Big Ten Odds, Predictions, Betting Preview 2022 College Football

Last year, the Michigan Wolverines won the Big Ten for the first time since 2004 as they knocked off Iowa in the Championship game. Ohio State’s four-year run as champions was ended, and Michigan represented the conference in the College Football Playoff (CFP). Can Michigan repeat as Big Ten Champions this year? In this article, I will take a look at the Big Ten betting odds and discuss the best value across the Big Ten futures markets.

Big Ten Preview & Odds

UCLA and USC will be joining the Big Ten in 2024, but we still have a couple of seasons before those two West Coast schools are in the picture. For now, Ohio State is the prohibitive favorite to win the conference, with Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State trailing behind. There could arguably be substantial value on the Wolverines after they won last season. Still, they have several defensive players to replace after losing a handful of top talents to the NFL draft.

The Big Ten champion has represented the conference in the CFP each of the last three seasons, so there is a strong chance for that to happen again this year. Ohio State is currently favored to make the CFP this season, but there are some dark-horse candidates to watch. The Big Ten West is also wide open, with Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Minnesota likely all vying for the top spot. Let’s dive into some of the specific teams in this conference.

Ohio State Buckeyes Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 11-2
  • Head Coach: Ryan Day
  • Key Players: QB C.J. Stroud, WR Jaxson Smith-Njigba, OT Paris Johnson, RB TreVeyon Henderson
  • Key Losses: WR Garrett Wilson, WR Chris Olave, OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, TE Jeremy Ruckert
  • Key Transfer: S Tanner McCalister
  • Game to Circle: Michigan, November 26

The Buckeyes went 11-2 overall and 8-1 in the Big Ten last season but missed out on the CFP by virtue of a loss to Michigan. However, C.J. Stroud returns after a pristine season with 4,435 passing yards, 44 touchdowns, and just six interceptions – he’s well-deserved as one of the early favorites for the Heisman award. As a true sophomore, Stroud was already one of the most accurate passers in the country last year.

Stroud loses two of his top receivers from last season in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, who combined for just under 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. However, Jaxson Smith-Njigba is back and looking to build on his record-breaking Rose Bowl performance, where he had an unreal line of 15 catches for 347 yards and three touchdowns.

Marin Harrison Jr. is an obvious candidate for a breakout season and is the next in line as an NFL receiver developed by Brian Hartline. Julian Fleming and Emeka Ebuka also stand out as potential breakout candidates at the wide receiver position.

TreyVeon Henderson is coming off a massive season with 1,560 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns, and the top-ranked 2021 running back recruit should only get better in his second season. Paris Johnson is a top name to watch as an NFL draft pick at offensive tackle. Dawand Jones joins him on the outside to form an excellent offensive tackle duo.

Defensively, Ohio State wasn’t nearly as good last season, and the Buckeyes ranked ninth in the Big Ten in scoring defense. However, this defense has the talent to keep an eye on, with new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles leading the charge. Zach Harrison, a 2019 five-star recruit, hasn’t been terribly consistent, but he has generated the most PFF Wins Above Average since 2020 among OSU defenders.

Junior linebacker Tommy Eichenberg had 17 tackles in the Rose Bowl and has had a great spring. The leading sacker from last year, Haskell Garrett (5.5), is gone, but the defensive tackle rotation is still deep and talented. JT Tuimolau and Javontae Jean-Baptiste will be essential for pass-rush productivity. Leading tackler safety Ronnie Hickman (99) returns alongside Denzel Burke, a future NFL talent who had 12 pass breakups last year.

Ohio State has one of the most talented rosters in the country and a massive chip on its shoulder following the loss to Michigan. The defense needs to improve, but the new defensive coordinator should implement added physicality, which will be essential if the Buckeyes return to the CFP and face Georgia or Alabama. However, the offense should contend to be the best in the country, and the defense simply can’t be a liability.

It seems that Ohio State will be double-digit favorites in every game, and the offense should be the best in the country. It’s difficult to find two losses on the schedule, and I don’t blame you if you want to drink the juice on Ohio State to win the Big Ten. The juice is heavy on the over 11 wins, and it makes sense – that’s the right side to bet here.

Best Bet: over 11 wins, Big Ten winners at -200 or better (if you don’t mind drinking the juice on a season-long future)

Michigan Wolverines Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 12-2
  • Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh
  • Key Players: RB Blake Corum, C Olusegun Oluwatimi, WR Ronnie Bell, DT Mazi Smith
  • Key Losses: DE Aidan Hutchinson, DE David Ojabo, S Daxton Hill, RB Hassan Haskins
  • Key Transfer: C Olusegun Oluwatimi
  • Game to Circle: at Ohio State, November 26

Last season was a magical one for Michigan as they finally beat Ohio State, won the Big Ten title for the first time since 2004 and made the CFP for the first time. This year, there is a significant transition on both sides, but plenty of talent remains in place.

New co-coordinators Matt Weiss and Sherrone Moore will hold an open competition between the veteran Cade McNamara and former five-star recruit J.J. McCarthy, who provides far more arm talent and playmaking upside. If McCarthy earns the starting job and plays to his potential, he can push this team to a higher level of productivity.

The offensive line loses two starters, but it remains one of the best in the country, especially with the addition of Virginia transfer Olusegun Oluwatimi should contend for All-America honors. Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards ensure the run game shouldn’t miss a beat despite the loss of Hassan Haskins. Corum is one of the best running backs in the country, and he was one of four Power Five running backs who had 6.5 yards per attempt on 100+ carries.

