Countdown to kickoff: East suprise team?

Kickoff is fast approaching. To help count down the days to Aug. 28, the BTN.com team is discussing one topic every day. Think of it as our countdown to kickoff. Today’s topic: East surprise team? See Tom Dienhart, Sean Merriman and Brent Yarina’s picks in this post.

See our other 2014 predictions:

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Dienhart: Maryland. Maryland. Don’t sleep on this Big Ten newcomer. The Terps have the makings of one of the Big Ten’s better offenses; and the defense features nine starters back. Could this be the third-best team in the East? We’ll see. One thing’s for sure: The schedule makers did Maryland no favors in its Big Ten debut.

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Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Merriman: Maryland. When looking at the Big Ten East, many people are quick to point out that Maryland and Rutgers will have a tough time winning games. Yes, there will be an adjustment period and the schedules are tough, no doubt. But from a talent standpoint, the Terps are loaded. Teams are going to have their hands full trying to stop this high-flying offense, led by five receivers who totaled 30-plus catches for 450-plus yards in 2013. Don’t be surprised to see Maryland average 30-plus points and card several “surprise” wins this season.

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Brent Yarina: Michigan. Yes, Michigan struggled last season. Escapes vs. Akron and at UConn are unacceptable for the nation’s all-time winningest program. Thing is, everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Wolverines in 2013. Especially on offense. The offensive line was torched, which led to an ineffective ground game and Devin Gardner running for his life. Still, this is a team with plenty of top-tier talent (Gardner, Devin Funchess, Frank Clark, Jake Ryan, Blake Countess, etc.), making a bounceback season likely – assuming the line improves.

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15 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (15 Comments)
Doug on 8/5/2014 @ 12:08pm EDT Said:

Brent- thanks for the laugh. M’s weak O-Line lost their 2 top players. Keep the faith, maybe you can help them with their head coaching search at the end of the year !

Big Ten Fan on 8/5/2014 @ 4:39pm EDT Said:

While Tom and Sean are likely to be happy with their picks, Brent might not be. Michigan is going to be the surprise team in the Big Ten but not a good surprise as Michigan is a train wreck. Getting to .500 is going to be awfully tough and they could be as bad a 3 and 9. MIchigan’s offensive line is the worst in the Big Ten. The defense has several solid players but not enough play makers to win games. Nationally, I fully expect Ohio State to be the surprise nationally as the Buckeyes look a lot like a three or four loss team.

Here are some real predictions for the East.

1. Michigan State – A perfect 12 and 0 (Rose Bowl Bound)
2. Penn State – 11 and 1 and 7 and 1 in the Big Ten (Orange Bowl Bound)
3. Ohio State – 8 and 4 and 6 and 2 in the Big Ten
4. Maryland – 8 and 4 but only 4 and 4 in the Big Ten
5. Indiana – 6 and 6 and 3 and 5 in the Big Ten
6. Michigan – 3 and 9 and 1 and 7 in the Big Ten
7. Rutgers – 2 and 10 and 0 anbd8 in the Big Ten

Iron Wizard on 8/5/2014 @ 5:06pm EDT Said:

Ha! Penn State is not eligible for a bowl game this year so that instantly takes away your credibility

Big P on 8/5/2014 @ 6:28pm EDT Said:

Actually,there are rumors about that PSU’s postseason ban may be lifted – time off for good behavior, I guess (that and the sanctions were too strict to begin with). It’s entirely possible that PSU may make a bowl game.

Matthew Troupe on 8/5/2014 @ 6:30pm EDT Said:

Iron Wizard, you beat me to it, PSU may finish 11 and 1, but that’s all they will get, no bowl games until 2016 season.

travis on 8/5/2014 @ 6:35pm EDT Said:

Michigan at 3-9? Who seriously put a comment like that on? Yes michigan lost 2 starters on the o line but it’s for the better. Michigan has a lot of talent up front that just needs to gel. Michigan with an offensive line last year only has 2 losses msu and osu. All of the other games they lost by a combined 11 pts. Easily win able games with a better line. 9-3 at worst for michigan

josh on 8/5/2014 @ 6:47pm EDT Said:

@big ten fan . If msu went 12-0, that wpuld put them in the four team playoff, you do know that starts this year, right? And how do you see urban meyer, braxton miller, and the buckeyes losing FOUR games? Urban meyer knows how to win, and leads with intergrity and inspiring ethics. Im confident we can go undefeated, as long as the new defense is effective, we already know braxton is an amzing athlete and leader. Plus, we are getting into urban’s recruiting class now. That should be something right there. Msu has a great team and a great coach. I hope and think they will do well, but my buckeyes better be ready for war, and urban will have them prepared for a win. I hope this is our year, but we shall see. #gobucks. #GoB1G

smith on 8/5/2014 @ 6:48pm EDT Said:

Penn state isn’t eligible…yet. they will be

Craig on 8/5/2014 @ 7:43pm EDT Said:

Maryland…seriously, and Michigan…you guys are all reaching or are drinking some intoxicating kool-aid. I like MSU, OSU, and Penn State to lead the East division. We’re not doing that forgettable Legends and Leaders anymore, are we?

