel on the football field.  As for 2016 expect a lot of growing pains with a brand new staff.

Big Ten East 7:  Rutgers

Wins:  Howard, New Mexico and Illinois

Losses:  Washington, Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan State and Penn State

Big Ten:  1-8

Overall:  3-9

Outlook:  I just don't see much hope for Rutgers in 2016 and to be honest I don't see much hope for Rutgers in the future.  Sure, they are selling a new head coach in Chris Ash, but they will most likely be doing so every four to five years due to their set up.  Having to complete every year with the likes of Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten East, and then having to complete locally with Penn State and Maryland for recruits is going to be difficult for Rutgers to climb the totem pole just to get to mediocre status and an eventual bowl game.

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