The receiving corps may not be full of household names, but there are plenty of breakout candidates. A.J. Henning, a fringe top-100 recruit in 2020, has exciting upside in a versatile role. Ronnie Bell’s return from a torn ACL will also be significant – he led the team with 48 catches for 758 yards in 2019. Cornelius Johnson and Andrel Anthony are also poised as breakout candidates. Erick All is also a standout tight end who is an excellent blocker.

The defense underwent a wave of change over the offseason as defensive coordinator Jesse Minter replaced Mike Macdonald, and the defense lost several key pieces. Heisman Trophy finalist Aidan Hutchinson and All-Big Ten edge rusher David Ojabo combined for 25 sacks last year, and both left for the NFL. The defensive line is inexperienced, but expectations are high for senior Mazi Smith as a leader of the group.

The linebacker corps replaces leading tackler Josh Ross with Nikhai Hill-Green, and Junior Colson is a player to watch who the coaching staff has raved about. Hill-Green and Colson combined for 111 tackles last year. New defensive coordinator Jesse Minter’s Vanderbilt unit ranked seventh in the country in run defense EPA last year, and these linebackers will fill an essential role for his Michigan defense.

The losses of Daxton Hill, Brad Hawkins, and Vincent Gray result in three new starters in the secondary, but there are plenty of solid options, including veterans D.J. Turner and R.J. Moten. Turner thrived as a starter down the stretch last season, and PFF logged him with the third-best coverage grade among Power Five outside cornerbacks after he took over as the starter in Week 8.

The Wolverines needed a perfect storm of variables working in their favor to defeat Ohio State last season. That success could be difficult to replicate, given all the defensive changes. However, the non-conference schedule is a breeze, and the games against Michigan State and Penn State are at home this year.

J.J. McCarthy provides this team with a higher ceiling than Cade McNamara, and if he wins the starting role, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Michigan’s offense be better than its defense this year. While Ohio State is a double-digit favorite over Michigan on the look-ahead lines, it’s possible the Wolverines could head into that game with an undefeated record if everything goes their way.

Best Bet: bet over 9.5 wins, small bet to win the Big Ten at +600 or better

Wisconsin Badgers Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 9-4
  • Head Coach: Paul Chryst
  • Key Players: QB Graham Mertz, RB Braelon Allen, WR Chimere Dike, DE Nick Herbig
  • Key Losses: OT Logan Bruss, WR Danny Davis III, LB Leo Chenal, CB Caesar Dancy-Williams
  • Key Transfer: CB Jay Shaw
  • Game to Circle: at Michigan State, October 15

Can Graham Mertz take the next step in his career? The former top recruit needs to improve from his mediocre performance with ten touchdowns and eleven interceptions last year. Mertz’s improvement would be the quickest path to Wisconsin unlocking its potential as a contender to upset Ohio State and Michigan atop the Big Ten.

The talent in the receiving corps has taken a hit, with the team’s top three leading receivers, Danny Davis, Jake Ferguson, and Kendric Pryor, departing and leaving behind over 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns. Junior Chimere Dike is in line for an uptick in production this year.

The run game will set the tone for Wisconsin per usual as Braelon Allen is their next superstar running back – Allen led the FBS in yards after contact last year per PFF. When you remember he played all of last year at 17 years old, it makes it even more impressive how successful he was – he has a massive career ahead of him.

The offensive line loses Logan Bruss and Josh Seltzner, but Joe Tippmann and Jack Nelson are up-and-coming talents. Nelson’s first year as a starter in 2021 went quite well as the 2020 four-star recruit ranked 13th among Big Ten guards in PFF grade. Nelson’s move to left tackle will allow the Badgers’ offensive line to remain a stout unit.

Jim Leonhard, one of the best defensive coordinators in college football, will have his work cut out this year as the top-ranked defense in total yardage from last season loses eight starters. The linebacker corps loses its two leading tacklers in Leo Chenal (115) and Jack Sanborn (89), who also combined for 13 sacks.

However, Nick Herbig is set for another big season after a team-high nine sacks last year. Herbig is also very capable in coverage. He’s joined by Keeanu Benton on the defensive line, whose pass-rush grade is the highest among Power Five nose tackles since 2019 per PFF.

The secondary loses three starters from a group that ranked fourth in the country in pass defense efficiency, but UCLA transfer Jay Shaw brings plenty of experience and was elite down the stretch last year. Safety Hunter Wohler is also set for a breakout season. Despite the significant losses, Leonhard’s group should remain a powerful unit.

Wisconsin will again be a force in the Big Ten this season with an elite defense and run game, but the upside depends on Graham Mertz’s development. New offensive coordinator Bobby Engram is tasked with getting the most out of Mertz, and if he can do so, this program could return to contention on the national scale.

Mertz has an opportunity to hit the ground running with games against Illinois State, Washington State, and New Mexico State, and we should know early how much he’s improved. Still, with road games against Ohio State, Michigan State, and Iowa, nine wins is the right number for this team, and I’d lean towards the under with an 8-5 finish more likely than this team going 10-3.

