Brad’s 2022 College Football Preview- Big Ten Analysis and Predictions

Every summer since 2007 I have created an intricate set of college football predictions for each upcoming season.  This year is no exception, as I will be using my blog over the next few hours to publish my 16th annual college football preview guide which will contain 18 entries in all. The records below reflect each team’s predicted regular season overall record followed by their conference record.  These records include conference title games for the two division champions but exclude bowl games which will be previewed later on in a separate column on this blog.  The teams marked in bold font are the ones predicted to gain bowl eligibility.  Without further ado, here are my predictions for the Big Ten Conference in 2022.

East Division

1Ohio State (12-1, 8-1) conference champion

Positional Strength: Quarterback

Positional Weakness: Defensive Backs

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Michigan (November 26)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Penn State (October 29)

Bottom Line: The loaded Buckeyes will retain their spot atop the Big Ten throne and cruise to a playoff berth thanks to an all-world offense and an improved defense.

2Michigan (10-2, 7-2)

Positional Strength: Offensive Line

Positional Weakness: Linebacker

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Penn State (October 15)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Iowa (October 1)

Bottom Line: The Wolverines lost a lot from last year’s playoff team, especially on defense, but Harbaugh has recruited well enough where there shouldn’t be much of a drop off in 2022. Still, I don’t see Michigan, nor anyone else, beating Ohio State in the Horseshoe this season so I can’t call for them to repeat as champs.

3Penn State (9-3, 7-2)

Positional Strength: Defensive Backs

Positional Weakness: Offensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Ohio State (October 29)- the Nittany Lions have played Ohio State well the past few seasons, especially at home, so I feel like their due a big win against them in State College this year.

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Purdue (September 1)- I think the Boilermakers are going to be really good this year and opening with them on the road for a primetime “Blackout” game seems like bad fortune.

Bottom Line: Coach James Franklin (pictured above) will bring this program back to elite status in 2022, thanks to an experienced offense and a young but talented defense coached by guru coordinator Manny Diaz.

4Michigan State (8-4, 5-4)

Positional Strength: Offensive Line

Positional Weakness: Running Back

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Wisconsin (October 15)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Maryland (October 1)

Bottom Line: The Spartans won’t be able to recreate the magic of their 11 win 2021 campaign, but as long as the pass defense improves a little (dead last in the nation last year), then this team should still be pretty good.

5Maryland (7-5, 4-5)

Positional Strength: Wide Receiver

Positional Weakness: Defensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Michigan State (October 1)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: vs. Purdue (October 8)

Bottom Line: The Terps will continue to improve during this surprisingly successful tenure from their formerly embattled coach Mike Locksley.

6Rutgers (3-9, 1-8)

Positional Strength: Wide Receiver

Positional Weakness: Quarterback

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Indiana (October 22)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Maryland (November 26)

Bottom Line: Greg Schiano will produce another hard-nosed, tough football team in 2022, but the talent gap is too large and the schedule is too tough (divisional crossover opponents of Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa) for this team to make a serious push at a bowl game.

7Indiana (3-9, 1-8)

Positional Strength: Quarterback

Positional Weakness: Running Back

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Illinois (September 2)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Rutgers (October 22)

Bottom Line: After being one of the top disappointment teams in the country in 2021, the Hoosiers face a brutal schedule this season, including playing three teams coming off byes. I am calling for Indiana to actually win their first three games of the year, but then drop their next nine!

West Division

1Purdue (10-3, 7-2)conference runner-up

Positional Strength: Quarterback

Positional Weakness: Running Back

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Penn State (September 1)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Minnesota (October 1)

Bottom Line: The Boilermakers are my # 1 surprise team of 2022! This is a 9-4 team that beat two top 5 squads last yard that returns 14 staters including their star quarterback. I do realize that they lose there three best defenders including NFL first round draft pick George Karlaftis, but in a wide open Big Ten West division, why not pick the team with the best schedule and most dynamic offense.

2Iowa (10-2, 7-2)

Positional Strength: Linebacker

Positional Weakness: Quarterback

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Michigan (October 1)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Purdue (November 5)

Bottom Line: Despite their lack of flair and excitement, this program just wins games, year in and year out. They will be really good again in 2022 with 14 starters back including their starting QB and top running back, receiver, and tackler. However, repeating as division champ is really hard to do, and a brutal road schedule will prevent them from doing that this season.

3Wisconsin (9-3, 6-3)

Positional Strength: Running Back

Positional Weakness: Wide Receiver

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Purdue (October 22)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Michigan State (October 15)

Bottom Line: I feel like the Badgers have kind of become that team, like Boise State and Miami-FL, that everyone just annually slots in as their division champion based on name and reputation. And while I may have fallen for that trap in my projections for Boise and Miami for this season by picking them to win their respective divisions, I am not doing the same with Wisky. The Badgers have actually only won the Big Ten West twice in their last five seasons, and while I think they will be really good in 2022, if they can’t win the division with a former five star QB and the best defense in the country like they had in 2021, why would they do it this year with only 3 returning defensive starters.

4Nebraska (7-5, 4-5)

Positional Strength: Linebacker

Positional Weakness: Offensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Minnesota (November 5)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Purdue (October 15)

Bottom Line: Just like I have said it will be impossible for teams like Michigan State, Wake Forest, and Baylor to recreate the luck they had in 2021, it will be just as impossible for Nebraska to be as unlucky as they were last year (-5 turnover margin and 0-8 in one score games). This year, I believe Scott Frost will save his job with a winning season, but after picking them to contend for the division title multiple times during Frost’s tenure, I am tempering my expectations of this team, especially with a brutal slate of November games to end their season.

5Minnesota (7-5, 4-5)

Positional Strength: Running Back

Positional Weakness: Defensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Purdue (October 1)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Nebraska (November 5)

Bottom Line: I hate picking P.J. Fleck’s team to finish this low in the standings, but when you have five teams that legitimately could win A division, someone has to be picked to finish fifth. I think Minnesota lands at the bottom of these five teams in 2022 largely because of a brutal conference schedule that features only four Big Ten home games and crossover divisional road trips to State College and East Lansing.

6Northwestern (3-9, 1-8)

Positional Strength: Offensive Line

Positional Weakness: Wide Receiver

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: vs. Illinois (November 26)

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: vs. Miami-OH (September 24)- I think the Redhawks pull this upset here, as they have won 5 of the 7 all-time meetings between the two teams. In fact, Miami-OH was the only team to beat Northwestern during the Wildcats’ Cinderella 1995 regular season in which they won the Big Ten title.

Bottom Line: Would you believe the Wildcats won the Big Ten West both of the last two even numbered seasons? There is no way that streak extends to 2022, as Northwestern faces a brutal schedule armed with one of the worst offenses in the country.

7Illinois (3-9, 0-9)

Positional Strength: Running Back

Positional Weakness: Offensive Line

Biggest Predicted Win of the Year: at Western Michigan (November 25)- de facto MAC West title game!

Worst Predicted Loss of the Year: at Northern Illinois (October 8)

Bottom Line: Bielema surprised the league last year by upsetting Penn State, Nebraska, and Minnesota in his inaugural campaign with the Illinois. These conference upsets won’t come in 2022, as I am predicting the Illini go winless in Big Ten play largely due to a difficult schedule that only includes four Big Ten home games in which all of their winnable matchups come on the road.

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