Mike Locksley knows what it’s like to coach in 2 of college football’s toughest divisions. Last season, Locksley’s Maryland Terrapins finished fifth in the Big Ten East behind Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State. Locksley returned to Maryland in 2019 after 3 seasons on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama. When Locksley was at UA, the Crimson Tide won SEC West titles in 2016 and 2018. In 2017, Auburn won the SEC West, but Alabama went on to win the College Football Playoff national championship.

Locksley feels  the Big Ten East is “very, very similar” to the SEC West.

“I feel like it’s the same game,” Locksley said in a Twitter Spaces session with Pro Football Focus, per 247Sports. “For so many years, people always thought of the Big Ten as kind of ‘3 yards and a cloud of dust,’ but when you look at the explosive offenses in this league and the defenses — year in and year out, we’ve got four or five different teams in our league that are ranked in the top 10 or top 15, so I would say very comparable. I spent time in the SEC West at Alabama and I would say that the Big Ten East is very, very similar … I would say that the two leagues are very comparable. I think the difference for us is just, when you look at the academic prowess of the teams in our league as well as the football prowess, you get the best of both worlds.”

The Big Ten went to East and West divisions in 2014. Ohio State has represented the East 5 times in the conference championship game. OSU’s 2014 team went on to win the CFP national championship. In the CFP era, SEC West teams Alabama and LSU have combined for 4 national titles.

Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan have each won the Big Ten East once.