Best Bet: under 9 wins

Minnesota Golden Gophers Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 9-4
  • Head Coach: P.J. Fleck
  • Key Players: QB Tanner Morgan, RB Mohamed Ibrahim, C John Michael Schmitz, S Jordan Howden
  • Key Losses: DE Boye Mafe, OT Daniel Faalele, OT Blaise Andries, LB Jack Gibbens
  • Key Transfer: CB/S Shannon “Beanie” Bishop Jr.
  • Game to Circle: at Wisconsin, November 26

P.J. Fleck’s work in turning around the Minnesota program has been impressive, and there are undoubtedly dozens of programs that would love to have him as their head coach. They should almost be the favorites to win the Big Ten West, but they have the fifth-best odds at most sportsbooks.

Tanner Morgan is entering his fifth and final season as the starting quarterback, and he’ll look to recapture his 2019 magic when he threw for a career-high 30 touchdowns. The return of offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca should allow that to happen as he helped Morgan produce that elite season in 2019.

Last year, the offense was much more built on the ground game, and the return of Mohamed Ibrahim from a torn Achilles should only further boost that element of the team. However, the offensive line only returns one starter in John Michael Schmitz, the third-highest graded center in the FBS per PFF. Axel Ruschmeyer is a candidate for a breakout season at tackle.

Receiver Chris Autman-Bell also returns after leading the team with 36 catches for 506 yards and six touchdowns last year. He should be even better in 2022 as he hopefully won’t have to deal with a lingering preseason injury like last year. Brevyn Spain-Ford is also emerging as a reliable receiver at the tight end.

Minnesota’s defense was one of the best in the country last year after a far below-average season in 2020. The Golden Gophers ranked top ten in points and yards allowed in 2021. However, the defensive line is undergoing significant losses upfront, with Jack Gibbens’ team-leading 92 tackles and Boye Mafe’s team-leading seven sacks no longer on the team.

The returns of Thomas Rush (5.5 sacks) and Mariano Sori-Marin (85 tackles) will help mitigate the damage of those losses, and Minnesota will also rely on transfer additions in Darnell Jefferies (Clemson) and Lorenza Surgers (Vanderbilt) in the front seven.

The Gophers also lost top cornerback Coney Durr, but Justin Walley was a Freshman All-American at corner last year. Jordan Howden is one of the most valuable returning defensive backs in the Power Five, and the team added two top corners through the transfer portal in Shannon “Beanie” Bishop (WKU) and Ryan Stap (Abilene Christian).

Minnesota’s issue wasn’t beating the good teams last year as they took down Wisconsin and shut down West Virginia in their bowl game but lost to Bowling Green and a rebuilding Illinois team, both at home. Minnesota is 17-2 when they complete 60% or more of their passes over the last three years, and the hope will be that the new offensive system will allow Tanner Morgan to do so consistently – that’s not a very high benchmark.

With one of my favorite coaches in college football in P.J. Fleck and plenty of incoming talent to mitigate the team’s losses, I like Minnesota to have another solid season. Eight wins should be the minimum for this group, and they’re flying way under the radar as a legitimate candidate to win the Big Ten West this year.

Best Bet: over 7.5 wins, small bet to win the Big Ten West at +900

Penn State Nittany Lions Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 7-6
  • Head Coach: James Franklin
  • Key Players: QB Sean Clifford, WR Parker Washington, CB Joey Porter Jr., DT P.J. Mustipher
  • Key Losses: WR Jahan Dotson, DE Arnold Ebiketie, S Jaquan Brisker, LB Brandon Smith
  • Key Transfer: WR Mitchell Tinsley
  • Game to Circle: at Purdue, September 3

Penn State has gone 11-11 over the last two seasons and lost six of its final eight games in 2021. James Franklin has plenty to work on over the offseason, but the first priority has to be fixing the run game, which was a surprising weakness last year. The Nittany Lions didn’t have a single 100-yard rusher last year, but Keyvone Lee averaged 4.9 yards per carry and will be in line for a much more significant role this season.

Super-senior and fifth-year starter Sean Clifford is one of the most experienced passers in the country, and the team will be reliant on him as they undergo transition elsewhere. However, Clifford’s experience doesn’t change the fact that he’s incredibly underwhelming and has held this team back from a greater ceiling.

Despite the loss of Jahan Dotson, Clifford benefits from a standout wide receiver tandem. Parker Washington had 820 yards and four touchdowns last year, while Western Kentucky transfer Mitchell Tinsley lit up the C-USA on his way to 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns.

The offensive line returns just two starters, but Landon Tengwall is a massive breakout candidate at guard. The team’s top recruit and 54th-best national recruit in 2021, Tengwall already played exceptionally well at left tackle and both guard spots last season.

First-year defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has holes to fill as Arnold Ebiketie left for the NFL after ranking third in the Big Ten with 9.5 sacks last year. Sophomore Adisa Isaac returns from a season-ending injury and is joined by five-star freshman Dani Dennis-Sutton and Maryland transfer Demeioun Robinson on the edge. The team’s two leading tacklers from last season, Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith, also left for the NFL, and Curtis Jacobs is the only returning starting linebacker.

The defense’s strength is the secondary, where cornerback Joey Porter is a future first-round pick, and Ji’Ayir Brown is the team’s leading returning tackler with 74 stops last season. Brown also had the eighth-best coverage grade among Big Ten safeties last year per PFF. P.J. Mustipher and Daequan Hardy round out an elite secondary that remains one of the conference’s best despite losing Jaquan Brisker.