Ben on 8/5/2014 @ 9:17pm EDT Said:

Michigan has plenty of top tier talent including… Devin Gardner? You’re kidding right? He’s like a bomb waiting to go off every game.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com Senior Editor on 8/6/2014 @ 9:41am EDT Said:

    He is a top talent. Look at what he did with absolutely zero offensive line. His numbers were among the best in the Big Ten during conference play. The turnovers are an issue, but, again, those would be helped by having some better protection.

M Fan on 8/6/2014 @ 9:22am EDT Said:

Hey Doug! I lol at your prediction. Michigan is going to surprise you. Also B1G fan, that is the most ridiculous prediction of the B1G ever! MSU will NOT go undeafeted and OSU will certainly not lose four games. I expect Michigan to go 9-3 or 10-2, but let’s wait and see!

UMDFAN on 8/6/2014 @ 10:22am EDT Said:

I am a Terp fan, but 8-4? I do not see it. Agree that there are too many questions about that offensive line…been that way for 10 years now, ever since the 2003 season ended.
Offense does have talented wide receivers, but QB needs time to throw to them.
I am thinking more like 6-6 overall, 3-5 in B1G.

Chris Garrett on 8/6/2014 @ 11:20am EDT Said:

You’re right if Maryland stays healthy they will be a factor in the East. Accumulating quite a bit of speed and although depth is getting better they still are slim in some positions. should make for some very interesting games.

manonthemoon on 8/8/2014 @ 1:22pm EDT Said:

Strangely I have to agree that any prediction about Michigan is as valid as the next. Who IS that team and what can be expected in 2014 are, at this point, unanswerable… so save both your trolling LOL’s and your PollyAnna predictions for a 2-loss season. They should be everyone’s pick as a “surprise” in that sense. 3 losses? Possible though also possibly lofty in retrospect. 3 wins? Hardly likely, but it could happen. Somewhere in between? Yeah, that’s more like it.
There are some maybes for the Wolverines this season, but the only all-caps bold-face question mark this team has is how much worse will this O-Line be having lost 2 Tackles to the NFL? Most say simply “worse,” but others qualify that with a “worse, in a way… BUT” comment that is followed by indications they’ll only be worse on the edges and maybe, overall, slightly improved… especially after a couple of games under their collective belt.
Most other concerns – specific D Back positioning, #2/3 WR emergence, turnovers – are not going unaddressed and the Nussmeier factor is an as-yet-unrealized wild card that should, at the very least, provide some modicum of improvement to an O that struggled at a fundamental level last season.
With the exception of two positions (OT, WR), this is better team than last year. Their D & ST should keep them in games, particularly if they can get the secondary settled into the right roles. There is young talent at WR as well as a deep stable of RBs and a new O Coord. Having said that… Gardner will be running for his life at times, he also remains one of the top dual-threat QBs in the conference, if not the country.
Sleep on any of 4 or 5 middling teams in the B1G at your own peril, including UofM who is probably no worse (and likely no better) than the 3rd or 4th team in the East (see also: Penn St). Turnovers +/- will be what determines what KIND of surprise UofM turns out to be as maybe a spoiler for one of the teams in serious contention for the title.

Props to Terps as an improved team but I don’t expect any team that can’t win the ACC to be a “surprise” in the B1G. They’ll be immediately respectable, bowl eligible, and sneak up on a team while probably losing one they should’ve won. How’s that any surprise? Also, as indicated… take a good look at that schedule. Yeesh. 7 total wins by UMd would be a surprise.

@bigtenfan, you may want to (spell)check your accuracy. Uof M has THE worst O-line in the conference? 1 “W” in conference play? OSU 4 losses? Sparty undefeated? (I think I smell a spartanfan) But hey, why not… its early August & you have the advantage of interweb anonymity, so just randomly spout potential absurdity, something’s bound to stick, right? While the road to the B1G championship literally goes through ELansing due to favorable scheduling, both Sparty & tOSU could well be 1-loss (at least) teams heading into Nov 8th. MSU was one of the best teams in the country when last season ended but my money’s on tOSU’s odds as the one who’s unbeaten through October.
Here’s a potential surprise… Sparty comes into November 8-0.

The surprise team out of the East will be the Hoosiers. By getting a little help from their D, they go to their first bowl game since 2007.

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