Big Ten Spring Version 2022


Big Ten college football rankings and predictions with the realistic best and worst case records and quick analysis – the 2022 spring version.

So where’s the curveball going to come from this year in the Big Ten?

Last year it was Michigan getting over the hump – at least, it did after losing to a surprising Michigan State team – the year before it was Indiana rising up and Northwestern getting to the Big Ten Championship for the second time in three years, and this year it’s …

Nebraska? Maybe. Maryland? To a point, potentially, or …

Maybe it’s back to Ohio State and 13 other teams.

There’s a whole lot of fun to be had with all 14 teams looking either improved or good enough to make a reasonable push for a strong season. Of course, that’s not how this all works, but it’s Spring. It’s a time for hope.

The rankings are based on how good the teams should be and not the final projected records. Keeping in mind that this all could/might/will change when we make the final calls in August …

– 2022 College Football Schedules By Teams: All 131 Schools

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

2020: 3-6 2019: 2-10 2018: 1-11

Don’t ask how and why, but Rutgers got to a bowl game last year – it was a step forward.

The transfer portal is helping out the receiving corps and offensive line to what’s already looking like a much stronger offense with a lot of experience. It needs to be better with a defense that got really young really fast with seven lost starters.

Wagner, at Temple, Indiana. The Scarlet Knights have to take down those three games, and it’s going to take a few upsets – like Nebraska and maybe at Boston College – to match the five wins of 2021.

Realistic Best Case Record: 7-5Realistic Worst Case Record: 3-92022 Rutgers Prediction, Spring Football Version: 5-7CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 4-8Rutgers 2021 Final Record: 5-8– Rutgers 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Indiana Hoosiers

2020: 6-2 2019: 8-5 2018: 5-7

After a disastrously disappointing 2021 – following a terrific 2020 – the Hoosiers aren’t sitting still. They’re loading up through the transfer portal to replenish the defensive front seven, they got QB Connor Bazelak from Missouri, helped the skill spots, and cranked up the all-around depth.

Story continues

The schedule isn’t all that bad with a home game against Illinois to start and Idaho and WKU to follow. The Hoosiers should at least match last year’s two-win total early on, but there’s a big problem – the most winnable games are on the road. Cincinnati – this isn’t last year’s team – Nebraska, and Rutgers are all away from Bloomington.

The team will be stronger, but it’ll come down to the home game against Purdue to get to six wins and bowl eligibility.

Realistic Best Case Record: 8-4Realistic Worst Case Record: 3-92022 Indiana Prediction, Spring Football Version: 5-7CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 7-5Indiana 2021 Final Record: 2-10– Indiana 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Illinois Fighting Illini

2020: 2-6 2019: 6-7 2018: 4-8

Year Two under Bret Bielema needs to end with six wins and a bowl game, but it’s going to take an overhaul on defense – eight starters are expected to be done – and the offense has to be far more efficient. Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito is a nice quarterback get, but the O line needs tweaking.

There isn’t a sure-thing loss among the first four games, but going to Indiana is an important fight and owning home against Virginia and Wyoming is a must. Three of the last five games are on the road including trips to Michigan and Northwestern.

Realistic Best Case Record: 8-4Realistic Worst Case Record: 4-82022 Illinois Prediction, Spring Football Version: 6-6CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 3-9Illinois 2021 Final Record: 5-7– Illinois 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Northwestern Wildcats

2020: 7-2 2019: 3-9 2018: 9-5

Northwestern came up with fantastic Big Ten West-winning seasons in 2018 and 2020, total clunker three-win seasons in 2019 and 2021, so now the program is due to rise up and shock again … at least in theory.

The defensive front is all but starting over, star safety Brandon Joseph is off to Notre Dame, and the offense has to figure out something that works. At least the O is experienced, QB Ryan Hilinski is fine, and the line should be stronger.

Duke, Southern Illinois, Miami University. The Wildcats should at least equal last year’s win total before October, and they could get past that if they beat Nebraska in Ireland to kick it all off. Other than that, yes, the schedule looks daunting for a team that was totally miserable last year, but it’s Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern. They’ve done it before.