Whether it’s more of a dynamic downfield passing game to open space underneath, improved run-blocking, or a more significant role for Keyvone Lee, Penn State’s success largely hinges on not replicating a putrid 3.2 YPC performance from last year. The defense should continue to be one of the best in the country, especially if it can add more pass-rush consistency.

Sean Clifford enters his final season at Penn State, and as long as he’s the starter, this team’s upside is capped. They will be very solid this year, but road games against Purdue, Auburn, Michigan, and Michigan State loom large in addition to home games against Minnesota and Ohio State. I don’t see nine wins on this schedule for the Nittany Lions.

Best Bet: under 8.5 wins

Michigan State Spartans Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 11-2
  • Head Coach: Mel Tucker
  • Key Players: QB Payton Thorne, WR Jayden Reed, RB Jarek Broussard, DT Jacob Slade
  • Key Losses: RB Kenneth Walker III, WR Jalen Nailor, TE Connor Heyward, DE Jacob Panasiuk
  • Key Transfer: RB Jarek Broussard
  • Game to Circle: at Michigan, October 29

In Mel Tucker’s second season at the helm, Michigan State had an impressive season with 11 wins, including victories over Michigan and Penn State and a win over Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl. The Spartans had a projected win total of four wins last year.

Kenneth Walker got drafted by the Seattle Seahawks after a stupendous lone season in Lansing. Jarek Broussard, who was the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2020, will help replace him. Jalen Berger is also a breakout candidate as the former 2020 four-star recruit has flashed big-play potential.

Payton Thorne is coming off a solid season with 27 passing touchdowns, the third-most in the Big Ten. However, Throne’s high-level statistics were based on Walker demanding opponents to load the box. The Spartans’ play-action passing attack won’t be nearly as lethal this year.

Thorne is aided by the return of Jayden Reed, a clear All-Big Ten candidate who had 59 catches for 1,026 yards and ten touchdowns last year. Tre Mosley will replace Jalen Nailor as a reliable WR2, while Illinois transfer Daniel Baker has intriguing upside. The offensive line also returns starters with experience across the board.

Somehow, the Spartans had all of their success last season with the worst pass defense in the country and the worst overall defense in the Big Ten. All eyes will be on Ameer Speed, a cornerback transfer from Georgia, and senior safety Xavier Henderson to turn that unit around. Progression from 2021 Alabama transfer Ronald Williams would also be significant.

Oddly, Michigan State led the Big Ten in sacks and ranked second in tackles for loss despite allowing so many passing yards. Jacob Panasiuk, the leader with seven sacks last year, is no longer on the team, but Jeff Pietrowski returned after 5.5 sacks last season, and Florida transfer Khris Bogle will start opposite him.

The team’s run defense could be very solid with a linebacker corps so deep that even All-Big Ten honorable mention Cal Haladay isn’t guaranteed a starting role. Jacob Slade’s presence in the middle of the defensive line is also enormous – he ranked third among interior defensive linemen last season per PFF and ranked top-ten nationally in both pressures generated (40) and run stops (27).

The Spartans are very likely to see their win total reduced this season after an impressive 2021 campaign, especially with the loss of Kenneth Walker. In 2020, Michigan State failed to run for 100 yards in all five of their losses, and last season, their upset loss to Purdue was marred by a lack of an established ground game. It will be difficult for the pass defense to improve considerably if the offense can’t control the time of possession through the run game.

That said, a projected win total of 7.5 games feels a tad low for this program, which is experiencing a considerable upward trajectory under Mel Tucker. Even with losses to Ohio State and Michigan, this team would have plenty of opportunities to reach eight wins. Expect this team to go bowling again, but it won’t be another New Year’s Six appearance.

Best Bet: over 7.5 wins

Purdue Boilermakers Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 9-4
  • Head Coach: Jeff Brohm
  • Key Players: QB Aidan O’Connell, WR Broc Thompson, CB Cam Allen, DE Kydran Jenkins
  • Key Losses: WR David Bell, DE George Karlaftis, DE Damarcus Mitchell, LB Jaylan Alexander
  • Key Transfer: WR Tyrone Tracy
  • Game to Circle: at Wisconsin, October 22

Aidan O’Connell returns for his final season after a career-best season that saw Purdue rank fifth in the country in passing offense as he threw for 3,712 yards and 28 touchdowns. His elite timing and accuracy make him an ideal fit for offensive coordinator Brian Brohm’s quick-fire passing game, but his arm strength and velocity shouldn’t be slept on.

O’Connell’s top two receivers are no longer with the team. David Bell (93-1286-6) is now in the NFL, and Milton Wright (57-732-7) was deemed academically ineligible to play. Still, Iowa transfer Tyrone Tracy will be a significant breakout candidate with much more opportunity with the best quarterback he’s played with. Payne Durham is also a standout receiving tight end. Senior Broc Thompson broke out in the Music City Bowl with seven catches for 217 yards and two scores, but he is recovering from surgery on both knees.

Leading rusher King Doerue returns after 689 yards from scrimmage last year, and the offense will rely on him to produce more after the team hit 100 rushing yards just three times last season. It will help that the interior offensive line is stout, with Gus Hartwig and Spencer Holstege among the best returning interior linemen in the Big Ten.

