Michigan shook up the Big Ten in 2021.
The Wolverines finally broke through under coach Jim Harbaugh for the program's first Big Ten championship since 2004, and that snapped Ohio State's run of four straight conference titles.
The Buckeyes, however, are the prohibitive favorite to strike back in 2022. Fourth-year coach Ryan Day brings back a loaded offense that features Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud, and Ohio State has a favorable schedule with most of the tough games at home. Michigan State and Penn State will stay in the mix in the Big Ten East, but it still comes down to the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
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What about the Big Ten West? Iowa won the division in 2021 before being dumped 42-3 by the Wolverines at Lucas Oil Stadium. Wisconsin is expected to bounce back, but the pressure is on veteran quarterback Graham Mertz to make that happen. Iowa, Wisconsin and Northwestern are 0-8 in the Big Ten championship game since the conference switched to the East and West division setup.
All 14 coaches returned to the Big Ten, but Nebraska's Scott Frost is on the hottest of hot seats. The Huskers revamped the coaching staff this offseason, and the conference season kicks off Aug. 27 when Nebraska and Northwestern meet in Dublin, Ireland.
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Will there be another shakeup this season? A closer look at the Big Ten, with predictions, big games, Heisman contenders and more:
2022 predicted order of finish
Big Ten East
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
- Penn State
Ohio State plays most of its tough Big Ten games in the comforts of home this season with Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan all coming to Ohio Stadium (not to mention the non-con blockbuster with Notre Dame). The Buckeyes have won 25 straight conference games at home by an average of 30.9 points per game. Michigan will have a tough test there in the finale. The Wolverines do get Michigan State and Penn State at home, but Harbaugh is 3-4 against those schools at the Big House. That's the game that turns the Spartans' season one way or the other. Penn State is 4-5 in Big Ten play each of the last two seasons. Maryland is coming off a bowl win in 2021, but the Terps are 4-21 against the Big Four in the division since joining the Big Ten in 2014. That's the next step.
Big Ten West
Wisconsin is the pick to win the division, but the Badgers are going to earn it. Wisconsin opens Big Ten play at Ohio State on Sept. 24, and it has road games at Michigan State and Iowa. The Hawkeyes play cross-over games against Ohio State and Michigan. Will that allow a school such as Purdue or Minnesota to sneak up the standings this year? The Boilermakers are an interesting sleeper, but they have the Badgers and Gophers on the road this season. They lost to both teams at home in 2021. Nebraska lost nine games by nine points or less last season, and Northwestern is trying to bounce back after its own nine-loss season. The Wildcats did win the Big Ten West in 2018 and 2020. Is there more even-year magic in store? The opener in Dublin is a huge tone-setter for both teams.
Big Ten top storyline: Ohio State and who else?
The Big Ten added USC and UCLA from the Pac-12 starting in the 2024; a blockbuster realignment move that could lead to further expansion for the soon-to-be 16-te Case Western Reserve University clothes am conference. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said those schools can help "carry some weight" for the Big Ten.
Was that an indirect shot at the rest of the competition? Ohio State is 93-11 in the College Football Playoff era, an .894 winning percentage. The Buckeyes won the conference's only titles in the CFP era (2014) and BCS era (2002). Ohio State is 7-3 in New Year's Day Six bowls, too.
Five ot Charleston Southern Buccaneers clothes her schools in the conference have a winning percentage better than 60% in the CFP era. That's Wisconsin (.745), Iowa (.693), Michigan (.680), Penn State (.643) and Michigan State (.643). They are 6-7 in New Year's Day Six Bowls, and the Spartans and Wolverines were routed in their lone CFP appearances.
That weight is on the big stage, and Ohio State is all-but penciled in to get back to the CFP in 2022. Can any of those other schools disrupt that?
MORE: Futures odds and best bets for Big Ten
Nick Singleton, RB, Penn State
Singleton, a five-star running back from Governor Mifflin High School (Reading, Pa.), gives the Nittany Lions an exciting backup option for junior Keyvone Lee. Singleton has good size at 6-0, 210 pounds, and the high-school highlight reel is predictably amazing. Four-star running back Kaytron Allen (IMG Academy) also will be in the mix for carries.
C.J. Hicks, LB, Ohio State
New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles will bring a more aggressive scheme to Ohio State, and Hicks (Archbishop Alter, Dayton, Ohio) is a five-star linebacker that could work into the middle two-linebacker rotation with Steele Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg. Four-star safety Kye Stokes (Armwood, Seffner, Fla.) also was impressive in the spring game.
Will Johnson, CB, Michigan
Wolverines' fans always get excited about five-star cornerbacks, and Johnson (Grosse Pointe South, Mich.) is the next in line. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound cornerback has the versatility to play either in the slot or safety – think Dax Hi CMU Mavericks shirt ll – and that could lead to early playing time for new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter.
Casey Thompson, QB, Nebraska
Thompson replaces four-year starter Adrian Martinez, who transferred to K Bemidji State Beavers Jerseys ansas State. Thompson played in 15 games at Texas, where he had 30 TDs and nine interceptions. The Huskers also have a new offensive coordinator in Mark Whipple, who worked with Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett at Pitt last season. It's a new QB for Frost, and it might just work this time.
Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska
Nebraska also brought in a new passing game coordinator in Mickey Joseph from LSU. Palmer, who had 41 catches for 458 yards and three TDs with the Tigers the last three seasons, followed Joseph. Palmer should thrive in a more pronounced role and will emerge as a breakout player for the Huskers.
