Who is the Big Ten East favorite?

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The Daily Iowan

Ohio State players along with head coach Urban Meyer sing the school fight song at the end of the game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. Ohio State extended their winning streak to 19 games. Ohio State defeated Iowa, 34-24. (The Daily Iowan/file photo)

Three DI staffers debate who will win the Big Ten East.

Ohio State
The East division of the Big Ten will belong to Ohio State at the end of the season.
The biggest tests for the defending national champs will be Michigan State at home and Michigan on the road. However, the Buckeyes can beat both of those teams.

Michigan State, exposed by Purdue, has played inconsistently at times.

Playing in Ann Arbor, I’ll take Cardale Jones against Jake Rudock, no questions asked. The Big House will give Michigan a boost, but I do not think that the Wolverines can keep up with the Buckeyes.

Ohio State is a 17-point favorite against Penn State this weekend. The Nittany Lions are 5-1, but the combined record of opponents they’ve beaten this year is 12-16.

Looking ahead, the Buckeyes face Rutgers, Minnesota, and Illinois (combined record of 10-7). While these aren’t cellar-dwelling teams, they aren’t contending to win the division. Ohio State should win each game by at least 20 points.

On top of its schedule, Ohio State has the roster to win.

Jones remains one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football, but Ohio State will look elsewhere for its top weapon.

Heisman Trophy contender Ezekiel Elliott finished last year on a scorching streak (last three games of the season: 696 yards, 8 touchdowns) and has kept it going with 835 yards and 10 scores through six contests. His power and elusiveness will carry Ohio State to a division title.

The Buckeyes’ defense can be shaky at times, but with an explosive offense, they will try to run past opponents for the rest of the season.

Also, let’s not forget the man in charge of this team, Urban Meyer, one of the best coaches in college football. After resurrecting Bowling Green State and Utah and creating a powerhouse in Florida, Meyer seems to have perfected his trade at Ohio State. Entering this week, he has a 44-3 record in his four seasons in Columbus, and, in his first three years, his squad won a national championship. Not bad.
— by Adam Hensley

Michigan

Ohio State entered the season as not only a clear-cut Big Ten favorite but a national favorite. However, it has been largely underwhelming despite a 6-0 start. Urban Meyer is playing with fire with his quarterback situation, so far proving the adage “If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.”

So while the Buckeyes seem to ask, Knocked us off, despite returning most of their major contributors, Jim Harbaugh has Michigan turned around much sooner than anybody expected. The Wolverines, and their staggering defense, pose a very real threat to the sputtering Ohio State offense and the Big Ten title.

Michigan’s only misstep came in a first-week loss to what is proving to be a nationally elite team in Utah. Since then, it has given up 14 points in five games, including three-consecutive shutouts. It leads the Big Ten and the nation with only 6.3 points allowed per game, largely because of only allowing 181 yards per game, second in the nation.

Michigan State is worth a mention in this discussion, but even with possibly the most prototypical quarterback in the conference in Connor Cook, the offense isn’t impressive enough to offset the utter dominance of Harbaugh’s defense.

Michigan is similarly unremarkable offensively, but Harbaugh has former Hawkeye Jake Rudock taking care of the ball and improving each week, if only just as a game manager.

Michigan is unlikely to torch top opponents from an offensive standpoint — but when you rank second and third nationally in passing and rushing defense, respectively — you don’t have to. Harbaugh has quickly imposed his scheme on his defense, and while the other team can’t score, his team controls the ball and the tempo.

A stout, disciplined defense and a smart offense is exactly the type of team that takes down a talented team with quarterback issues.
— by Kyle Mann

Michigan State

Ohio State usually takes all the credit as the best team in the Big Ten East Division. But the team to really watch out for is Michigan State.

Michigan State has had a fantastic season so far, and it is tied for first in the East with a 2-0 record against the Big Ten, 6-0 overall.

Michigan State can grind. The Spartans beat Rutgers (2-2 when it faced Michigan State) by only a touchdown and beat Purdue (1-3 at the time of the matchup) by only a field goal the week before. But the Spartans persevered when their opponents tried to rally.

Before conference play began, Michigan State did what it was supposed to do against nonconference teams. It beat Western Michigan, Air Force, and Central Michigan by two touchdowns or more, and it triumphed over Oregon, which played in the National Championship Gamed last season and which won the Rose Bowl the season before that.

The Spartans have proved that they can close. Ohio state and Penn State generally beat their nonconference foes by a touchdown or more, albeit Penn State had a rough start, losing its first game of the season. But neither has been tested in a close game, with the exception of the Ohio State-Indiana game.

Having the experience being in close situations will give the Spartans the advantage in the East. For them, it’s not about blowout victories, it’s about winning.
— by Rod Engblom

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