The defense was solid last year as they ranked 34th in the country in points allowed, but the front seven has taken a hit this offseason. George Karlaftis and Damarcus Mitchell each had 4.5 sacks last year, and they’re both now in the NFL. Kydran Jenkins, who led the team with five sacks last year, will need to be more of a factor to replace that pass-rushing presence.

First and second-leading tacklers Jaylan Alexander (113) and Marvin Grant (76) have moved on, but the duo of Kieren Douglas and Auburn transfer OC Brothers will help mitigate those losses. Still, the run defense struggled as they posted a bottom-five run grade in the Power Five per PFF, and it’s difficult to anticipate a massive improvement.

Cory Trice’s return from injury will further boost a solid secondary that features Jalen Graham, Jamari Brown, and Cam Allen. Trice allowed just four catches for 84 yards in the two games he played last year before his season-ending injury.

This season, Purdue’s ceiling will depend on how much they can improve in the running game, both on offense and defense. Aidan O’Connell remains one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, but he needs help. A non-conference road game against a dangerous Syracuse team looms large, and Purdue faces Minnesota, Maryland, and Illinois on the road, all of which are potential losses. Still, this schedule doesn’t include Michigan or Ohio State, and there is a much better chance of an 8-4 record than a 6-6 finish for Jeff Brohm’s team.

Best Bet: Over 7 wins

Maryland Terrapins Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 7-6
  • Head Coach: Mike Locksley
  • Key Players: QB Taulia Tagovailoa, WR Rakim Jarrett, WR Dontay Demus, CB Jakorian Bennett
  • Key Losses: S Nick Cross, TE Chigozeim Okonkwo, RB Tayon Fleet-Davis, LB Jordan Mosley
  • Key Transfer: WR Jacob Copeland
  • Game to Circle: at Michigan, September 24

Maryland isn’t your typical rugged Big Ten team, as the Terrapins should be one of the higher-flying offenses in the country this year. Taulia Tagovailoa set single-season Maryland records last year with 3,860 passing yards, 328 completions, and 26 passing touchdowns. Tagovailoa’s incredible accuracy and anticipation could make him a sneaky Heisman candidate – he currently sits at around +12500 odds, depending on your book.

The Terrapins have two wide receivers who will draw attention from NFL scouts this season in Rakim Jarrett and Dontay Demus. The duo combined for 90 catches for 1,336 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Jacob Copeland, a Florida transfer, adds more juice to the receiving corps after having 85 catches and nine touchdowns in the previous three seasons.

Maryland also returns all but one starter up front as the offensive line provides significant continuity and veteran experience. Offensive tackles Jaelyn Duncan and Spencer Anderson earned elite pass-blocking grades from PFF last year. True freshman Ramon Brown is expected to hit the ground running with production after Tayon Fleet-Davis departed.

However, the Terrapins need to get better production out of their defense after allowing 38.8 points per game in Big Ten competition, by far the most in the conference. The defense returns seven starters, but there are holes to fill for new defensive coordinator Brian Williams who is the team’s fourth coach in that role since 2019.

Nick Cross, one of the lone bright spots on the defense last season, has left for the NFL, but keep an eye on Dante Trader, a former five-star recruit at Maryland. Trader is a solid tackler and pass defender who is expected to take one of the two open starting safety spots. Maryland returns three starting cornerbacks.

The line has to be more of a factor in the pass rush, and Durell Nchami is a big-time breakout candidate. Nchami has suffered injuries with only 288 snaps played since 2019, but he can be elite if he stays healthy – he has a dominant career 27.7% pass-rush win rate per PFF.

Maryland’s schedule looks like a roller-coaster this year as they will be heavily favored in their first three games before facing the Wolverines and Spartans. Then they get a softer middle before facing Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State down the stretch. However, this elite offensive crop of talent will mean that the Terrapins can be competitive against any opponent they face this year. Maryland is coming off its first winning season since 2014, and I like Tagovailoa and crew to push for another winning record this year.

Best Bet: bet over 6 wins

Iowa Hawkeyes Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 10-4
  • Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz
  • Key Players: LB Jack Campbell, CB Riley Moss, TE Sam LaPorta, DE Lukas Van Ness
  • Key Losses: C Tyler Linderbaum, S Dane Belton, RB Tyler Goodson, CB Matt Hankins
  • Key Transfer: TE Steven Stilianos
  • Game to Circle: Wisconsin, November 12

Despite scoring the fifth-fewest points in the Big Ten, Iowa took home the Big Ten West before losing to Michigan by a 42-3 score in the Big Ten Championship. Iowa’s offense underwhelmed as Spencer Petras threw for just 1,880 yards and ten touchdowns to nine interceptions. Alex Padilla didn’t perform much better when called upon, and I don’t have much confidence in either one, regardless of who wins the starting role.

Iowa’s offensive line was underwhelming last year despite having the best offensive lineman in college football, and now Tyler Linderbaum is in the NFL. The Hawkeyes allowed the most tackles for loss and had the 101st-ranked run game in the country. Tyler Goodson also departs after finishing with 1,398 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns last year.

Sam LaPorta was the team’s leading receiver with 53 catches for 670 yards and three touchdowns last year. Keep an eye on Arland Bruce IV as a breakout candidate as the 2021 four-star recruit has exciting versatility as a runner and receiver.

Iowa’s defense ranked 13th in the country with 19.2 points per game allowed, and they have a solid linebacker tandem with Jack Campbell and Seth Benson. Campbell, in particular, is one of the best defensive players in the conference. He had a monster season in 2021 as the second-team All-American played 972 snaps, the most at his position.