Jarek Broussard and Jalen Berger, RBs, Michigan State
Broussard (Colorado) and Berger (Wisconsin) are tasked with replacing the product Michigan vs. Ohio State Rivalry shirt ion from Kenneth Walker III, who rushed for 1,636 yards and 18 TDs last season. This might be more of a tandem effort, but you know Mel Tucker is going to rely on that strong running game around quarterback Peyton Thorne.
Victor Oluwatimi, C, Michigan
Michigan had a dominant offensive line last season, and Oluwatimi should help that trend continue. He started 35 games for Virginia the last three seasons and was a semifinalist for the Rimi Michigan vs. Ohio State Rivalry Gear ngton Trophy. The Wolverines rushed for a league-best 214.4 yards per game last season.
C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Stroud finished fourth in the Heisman voting last season after putting up 4,435 passing yards and 44 TDs as a first-year starter. The Buckeyes led the FBS in points and total yards, and Stroud is at the controls of what should be an elite offense again in 2022. He also gets book-end big stage games at The Shoe against Notre Dame and Michigan. The Buckeyes haven't had a Heisman Trophy winner since Troy Smith in 2006. Stroud could chang Kentucky vs. Louisville Rivalry shirt e that.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Smith-Njigba's last impression was a 15-catch, 347-yard, three-TD effort in the Rose Bowl against Utah. It was part of a ridiculous season where Smith-Njigba had 95 catches for 1,606 yards and nine TDs. He's a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, and that with a 85% catch percentage. That connection with Stroud will continue, and Alabama's DeVonta Smith opened the door for more receivers to win the Heisman two years ago.
TreVeyon Henderson, RB, Ohio State
Henderson grabbed national attention as a freshman with a 277-yard outburst against Tulsa last season, and he's yet another home-run hitter in Ohio State's loaded offense. How can the sophomore improve his chances? Be more involved in the big games. Henderson averaged 87.6 yards with five rushing TDs in six games against ranked opponents last season. Outbursts in those games keeps the national attention.
Braelon Allen, RB, Wisconsin
Allen is the top returning Big Ten rusher with numbers that are on par with Henderson. Allen rushed for 1,268 yards, averaged 6.8 yards per carry and finished with 12 TDs as a freshman for the Badgers, and that was with a limited role in the first month of the season. He's the next elite back off the Wisconsin assembly line. Montee Ball (2012), Melvin Gordon (2014) and Jonathan Tayor (2018-19) all have won the Doak Walker Award since 2012. Will Allen break through for the Heisman like Ron Dayne d Notre Dame vs. USC Rivalry shirt id in 1999?
Big Ten's biggest games of 2022
1. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 26)
It almost always comes down to The Game, and the Wolverines revived the rivalry with a 42-27 victory last season. The Buckeyes haven't lost to Michigan at Ohio Stadium since 2000, however. There is a good chance this is the next top-10 – perhaps top-five – showdown in the series. Can Harbaugh erase the heartaches of 2016 and 2018 in The Shoe?
DECOURCY: Michigan restores rivalry with Ohio State with dominant win
2. Wisconsin at Iowa (Nov. 12)
These Big Ten West rivals have traded three-score wins in each other's houses the last three years, and the series moves back to Kinnick Stadium in 2022. Given the brutal cross-over schedule both teams have, this is a gotta-have-it-game if you want to make it to Indianapolis. Mertz and Spencer Petras will be on the spot at quarterback.
3. Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 29)
This will not be a "White Out" game for some reason; perhaps because Ohio State has won the last five meetings since the 2016 loss at Happy Valley. It's still the toughest road test on the Buckeyes' schedule and part of a thrilling day in the Big Ten East.
4. Michigan State at Michigan (Oct. 29)
This is the other half of what should be a thrilling October day. The Spartans have won the last two in the Paul Bunyan Trophy series, and Tucker hasn't backed down from the Wolverines at all. Michigan State rallied from a 16-point third-quarter deficit in 2021, and Harbaugh – who is 3-4 against the Spartans – can't lose another one at the Big House.
5. Wisconsin at Ohio State (Sept. 24)
This will no doubt be a Big Noon Kickoff Game and it could be a conference championship preview. The Buckeyes have won eight straight in the series, and the Badgers haven't won in Columbus since a 24-13 shocker in 2004.
Big Ten stat that matters
Ohio State has averaged at least 40 points and 500 yards in each of the last five seasons since Day arrived in Columbus as an assistant coach under Urban Meyer. Last season, Michigan was the only other Big Ten team to average more than 35 points per game at 37.7. Penn State is the only other school to have a 40-point offense in the last five years with 41.1 ppg. in 2017. No UNC vs. Duke Rivalry Jerseys Cumberlands Patriots Jerseys other Big Ten team has averaged 500 yards per game. To beat the Buckeyes, you have to keep up as best you can. It's not going to be easy in 2022.
Big Ten champion: Ohio State
Day repeatedly used the word "edgy" at Big Ten Media Days to describe the team's mindset in the offseason. Ohio State isn't used to finishing second in the Big Ten East, let alone losing to rival Michigan. Knowles will bring a more aggressive defense, and sophomores Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau will revive the pass rush that was missing last season. The offense will reset the Big Ten record book in several areas. The Buckeyes have a tough opener against Notre Dame, but that's only going to help down the line in the College Football Playoff.