Realistic Best Case Record: 8-4Realistic Worst Case Record: 4-82022 Northwestern Prediction, Spring Football Version: 6-6CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 8-4Northwestern 2021 Final Record: 3-9– Northwestern 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Maryland Terrapins

2020: 2-3 2019: 3-9 2018: 5-7

Get ready for this to be one of the IT teams over the next few months. It’s not going to rise up and win the Big Ten East or anything, but it’s got just about everyone back on a high-octane – but painfully inconsistent – offense, and outside of the safeties there aren’t enough giant losses on D to make that much of a difference.

Starting out against Buffalo, at Charlotte, and South Alabama – no, there’s no non-conference game against a Power Five program – should help make the Terps feel good about themselves, but they have to go to Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State. Going bowling is a moral imperative with this relatively light schedule, and pushing for nine wins isn’t asking for the world.

Realistic Best Case Record: 9-3Realistic Worst Case Record: 6-62022 Maryland Prediction, Spring Football Version: 7-5CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 5-7Maryland 2021 Final Record: 7-6– Maryland 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Minnesota Golden Gophers

2020: 3-4 2019: 11-2 2018: 7-6

This should be interesting. Tanner Morgan has been quarterback since the Joe Salem era, star RB Mohamed Ibrahim is back off a torn Achilles tendon, and the receivers are great. However, the O line is undergoing an overhaul and the defensive front is all but starting over.

Fortunately, there’s time to get going with New Mexico State and Western Illinois as nice scrimmages before dealing with Colorado. The road games at Michigan State, Penn State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin will be an issue, but it should be another strong season with a few nice upsets to help.

Realistic Best Case Record: 9-3Realistic Worst Case Record: 6-62022 Minnesota Prediction, Spring Football Version: 8-4CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 6-6Minnesota 2021 Final Record: 9-4– Minnesota 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Nebraska Cornhuskers

2020: 3-5 2019: 5-7 2018: 4-8

QB Adrian Martinez is now at Kansas State, but Texas transfer Casey Thompson and Florida State’s Chubba Purdy are in to try making the O go. The transfer portal played a big role in the receiving corps and on the offensive line, and it all needs to work with a defense that has major work to do on the defensive front and secondary.

There’s no excuse with a schedule that has four straight home games – and six in eight dates – after kicking things off in Ireland against Northwestern.

Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Minnesota are home games, there’s no Ohio State, Penn State, or Michigan State from the West, and there’s even more of a sense of urgency for a program that was really, really close to being good last year.

Realistic Best Case Record: 9-3Realistic Worst Case Record: 5-72022 Nebraska Prediction, Spring Football Version: 7-5CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 5-7Nebraska 2021 Final Record: 3-9– Nebraska 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Iowa Hawkeyes

2020: 6-2 2019: 10-3 2018: 9-4

It’s Iowa so there are always parts ready to fill in, but even for this program and this offensive line it’s going to be hard to replace C Tyler Linderbaum. Even so, there’s experience – the line has to be stronger – and there theoretically should be more coming out of the attack. The secondary is the bigger concern, but the front seven will be a brick wall.

As long as the Hawkeyes can take care of home – that includes beating Iowa State – there should be a strong start. However, a run of four road games in six dates – including Ohio State – and a late date at Minnesota will be a problem

Realistic Best Case Record: 10-2Realistic Worst Case Record: 6-62022 Iowa Prediction, Spring Football Version: 8-4CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 9-3Iowa 2021 Final Record: 10-4– Iowa 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Purdue Boilermakers

2020: 2-4 2019: 8-5 2018: 6-7

Can the fun continue? Purdue was one of the weirdest fun teams of last year with lots of offense, one of the better defenses the program has had in a while, and enough big wins to make a splash.

Aidan O’Connell is still at quarterback, the receiving corps is still fine even without David Bell, and the line should be solid. The defense loses pass rushing star George Karlaftis, but there’s a ton of experience back to go along with a slew of nice transfers.

Is it all enough to beat Penn State in the season opener? Do that, and there’s a chance to go on a huge run to start the season. There’s no Ohio State, Michigan, or Michigan State. Wisconsin and Minnesota are road games, but Iowa is at home.

Realistic Best Case Record: 9-3Realistic Worst Case Record: 6-62022 Purdue Prediction, Spring Football Version: 8-4CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 6-6Purdue 2021 Final Record: 9-4– Purdue 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Penn State Nittany Lions

2020: 4-5 2019: 11-2 2018: 9-4

7-6 is never going to be good enough for Penn State, and it’s going to be a bit of a fight to be a whole lot better with seven key losses on defense and with some work to be done on the offensive line. However, the skill spots are good, the secondary should be a plus, and there’s more than enough talent on D to be okay.