Riley Moss is one of the best cornerbacks in college football, and he came up with four picks and six pass breakups last year. He’s joined by Jermari Harris in one of the better cornerback tandems in the Big Ten. Lukas Van Ness and Joe Evans also return after combining for 14 sacks last season. While the duo of Campbell and Benson will be exciting to watch, it’s challenging to imagine Iowa replicating their 31 turnovers forced from last season.

Iowa has challenging games on the schedule this year, with matchups against Michigan and Ohio State. The matchup against the Buckeyes is on the road, as are games against Purdue and Minnesota. The annual Iowa State game is also in Iowa City this year. The Hawkeyes haven’t gone under 7.5 wins in an entire season since 2014, but I have concerns about this team. The turnover magic from last year should regress, and the quarterback situation is a massive issue. Without Tyler Linderbaum, Tyler Goodson, and a challenging slate of games on deck, I’m fading Iowa this season.

Best Bet: under 7.5 wins

Nebraska Cornhuskers Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 3-9
  • Head Coach: Scott Frost
  • Key Players: QB Casey Thompson, LB Luke Reimer, DL Ochaun Mathis, PK Tommy Bleekrode
  • Key Losses: QB Adrian Martinez, C Cam Jurgens, CB Cam Taylor-Britt, WR Samori Toure
  • Key Transfer: QB Casey Thompson
  • Game to Circle: at Iowa, November 25

The Scott Frost era might not be long for Lincoln, but the head coach will get another season despite a 15-29 record in four years. To Frost’s credit (or discredit?), 20 of those 29 losses have come by one score, so his team has been competitive but incapable of winning the close ones. Many pegged last year’s team as the best 3-9 squad of all time, but at a certain point, Frost has to find a way to get those close ones in the win column.

The Cornhuskers ranked second in the Big Ten in total offense last year, but they couldn’t finish drives in the red zone with only two 30-point games last year, and Frost fired all but one of his offensive assistants with two games remaining. Mark Whipple, responsible for Kenny Pickett’s tremendous season last year, is the new offensive coordinator.

Adrian Martinez left in the transfer portal, and Texas transfer Casey Thompson will be tasked with running Whipple’s new offense. Thompson doesn’t have the big-time skill or dynamic running of Martinez, but he’s experienced with 30 touchdowns to just nine interceptions over the last three years.

Nebraska’s offensive line could be in trouble as they ranked last in Power Five in pass-blocking last year per PFF, and Cam Jurgens, their best offensive lineman, is now in the NFL. Thompson has struggled under pressure, so that’s a massive concern for this team. The team returns Omar Manning, a 6’4” and 225-pound receiver who will take some pressure off Thompson.

Nebraska’s defense doesn’t make big plays nearly often enough, which has to be a major sticking point this season. The defense had the third-fewest sacks in the Big Ten and among the fewest turnovers in the country. Leading tacklers Luke Reimer (108) and Nick Henrich (99) return, but only one other player returns who started every game last season. The pass-rush was also minimal last season, with Garrett Nelson’s five sacks leading the team and not much beyond him.

The secondary was a strength last season, but now only two defensive backs on the roster have extensive starting experience. The loss of Cam Taylor-Britt’s back-end playmaking and versatility is significant. Omar Brown dominated at Northern Iowa over the past two years, and his transition to the FBS will be crucial for a secondary that has limited proven talent.

Nebraska fans have remained patient, but this is a make-or-break season for Scott Frost. However, I have massive concerns for this team with a poor offensive line and a quarterback who has struggled under pressure. College football is a better place when Nebraska is a powerhouse program, but I’m hesitant to bet on a five-win turnaround for a team that arguably got worse on paper. The Cornhuskers are being overvalued by sportsbooks.

Best Bet: under 7.5 wins

Illinois Fighting Illini Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 5-7
  • Head Coach: Brett Bielema
  • Key Players: QB Tommy DeVito, RB Chase Brown, WR Isaiah Williams, LB Calvin Hart Jr.
  • Key Losses: S Kerby Joseph, OT Vederian Lowe, DE Owen Carney Jr., DE Isaiah Gay
  • Key Transfer: QB Tommy DeVito
  • Game to Circle: at Wisconsin, October 1

The Illinois offense will run through Chase Brown once again after he had 1,147 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns last year. Brown is well supported by an offensive line with the seventh-best run-blocking grade in the Power Five conferences last year per PFF. That line loses three starters, including NFL draftees Vederian Lowe and Doug Kramer. Still, the zone-rushing scheme will continue to work well, and the team returns highly experienced blockers, Alex Palczewski and Julian Pearl.

Syracuse transfer quarterback Tommy DeVito will compete with the incumbent Arthur Sitkowski for the starting role. In 2019, his one full season as a starter, DeVito threw for 2,360 yards, 19 touchdowns, and five interceptions. Illinois had the fewest passing yards in the Big Ten last season, so if DeVito can provide more stability, that would be significant. He’s likely a better fit for a more traditional offense in Illinois than the Syracuse spread offense.

Converted quarterback Isaiah Williams led the team with 47 catches for 525 yards and four touchdowns last year. He’s a dynamic athlete who should be able to continue to build on that performance as he gets more comfortable with the wide receiver position.

