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B1G Thoughts: Reviewing the Big Ten at the season’s end

The season has ended with the Michigan Wolverines as champions for the second year in a row. Let’s take a look back and review the 2022 campaign.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Purdue vs Michigan Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Every week after the Big Ten slate of games, I will bring you some B1G thoughts on everything that happened! This will include analysis, stats, key players, moments, and maybe a joke or two. Be sure to check out the I-70 Football Show in the Land-Grant Holy Land podcast feed for more in-depth analysis and to preview the next week of B1G games.

Welcome to the postseason.

The 2022 season has come to an end, with the Michigan Wolverines crowned Big Ten Champs for the second time in as many seasons. Jim Harbaugh, after an eventful 2020 season that led to his almost firing and having to accept a 50% pay cut, has won all but two games since, including two wins over Ohio State. The Big Ten officially runs through Ann Arbor.

While some things change others stay the same, including the Big Ten East’s dominance in the Big Ten Championship game. The East is the best division in college football. The race in the Big Ten is for the East because if you can win that division you’re all but guaranteed a win over your West counterpart.

At season's end, there are three Big Ten teams ranked in the Top 25 — all three of them are from the East division, as Michigan and Ohio State made the College Football Playoff at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Penn State comes in at No. 11 and will face Utah in the Rose Bowl. There is no team from the West division in the rankings, as they all have at least four losses.

The reasons continue to grow for the Big Ten to officially decide to get rid of divisions for the 2024 season when USC and UCLA join the conference. The East’s dominance should be reason enough, but adding USC (who finished No. 10) and UCLA (who finished No. 18) should be the straw to break the camels back. With two teams in the playoffs, a new media deal, and the additions of the Trojans and Bruins, the Big Ten is trying to stake its claim as the best conference in college football as they continue to expand the gap between them, the SEC, and the rest of the country.

This was a down year in the Big Ten for many reasons, but the future is bright. Nebraska and Wisconsin fired their coaches, and replaced them with Matt Rhule and Luke Fickell. Northwestern, Indiana, and Iowa have decided to retain their coaches, but many of them will enter the 2023 season on the hot seat.

We have all offseason to discuss the future, so let’s look at how 2022 ended.

Big Ten Conference Standings

Big Ten East Conference W-L
Big Ten East Conference W-L
Michigan 9-0 13-0
Ohio State 8-1 11-1
Penn State 7-2 10-2
Maryland 4-5 7-5
Michigan State 3-6 5-7
Indiana 2-7 4-8
Rutgers 1-8 4-8
Big Ten West Conference W-L
Purdue 6-3 8-5
Illinois 5-4 8-4
Minnesota 5-4 8-4
Iowa 5-4 7-5
Wisconsin 4-5 6-6
Nebraska 3-6 4-8
Northwestern 1-8 1-11

Michigan is the class of the Big Ten, staking its claim as the best team in the conference and one of the best in the country. Michigan and Ohio State sit in a tier of their own, while Penn State is a close third. The rest of the Big Ten is in flux.

Michigan State took a huge step back, with Indiana and Rutgers continues to struggle. The West division is a jumbled mess with no team separating itself from the group. Illinois looked like the best team for most of the season, but stumbled to the finish line, ultimately being topped by Purdue. Purdue won the West division for the first time in program history, led by Aidan O’Connell and childhood friend and Iowa transfer, Charlie Jones.

Minnesota and Wisconsin have to be disappointed in their seasons, as Wisconsin barely reached bowl eligibility and fired their coach, while Minnesota couldn’t capitalize on the return of Mohamed Ibrahim and Tanner Morgan. The 2022 Big Ten season mirrored our society, where the rich get richer and the middle class disappears.

Final Power Rankings

Ranking Team Record
Ranking Team Record
1 Michigan 13-0
2 Ohio State 11-1
3 Penn State 10-2
4 Illinois 8-4
5 Purdue 8-5
6 Iowa 7-5
7 Minnesota 8-4
8 Maryland 7-5
9 Wisconsin 6-6
10 Nebraska 4-8
11 Michigan State 5-7
12 Rutgers 4-8
13 Indiana 4-8
14 Northwestern 1-11

These power rankings have changed dramatically throughout the season. It took until the final week, but Michigan supplanted Ohio State at the top. There was little consistency in these rankings aside from Northwestern and Indiana being two of the worst teams in the conference. Technically, the Big Ten West has more teams in the top 10 with six, but the conference is very top-heavy and it’s unlikely that Michigan State remains this bad.

Despite Purdue winning the West division, Illinois is the highest-ranked West team. They lost to Purdue, but they were the better team most of the season, and if they played 10 times Illinois would win more than they lose. Iowa probably isn’t the sixth best team in the conference, but they have wins over Wisconsin and Nebraska, and would probably beat Maryland as well.

This was a weird season in the Big Ten, it’s going to be hard to take a lot of lessons from it.

