The VSiN college football experts have been hard at work this summer, writing up team previews and predictions for all 131 FBS teams, including their favorite individual season win total and College Football Playoff bets.
Here are the team previews for the Big Ten:
The Hoosiers looked like they were finally turning the corner after finishing the 2020 season ranked 13th in the AP Poll (reached as high as No. 7). Injuries mounted along with poor play in 2021, and Indiana dropped to 2-10 (0-9 Big Ten) for its worst season in 10 years. Five new assistant coaches and 12 transfers are in to help Tom Allen get this program back on track.
The Hoosiers ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense last season, averaging fewer than 300 yards and 18 points per game. They had only four touchdown passes in nine Big Ten games. Allen fired offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan, replacing him with Walt Bell, who was a play-caller at Maryland and Florida State before three tough seasons as head coach at UMass. Oft-injured QB Michael Penix is now at Washington, reuniting with former IU OC Kalen DeBoer. Transfer Connor Bazelak had 20 starts in three years at Missouri (5,058 yards, 66% completions, 23-17 TD-INT) and looks to have the inside track over returning QB Jack Tuttle. Auburn transfer Shaun Shivers and North Carolina transfer Josh Henderson take over at RB for a running game that found very few holes (3.2 yards per carry) due to poor offensive line play (three starters return this year). At receiver, JUCO transfer Cam Camper, North Carolina transfer Emery Simmons and D.J. Matthews, a former Florida State transfer who missed most of 2021 after an ACL tear, will need to step up to give the Hoosiers some big plays that weren’t there last season.
The defense’s scoring average rose from 20.3 to 33.2 points per game, last in the Big Ten. Defensive coordinator Charlton Warren left for North Carolina after one season. Allen hired Chad Wilt from Minnesota to run the defense but will be more involved in the defensive game plan and play-calling. As they did on offense, Indiana worked the transfer portal hard. On the defensive line, JH Tevis (37 tackles) started every game at Cal last year and Myles Jackson comes in after two years at UCLA. The primary issue will be replacing Micah McFadden, the Hoosiers' top tackler and a coach on the field since 2019. Bradley Jennings Jr. arrives from Miami, where he lost his starting position last year after starting all 11 games in 2020. A key performer will be the speedy Cam Jones, another fifth-year player who finished third on the team with 43 tackles in 2021. The secondary should be the strongest unit. Tiawan Mullen and Jaylin Williams are seniors and tenacious cover guys. Safeties Devon Matthews and Bryant Fitzgerald started multiple games last season. The Hoosiers must generate takeaways, as their interception total slid from 17 to five last season despite playing four more games than in 2020.
Allen is not on the hot seat yet but questions are starting to be asked after there was a lot of turnover on the coaching staff. Indiana signed its highest-rated class ever (30th per 247Sports), but a lot of it was from the transfer portal. The first home game versus Illinois will be an indicator of where this season might go. Two of the three nonconference games will be wins (at Cincinnati could be dicey). The schedule was tough last year and doesn’t get any easier with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State on tap.
Pick: Under 4 (+ 100)
-- Wes Reynolds
The Terrapins broke a six-year bowl drought in 2021 with an emphatic 54-10 win over Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl. Maryland has recruited well under Mike Locksley, who was extended for five more seasons in April, but the results hadn’t shown on the field until last year. The offense has most of its production returning, but the defense always seems to be rebuilding in College Park.
Last year, Taulia Tagovailoa set Maryland single-season records for passing yards (3,860), completions (328), completion percentage (69.2%), passing touchdowns (26) and 300-yard passing games (7). While he did throw 11 interceptions, five of them were against Iowa (which led the nation with 25), and he only threw three in his final seven games. Tua’s younger brother has plenty of targets at receiver. Rakim Jarrett is a speedy, sure-handed threat who led Maryland with 62 receptions, 829 yards and five touchdowns. He's rejoined by senior Dontay Demus Jr., who was lost for the last seven games of 2021 with a knee injury. He was tops in the Big Ten and 11th nationally in receiving yards at the time. Transfer Jacob Copeland (41, 642, 4) was Florida’s leading pass catcher last year. At RB, Tayon Fleet-Davis has graduated. Colby McDonald (60 rushes, 325 yards, 2 TD) and Challen Faamatau (56, 235, 3) are the top returning backs, but true freshman Ramon Brown, a four-star prospect, is likely to get a lot of work behind an offensive line that returns four starters.