The Illinois defense allowed just 21.9 points per game last year, the 29th-fewest in the country, and ranked fourth in the Big Ten in coverage per PFF. However, the loss of safety Kerby Joseph and cornerback Tony Adams will hurt the secondary. Devon Witherspoon will need to take a step forward to help replace that lost production.

Keep an eye on Calvin Hart Jr. as a potential breakout player – he had six tackles, 1.5 for a loss, and a sack in his lone game last season before a season-ending torn ACL. Hart will likely take on more responsibility as a pass-rusher after the team lost Owen Carney and Isaiah Gay, who combined for nine sacks last year.

Illinois hasn’t had a winning season since a 7-6 record in 2011, and the Lovie Smith era was short-lived and unsuccessful. This team hasn’t won a bowl game since that 2011 season. Still, there was a significant improvement to bank on last year as they defeated Nebraska, Penn State, and Minnesota.

With a change at offensive coordinator in Barry Lunney Jr. from UTSA and a new quarterback in DeVito, I like the over on Illinois’ win total as they hope to win one more game than last year to be bowl eligible.

Best Bet: over 4.5 wins

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 5-8
  • Head Coach: Greg Schiano
  • Key Players: WR Taj Harris, CB Kessawn Abraham, S Avery Young, DE Aaron Lewis
  • Key Losses: WR Bo Melton, RB Isaih Pacheco, OT Raiqwon O’Neal, LB Olakunle Fatukasi
  • Key Transfer: WR Taj Harris
  • Game to Circle: at Boston College, September 3

As Greg Schiano enters the third year of his second stint as the Rutgers head coach, expectations are starting to mount for this program. Bowl eligibility begins with the offense that has to improve after ranking just 120th out of 130 teams in the country in scoring with 19.7 points per game.

Gavin Wimsatt, the program’s quarterback of the future, is set to push Noah Vedral for the starting role this season, although Wimsatt struggled in his limited action last year. Rutgers ranked second-to-last in passing efficiency among Power Five teams last year per PFF.

The success of either passer will depend on a turnaround for the offensive line that has been troublesome for years. The only starter locked in place upfront is Hollin Pierce, and Sacred Heart transfer J.D DiRenzo will need to make the transition from the FCS to FBS look easy.

With leading rusher Isaih Pacheco off to the NFL, the line will be blocking for Kyle Monangai and Aaron Young, who combined for 440 yards and nine touchdowns last year. Neither running back should inspire much confidence.

The loss of Bo Melton leaves the receiving room relatively barren, as well, but Syracuse transfer Taj Harris is a name to watch as an incredibly dynamic yards-after-catch talent – he has 49 broken tackles since 2018, the second-most in the Power Five. He joins Aron Cruickshank, who had 316 yards in seven games last year before tearing his ACL.

The Scarlet Knights’ defense was decent overall as it ranked 56th in points allowed, but they allowed close to 400 points and relied on takeaways too often. Defensive end Aaron Lewis is set for a breakout season, but the linebacker room is in trouble after losing leading tackler Olakunle Fatukasi (85 stops, 11 TFLs). Tyreem Powell is expected to lead the team in tackles, but the other linebacker spot is up for grabs with Moses Walker and Mohamed Toure recently suffering injuries.

Luckily, the secondary is full of experience and solid production, with Avery Young and Christian Izien making up a stout safety tandem. Young switched from cornerback to safety in 2021 and is excellent in run defense. Keesawn Abraham, Robert Longerbeam, and Max Melton combined for 26 pass breakups last year, and Abraham is remarkably underrated.

If Rutgers can upset Boston College in the season’s opening week, they have easy non-conference games against Wagner and Temple next. The Scarlet Knights could be off to a roaring 3-0 start heading into a matchup against a vulnerable Iowa team. Home games against Indiana and Nebraska will also be essential for their season if they want to get into bowl eligibility.

I expect Rutgers to be feisty this season and secure a big upset win at some point during the year. That’s plenty for me to be bullish on the over on their win total, but it’s difficult to find six wins in the schedule for this team to find bowl eligibility.

Best Bet: over 4 wins

Northwestern Wildcats Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 3-9
  • Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald
  • Key Players: OT Peter Skoronski, RB Evan Hull, DE Adetomiwa Adebawore, LB Bryce Gallagher
  • Key Losses: WR Stephan Robinson, S Brandon Joseph, LB Chris Bergin
  • Key Transfer: DT Taishan Holmes Sr. and DT Ryan Johnson Sr.
  • Game to Circle: Nebraska, August 27 (Dublin, Ireland)

Success for Northwestern this season starts in the trenches, and elite left tackle Peter Skoronski will help the team set the tone up front for one more season before he hits the NFL. Skoronski is joined by Ethan Wiederkehr, a steadily improving player who forms one of the most reliable offensive tackle tandems in the Big Ten.

Evan Hull is coming off a season with 1,273 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns, and he will be the offense’s focal point again this year. However, the quarterback position is a significant question mark as Ryan Hilinski has struggled throughout his career. He’ll compete with Brendan Sullivan for the starting role.

Malik Washington will shoulder more of a burden in the wake of the loss of Stephan Robinson, and Washington had 44 catches for 578 yards and two touchdowns last year. However, it’s difficult to imagine him having a big season with the current quarterback situation. Even when Northwestern has been successful in recent years, the offense hasn’t been outstanding, but a solid run game and mistake-free quarterback play would go a long way.