Big Ten Final Statistical Leaders

Offense Total Player School
Offense Total Player School
Passing Yards 3,490 Aidan O'Connell Purdue
Passing Touchdowns 37 C.J. Stroud Ohio State
Rushing Yards 1,643 Chase Brown Illinois
Rushing Touchdowns 19 Mohamed Ibrahim Minnesota
Receiving Yards 1,361 Charlie Jones Purdue
Receiving Touchdowns 12 Marvin Harrison Jr. & Charlie Jones Ohio State & Purdue
Defense Total Player School
Tackles 120 Cal Haladay Michigan State
Tackles for Loss 15.5 Nick Herbig Wisconsin
Sacks 11 Nick Herbig Wisconsin
Pass Breakups 20 Kalen King Penn State
Interceptions 6 Sydney Brown Illinois
Forced Fumbles 6 Jacoby Windmon Michigan State

C.J. Stroud built an insurmountable lead ending the season with 37 passing touchdowns, but Aidan O’Connell took the lead in passing yards with 3,490 with an extra game played. Ohio State and Purdue had the best passing offenses, with a quarterback and wide receiver for both teams represented as leaders in offensive statistical categories.

Michigan State, despite being a poor overall defensively, was represented well, leading the Big Ten in total tackles and forced fumbles. Jacoby Windmons' ultimate suspension opened the door for Nick Herbig to dominate in sacks and tackles for a loss. Players from eight teams are represented, as there were not many singular dominant players this year.

Final Record Prediction

Team Final Record Prediction Bowl Eligible? Final Record
Team Final Record Prediction Bowl Eligible? Final Record
Illinois 10-2 Yes 8-4
Indiana 3-9 No 4-8
Iowa 5-7 No 7-5
Maryland 8-4 Yes 7-5
Michigan 11-1 Yes 13-0
Michigan State 5-7 No 5-7
Minnesota 8-4 Yes 8-4
Nebraska 3-9 No 4-8
Northwestern 1-11 No 1-11
Ohio State 12-0 Yes 11-1
Penn State 10-2 Yes 10-2
Purdue 8-4 Yes 8-5
Rutgers 4-8 No 4-8
Wisconsin 6-6 Yes 6-6

At the two-thirds mark, I pulled out my crystal ball and predicted the final records for each team. I went 7-for-14 with my predictions, but I got eight out of nine bowl teams accurate. I was high on Illinois finishing the season strong, but they lost three of their final four games.

Aside from Northwestern no one bottomed out. Rutgers lost one more game compared to last season, but they fought and never gave up on their coach. I fully expect pure chaos next season, as many of these teams will be losing star players, fifth and sixth-year seniors, and in some case replacing their coaches.

Big Ten Awards Recipients

Award Award Recipient School
Award Award Recipient School
Nagurksi-Woodson DPOY Jack Campbell Iowa
Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman Mike Morris Michigan
Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker Jack Campbell Iowa
Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back Devon Witherspoon Illinois
Graham-George OPOY C.J. Stroud Ohio State
Griese-Brees Quarterback C.J. Stroud Ohio State
Ameche-Dayne Running Back Blake Corum Michigan
Richter-Howard Wide Receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. Ohio State
Kwalick-Clark Tight End Sam LaPorta Iowa
Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman Peter Skoronski Northwestern
Bakken-Anderson Kicker Jake Moody Michigan
Eddlemen-Fields Punter Bryce Baringer Michigan State
Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist Jaylin Lucas Indiana
Thompson-Randle El Freshman Nick Singleton Penn State
Coach of the Year Jim Harbaugh Michigan
Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Nate Sudfeld Indiana
Ford-Kinnick Leadership Ron Guenther Illinois

At season's end comes award season, and as expected I disagree with many of the award recipients. Not to disparage anyone, as they are all great players, but I would make some changes.

Jack Campbell was the known name coming into the season, and he had a good year, but he was not the best defensive player in the league. Nor was he the best linebacker. That honor belongs to Ohio State’s Tommy Eichenberg. Eichenberg had more solo tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and interceptions. His play also led to a much improved defense for the Buckeyes. Campbell has five more total tackles, but the stats don’t support his being the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year or Linebacker of the Year.

Yet, the people who vote for these awards don’t know football and couldn’t explain the intricacies of the linebacker position. Seems they can’t look at stats either.

C.J. Stroud became the third-straight Buckeye quarterback to win the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year. An Ohio State player has won the award for five consecutive years. Marvin Harrision Jr. became the first Buckeye to win the Wide Receiver of the Year award. That was surprising when I heard it, but with all the great wide receivers on the roster, it tends to lessen each player's statistics.

This was not a banner year for Big Ten defensive lines. There were good collections of units, but after years of the Bosa brothers, Chase Young, Aidan Hutchinson, and other dominant pass rushers, Mike Morris winning with only 7.5 sacks is shocking. Despite Morris having less than 10 sacks, Michigan has won the Defensive Lineman of the Year award two years in a row.

My final takeaway is that almost every player on this list will be in the NFL Draft or run out of eligibility. That’s a lot of talent to replace. The Big Ten will be very interesting next season.