It all has to come together fast with road trips to Purdue and Auburn in the first three weeks. Ohio State and Michigan State come to Happy Valley, but the Michigan game is on the road. On the plus side, there are just three road games – two of them are at Indiana and Rutgers – after mid-September.

Realistic Best Case Record: 10-2Realistic Worst Case Record: 6-62022 Penn State Prediction, Spring Football Version: 8-4CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 9-3Penn State 2021 Final Record: 7-6– Penn State 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Michigan State Spartans

2020: 2-5 2019: 7-6 2018: 7-6

The Spartans came up with a huge season helped by a few nice breaks – not a bad schedule, some favorable calls against Michigan, no Kenny Pickett in the bowl – but boo hoo. Mel Tucker did it.

He turned the program around, and now it’s going to even more of a factor as long as the defensive front can replace three starters and the secondary can be anything better than one of the least productive in college football.

Can Wisconsin transfer Jalen Berger be another Kenneth Walker? That’s asking a lot, but the offense should be more than fine.

There’s a trip to Washington, and Ohio State and Wisconsin are home games in the first half of the season. The Spartans have to go to Michigan and Penn State, but there are more than enough winnable games to crank up another huge season.

Realistic Best Case Record: 9-3Realistic Worst Case Record: 6-62022 Michigan State Prediction, Spring Football Version: 8-4CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 5-7Michigan State 2021 Final Record: 11-2– Michigan State 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Wisconsin Badgers

2020: 4-3 2019: 10-4 2018: 8-5

New offensive coordinator Bobby Engram comes in to crank up the attack a bit, but it’s Wisconsin. Amazing running backs – Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi – will work behind massive blockers and the passing game will be hit or miss. Can Graham Mertz finally live up to the hype and be a consistent positive?

Again, it’s Wisconsin. The defense will still be among the best in the Big Ten even after losing a slew of key starters, especially in the secondary. The line, though, is going to be rock.

There are road games at Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, and Nebraska. Those are all going to be fights, but it’s Wisconsin. It’ll be deep in the hunt for the Big Ten West title in late November.

Realistic Best Case Record: 10-2Realistic Worst Case Record: 7-52022 Wisconsin Prediction, Spring Football Version: 9-3CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 10-2Wisconsin 2021 Final Record: 9-4– Wisconsin 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Michigan Wolverines

2020: 2-4 2019: 9-4 2018: 10-3

No, this won’t be the team of last year, but the offense shouldn’t fall off too much with a terrific offensive line and a great situation at the skill spots.

The problem is a defense that loses nine starters including a slew of instant NFL factors. It’s going to be a very, very young D that will take its lumps at some point, but …

There’s time to figure it all out. Colorado State, Hawaii, UConn – the program isn’t exactly pushing itself in non-conference play with no Power Five team to deal with.

Getting Nebraska and Illinois from the West is a huge help, the Penn State and Michigan State games are at home, and Iowa and Ohio State are two of the four – yes, just four – road games with Indiana and Rutgers the other two all gift wrapped for the opening.

Realistic Best Case Record: 11-1Realistic Worst Case Record: 8-42022 Michigan Prediction, Spring Football Version: 9-3CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 8-4Michigan 2021 Final Record: 12-2– Michigan 2022 Schedule & Analysis

Ohio State Buckeyes

2020: 7-1 2019: 13-1 2018: 13-1

Ohio State is one of the few places that can consider an 11-win season with a Rose Bowl victory a disaster. That’s obviously an overstatement – sort of – but there was no national championship, and worse yet, there was a loss to THAT team.

If you liked the high-powered passing game last year, welcome to the 2022 version that’s still loaded despite the loss of superstar receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. The defense that was so mediocre at times should be a whole lot stronger under defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs.

It all starts out against Notre Dame at home, and everything should roll from there. Yes, the Michigan State and Penn State games are on the road, but Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan all come to Columbus. There are just four road dates.

Realistic Best Case Record: 12-0Realistic Worst Case Record: 9-32022 Ohio State Prediction, Spring Football Version: 11-1CFN 2021 Spring Prediction: 11-1Ohio State 2021 Final Record: 11-2– Ohio State 2022 Schedule & Analysis

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