B1G East Burning Questions
You would think that after a month, we would have this thing pretty well figured out. But as the unofficial start to B1G play kicks off, there are still some burning questions, even surrounding the nation’s top two teams.
Non-conference play isn’t always the best barometer, either.
There are schools like Indiana, which sit at 4-0 after knocking off four sub-par opponents that would all be basement B1G teams. There are teams like Nebraska and Wisconsin, neither of which have played with their biggest offensive weapons yet. There’s even a team like Purdue, which might’ve finally found an answer at quarterback in redshirt freshman David Blough after what he did in his first career start.
So having said all that, let’s ask some burning questions about the B1G East.
Has Michigan’s offense turned the corner?
It’d be easy to give a definitive ‘yes.’ With the comfort Jake Rudock showed on Saturday, it looked like he finally was settled into Jim Harbaugh’s offense after transferring from Iowa. I’m holding off on that because BYU’s pass rush is nowhere near what Michigan State, Ohio State or Penn State will present. I will say that it was a major plus to see him not make the dumb throws that plagued him in the first three games. He understood what was there and what wasn’t. It’s obvious he has serious weapons in Amara Darboh and Jake Butt. And if De’Veon Smith and that Michigan rushing attack can stay healthy, the Wolverines should be a much more potent offensive force.
Who is the real Christian Hackenberg?
A question that was beat to death this offseason is still very much up for debate heading into conference play. On one hand, we saw Hackenberg finally deliver the standout performance we’ve been waiting for against San Diego State. On the other hand, he still struggled even in the two games he wasn’t sacked. So what will we see out of Hackenberg in B1G play? A lot of that could depend on whether or not Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch are able to return to action. If they are, the Lions will have an element they didn’t have when Hackenberg was the B1G’s punching bag last year. Still, the ups and downs are still likely to surface. He isn’t undraftable nor is he worthy of being the nation’s top quarterback prospect. It’s somewhere in between. There are going to be games in which he doesn’t have to do a whole lot for the Lions to move the ball because of the ground game. The issue is whether or not Hackenberg can lead the offense to a comeback if and when the Lions fall behind against B1G competition. That’ll determine how good he really is.
Are there any potential trap games for Michigan State and Ohio State?
Yes, there definitely are. I’m not saying either of them will lose, but there are definitely some concerning matchups for both teams. We know the Spartans won’t have any problem getting up for the Oct. 17 showdown at Michigan. But the week after, they host Indiana, a team that has as much offensive balance as anyone in the B1G. Given MSU’s already depleted secondary, that could pose an even bigger problem down the road. And Ohio State is going to face its toughest defensive line to that point of the season when Penn State comes to Columbus. The emergence of Carl Nassib is going to add another scary element for a Lions defense that’s capable of frustrating any team, including Ohio State’s zone read looks. We all have Nov. 21 circled on our calendars, but both MSU and OSU know that if they overlook these matchups, that game won’t feature two unbeaten teams.