The Big Ten will look very different next year with new head coaches and tenured quarterbacks moving on. Matt Rhule and Luke Fickell will take over at Nebraska and Wisconsin respectively. Both coaches will have an opportunity to make an instant impact at their respective programs. C.J. Stroud and Sean Clifford will move on from their programs bringing a new starting quarterbacks to the Big Ten. Jim Harbaugh and Michigan remain intact after a trip to the College Football Playoffs. The Big Ten is one of the best conferences in college football and it is easy to see why.
Will Michigan Threepeat in the Big Ten and contend for a national title? – Jim Harbaugh has the Michigan Wolverines rolling and they are likely to be the favorite in the Big Ten after returning a majority of their starters on both sides of the ball. The Wolverines received a surprise when Blake Corum opted to return to school instead of entering the draft. The combination of Corum and Donovan Edwards should form one of the best ground attacks in the country. JJ McCarthy also returns at quarterback and should improve heading into his second season as the starter. McCarthy needs to improve his accuracy and consistency if he is going to potentially lead Michigan to a National Championship. The defense should once again be one of the best in the country. The secondary returns most of the key pieces which has been the Achilles heel for Michigan at times under Jim Harbaugh. Next year appears to be Harbaugh’s best chance at a National Championship since he arrived at Michigan nearly a decade ago.
Who will replace CJ Stroud at Ohio State? – CJ Stroud officially announced he would be departing for the NFL after some supposed long thoughts. Ryan Day’s last three quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round so the successor will have large shoes to fill. The next starting quarterback is going to enter a great situation with some of the best skill players in the country. Marvin Harrison Jr and Emeka Egbuka will be one of the best wide receiver duos in the country making the job easier for the next quarterback. Kyle McCord is viewed as the favorite as he was the back up to Stroud. McCord is entering his third season as a Buckeye and actually started one game in 2021 against Akron. He is mobile but is considered a pro style quarterback who will go through his reads. One interesting note about McCord is he was Harrison’s high school quarterback where they won three state championships. Devin Brown is the other option for the Buckeyes. Brown is entering his second season as a Buckeye and saw limited action last year. He is not a true duel threat quarterback but is more mobile than McCord. Brown and McCord were top 50 recruits and highly sought after by programs around the country. Both players will battle through the spring and the competition likely will not end until fall camp.
Does Drew Allar live up to the hype at Penn State? – James Franklin has arguably his most talented team to date and this includes the teams with Saquon Barkley. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen are an incredible duo at running back. The offensive line returns most of their key pieces and the defense has young talented stars all over the field. The biggest question is if they have a quarterback ready to take them to the next level. Enter Drew Allar. Allar was a five star quarterback in the class of 2022. After sitting behind Sean Clifford for a season, Allar will now be the starting quarterback. He played in 10 games last year attempting 60 passes and throwing four touchdowns. The time for Penn State to take a step forward is now. This may sound like lofty expectations for a first time starter but any quarterback who enters with this amount of hype is going to need to perform well. Franklin’s next two seasons are crucial if he wants a shot at the College Football Playoffs. If Allar is as good as advertised, he cannot waste the next two years playing in meaningless bowl games.
Which first year coach will find the most success? – The Big Ten west will have three new coaches next season after Nebraska and Wisconsin fired their coaches while Jeff Brohm left Purdue for Louisville. Nebraska hired Matt Rhule, Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell and Purdue hired Ryan Walters. All three programs are in good position to have a strong season. Purdue is coming off an appearance in the Big Ten championship including 17 wins over the past two seasons. Walters was viewed as one of the top up and coming coaches in the country and will now have a chance to run his own program. Rhule was hired in late November and hit the ground running with Nebraska. He has been active in the transfer portal bringing in 10 transfers. A couple of the notable players include Arik Gilbert (tight end, Georgia), MJ Sherman (edge, Georgia), Jeff Sims (quarterback, Georgia Tech) and Elijah Jeudy (defensive line, Texas A&M). The transfer portal has pushed up the timeline for success as new coaches can find instant impact players to help raise the level of talent. Wisconsin choosing Fickell may have been the best hire of this cycle in all of college football. Fickell is bringing the air raid offense to Madison and will have either Tanner Mordecai or Nick Evers as their starting quarterback. Braelon Allen also returns at running back after quietly rushing for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Can Illinois find a way to repeat their success? – Illinois was one of the most surprising teams of the 2022 season. Bret Bielema helped Illinois start the season 7-1 before stumbling to an 8-5 finish. Illinois was competitive in every game and nearly beat Michigan in the Big House. Bielema will need to find a replacement for star running back Chase Brown. Brown declared for the NFL Draft after rushing for 1,643 yards in his junior season. Reggie Love will get the first shot at replacing Brown after he started the ReliaQuest Bowl against Mississippi State. Illinois will also need to replace their quarterback since Tommy DeVito ran out of eligibility. Bielema identified Luke Atlmyer in the transfer portal as the potential replacement for DeVito. Altmeyer was considered one of the top 200 players in the 2021 recruiting class and originally signed with Ole Miss. Altmyer sat behind Matt Corral and Jaxson Dart with no clear path to playing time. The Big Ten west is only getting stronger and Illinois will need above average quarterback play to contend in their division.
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