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Big Ten Power Rankings - 2022 Preseason

You and I both know who #1 is

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl Game - Ohio State v Utah Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome back to another year of Big Ten Power Rankings! Each week we’ll rank how the teams across the conference are playing, in the hopes of seeing just who is a contender, and who is a pretender over the course of the season.

The rules are few, but resolute:

  • Teams are ranked by how they’re playing at that time. Not body of work, not rankings in the polls, but simply how each team is playing at that point in the season.
  • The approach to the rankings is not necessarily on the field results (though those do count, as an obvious, tangible data point), but more generally if the two teams played at a neutral site 100 times, which team would win 51 times (or more).
  • These rankings are subjective. As the author I get to follow the rules as closely or loosely as I want to, and if you don’t like the rankings, you’re wrong.

The long off-season is coming to an end, and we have Week 0 fast approaching, so let’s get to it!

1. Ohio State

Shocking! I know. But OSU is simply the best team in the conference, and should be expected to sit at #1 until someone can oust them. Week 1 presents a fun test when Notre Dame comes to town, though I do find the Irish’s #5 ranking just a bit laughable.

2. Michigan

See, here’s the thing. Michigan lost a ton after literally everything broke their way in 2021. Kudos for capitalizing and making the playoffs, but I would be flabbergasted if the Wolverines manage to come close to repeating in 2022. That being said, after OSU, you could make a fairly strong argument for 3-4 teams as being second best, and without anything else to go off, I’ll simply fall back on recruiting to put the Wolverines here.

3. Wisconsin

Death, taxes, Wisconsin having a good running game and a solid defense. The Badgers will continue this approach to football long after you and I are dead, after the sun goes into red giant mode, shoot even after the heat death of the universe. They are eternal.

4. Michigan State

Ya know, I really wanted to put MSU lower on this list. How long can the merry band of misfits transfers keep winning? But not unlike OSU, as long as the Spartans can keep it up, I’ll have to assume they can do it until they can’t.

5. Iowa

Here comes another tier of teams that are all likely interchangeable, and without much else to go on at the moment, I’ll look at how they’ve done off the field. Iowa is Wisconsin lite, but I would again be surprised if they quite manage to repeat last year’s success. Still, they’re likely the second or third best team in the West, and if things go their way, could play for a repeat appearance in the conference championship game.

6. Penn State

I find PSU to be very enigmatic. The offense was downright atrocious at times last year, but prior to the injury to Sean Clifford, the team was ranked #4, and was beating the #3 team on the road 17-3. Say what you will about offensive performance, Penn State was a good team last year prior to that injury. The fact that it all fell apart due to just a couple injuries is a bit damning, however, so we’ll move the Lions into this tier and see how it goes, yes? Week 1 at Purdue will be a great litmus test for this team.

7. Minnesota

I want to dislike the Gophers, and 1999 and 2019 will always have sore spots for me. But man, they’re just likable. Will they be good? Who knows! They’ll likely upset a team or two along the way, and then lose to Illinois for no good reason.

8. Purdue

Purdue’s bread and butter for a few seasons now has been dynamite offense and hang-on-by-the-skin-of-your-teeth defense. Very chaotic, very exciting. But without David Bell, can the Boilermakers make some... boilers? Time will tell, but the season-opener against Penn State will tell a lot about both teams.

9. Nebraska

Any idea why Nebraska is receiving votes? I mean, name brand aside, they had a pretty bad 2021 season, and Scott Frost is back as coach. Soooo name brand I guess? In any case, I’d say the next tier starts here-ish.

10. Maryland

Not unlike Purdue, Maryland is simply a chaotic team. I actually expect them to be decent, but since I can never place a finger on where they actually are, I have to fall back on past experiences, which is the bottom third of the conference.

11. Rutgers

Just like Minnesota, I just can’t really dislike Rutgers. They’ve redefined themselves under Greg Schiano, and boy do they try hard. One of these seasons maybe it’ll actually translate onto the field?

12. Illinois

From here to the end is the bottom tier. I’ve literally no idea what’s going on down here. It’s like after the rain water runs down into the storm drain. Where does it go? Are there rats in there? Does it drain to a stream? Teenage mutant ninja turtles? Who knows!

13. Northwestern

I’m gonna call it now: Northwestern ends up a top 3 team in the West. Why? Because it’s an even year, and the Wildcats are incapable of being consistent year-to-year.

14. Indiana

The Hoosiers had one of the worst seasons in college football history in 2021, and you’d like to think they could bounce back, but I’m still sore about 2020, so into the basement you go.

As always, we’ll have our batch of squiggly lines to see how teams perform over the course of the year. Right now it’s a batch of dots.

OSU is the clear #1, with Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Iowa clamoring for the #2 spot. Penn State, Minnesota, and Purdue fill in the middle tier. Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers are all question marks that could go either way. Illinois, Northwestern, and Indiana make up the bottom, but don’t be surprised if at least one of them makes big jumps over the season.

The 2022 season is here!