Over the past two seasons, no team in the Big Ten has been as dominant as the Michigan Wolverines. Since the start of 2021, Michigan football is 25-3, has made the College Football Playoff (CFP) twice in a row, and has won the Big Ten title in back-to-back years. Additionally, the Wolverines are 19-1 in Big Ten play, with two-straight victories over the Ohio State Buckeyes.
This fall, Michigan looks to be the favorite for the Big Ten title yet again, though in its way stand many of the conference’s best teams that also reside in the Big Ten East. Who is the biggest threat to Michigan’s throne this year?
Penn State Nittany Lions
In 2022, Penn State turned its program around after subpar performances in 2020 and 2021. The Nittany Lions went from 7-6 and unranked the season before to 11-2 and No. 7 in the nation with one of the youngest teams in the conference.
On January 2nd, long-time Penn State starting quarterback Sean Clifford played in his final game as the Nittany Lions’ QB. Now, former No. 1 prospect Drew Allar — who combines size and arm talent like no other — will take over for the Lions in 2023. Penn State’s 2023 season will primarily rely on Allar stepping up, but so long as he does, I expect the Nittany Lions to be a threat for the Big Ten title and a CFP spot.
The Nittany Lions’ defense is tough, Penn State retains the core of its coaching staff, reloaded its wide receiver corps, and the offensive line is revamped and dangerous, not to mention the deadly rising sophomore running back duo in its backfield. Penn State is a threat to Michigan football and the Big Ten, especially since the Wolverines will make the trip to Happy Valley in mid-November — Beaver Stadium is one of the most challenging environments to play in for opposing teams.
Michigan at Penn State should be a Game of the Year candidate and a deciding game in the Big Ten East. Both teams will be talented, and despite Penn State’s 41-17 loss in Ann Arbor a season ago, the Nittany Lions are expected to make waves this fall.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is an obvious name to throw into the Big Ten title race, though I am not sure that the Buckeyes will be in their usual form this year. Sure, Ohio State is talented — they always are — but that did not do them any favors against Michigan football in 2021 or 2022.
Ohio State is losing a generational talent at quarterback, and as of late, Ryan Day has not been able to out-coach Jim Harbaugh on gameday. With Michigan returning much of its production and keeping its staff intact, I expect the Wolverines to run a similar scheme as they did in 2021-22. McCarthy, Edwards, Corum, and the Wolverines’ offensive line will be ready to deliver a 3rd-straight win over the Buckeyes in late November this year.
Additionally, as it did during its 42-27 loss in 2021, Ohio State will make the trip to Ann Arbor this fall. God forbid it snows again, but even if it doesn’t, I expect the Wolverines to have a significant advantage in this contest. If the Wolverines can get past these two unscathed, there shouldn’t be anyone else standing in the way of another Big Ten Championship coming home to Ann Arbor, MI in 2023.
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