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Big Ten East is a beast with Ohio State, Michigan State

Penn State head coach James Franklcracks smile during his press conference first day Big Ten medidays held Chicago July 28

Penn State head coach James Franklin cracks a smile during his press conference at the first day at the Big Ten media days held in Chicago on July 28, 2014. (AP Photo/PennLive.com, Joe Hermitt)

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If the strengths of college football teams “ebb and flow,” as Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany put it, then the current is heading hard east.

So hard, in fact, that anyone looking to pencil in a conference champion doesn’t need to look on the left side of the Big Ten map. Trying to figure out a way a West Division team could hoist the Stagg Championship Trophy in December is as futile as swimming upstream.

“It’s one of the toughest divisions in college football,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said of the newly aligned East Division. “You just have to look at the recruiting that takes place at the schools and then the style of defense and offense.”

Forget that the East is loaded with Ohio State, Michigan and a burgeoning Michigan State program. To be fair, the West has Wisconsin and Nebraska.

But the Spartans and Buckeyes are the only teams with a chance to be selected for the first College Football Playoff. When they meet Nov. 1 in East Lansing, it will be as much a de facto Big Ten title game as it will be a division title game.

“If we take care of business beforehand, that’s a big chip game,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.

The West is loaded with basement dwellers. The Big Ten’s bottom three teams a season ago — Illinois, Northwestern and Purdue — are in the division. It’s almost like the divisions are two separate conferences.

And though it might be hard to pick the conference champion, it will come down to little more than a coin flip.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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