Under first-year defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, the Northwestern defense fell from fifth in points allowed to 89th last year. The loss of Chris Bergin and his team-leading 132 tackles looms large, although Bryce Gallagher returns after a 90-tackle season, and Fitzgerald’s linebackers are typically a strength.

The loss of future NFL starter Brandon Joseph to Notre Dame is also significant. Still, the team returns the other three starters from the secondary in Coco Azema, Cameron Mitchell, and AJ Hampton Jr.. Azema is a lights-out box safety, and Hampton Jr. is a big-play hunter at cornerback who makes big plays but also allows a lot of yards.

The defensive line gets some reinforcements from the transfer portal, who join veteran Adetomiwa Adebawore, who had 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss last year, both of which led the team. Northwestern ranked second-to-last in the Big Ten in pass-rush grade last year per PFF, and Adebawore can’t do it alone.

Northwestern has had two straight losing seasons just once in the past 16 years, but it has a lot of work to do to make sure that doesn’t happen again this season. In 2019, Pat Fitzgerald’s team went 3-9, but the Wildcats bounced back in 2020 with a 7-2 record. This won’t be a flashy team, but Jim O’Neil’s defense has to be better against the run. If the Wildcats can get better luck in the turnover department, a turnaround is possible, but we shouldn’t expect this team to go bowling.

Best Bet: over 3.5 wins

Indiana Hoosiers Odds

Odds to Win National Championship:
Odds to Win Big Ten:
Regular Season Win Total:

What to Know:

  • 2021 Record: 2-10
  • Head Coach: Tom Allen
  • Key Players: QB Connor Bazelak, RB Shaun Shivers, CB Tiawan Mullen, LB Bradley Jennings Jr.
  • Key Losses: LB Micah McFadden, TE Peyton Hendershot, DE Ryder Anderson, RB Stephen Carr
  • Key Transfer: QB Connor Bazelak
  • Game to Circle: Illinois, September 2

The Hoosiers entered the season with national preseason rankings and expectations, and everything fell apart. After compiling a 14-7 record over 2019 and 2020, the 2021 season was nothing short of a disaster for Tom Allen’s Indiana team as they lost all nine conference matchups. Allen has since appointed new coordinators on both sides of the ball.

Former Missouri quarterback Connor Bazelak will be tasked with improving an offense that ranked last in the Big Ten overall, averaging fewer than 300 yards and 18 points per game. Bazelak threw for 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year, but he’s not a very explosive passer, which leads to doubt about the passing attack’s improvement.

Much of the offense will run through fellow transfers running backs Josh Henderson and Shaun Shivers as none of the team’s top four leading rushers return. Shivers, a former four-star recruit at Auburn, has never featured, but he packs a punch despite being just 5’7” and 189 pounds.

The receiving corps doesn’t return a ton of proven talent, but keep an eye on D.J. Matthews as a breakout candidate. A torn ACL cut his season short after he transferred from Florida State, but he caught five passes for 120 yards against Cincinnati last year. His route-running and separation ability will play well with Bazalek’s underneath accuracy.

On defense, the loss of LB Micah McFadden looms large for the Hoosiers as he has led the team in tackles in each of the last three seasons. McFadden also had 15.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, three pass deflections, and a forced fumble last season. Bradley Jennings Jr. arrives from Miami to help reduce some of the pain of that loss, and Cam Jones is expected to be a big-time contributor after ranking third on the team with 43 tackles last year.

The secondary is poised for positive regression, especially with Tiawan Mullen returning to health after being limited to just four starts last year. Mullen is joined by Jaylin Williams, a standout cornerback, and Devon “Monster” Matthews, one of the heaviest-hitting box safeties in college football.

Indiana has a lot of work to do to regain its 2019 and 2020 form and winnable home games this year against Illinois, Maryland, and Purdue, while its most challenging games come on the road aside from the Michigan game. Still, a non-conference game against Cincinnati and a difficult Big Ten East slate are enough for me to stay away from any Indiana bets this season.

Best Bet: under 4 wins

Big Ten Predictions 2022

The conference winners market is fairly cut-and-dry as Ohio State has the most talented roster and a massive chip on its shoulder after losing to Michigan last year. If you’re inclined to drink the juice on their Big Ten championship future odds, I can’t blame you, although that’s not the way I typically like to bet with heavy favorites in long-term markets. Michigan carries some value as an underdog in the conference, but their losses on defense will impede their ability to produce the same results as last year. Wisconsin is the team to watch as they could make noise in the Big Ten and the country overall if Graham Mertz can develop the way he is expected to.

My favorite sleeper team in the Big Ten this year is Minnesota, as P.J. Fleck is one of my favorite coaches in college football. I expect Tanner Morgan to have a great year in his final season of eligibility, especially with the return of running back Mohamed Ibrahim. While the Golden Gophers suffered some losses on defense, they returned a strong unit overall and added impact players in the transfer portal. I wouldn’t go as far as to bet this team to win the conference overall, but with a more manageable schedule on deck, betting them to win the Big Ten West at long odds is intriguing.

Championship Prediction: Ohio State over Wisconsin

Favorite Over: Minnesota over 7.5 wins

Favorite Under: Nebraska under 7.5 wins

Biggest Sleeper Team: Maryland Terrapins

Due for Regression: Iowa Hawkeyes

I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. With my educational background in the sports business and a strong knowledge of the inner workings of professional and collegiate sports, I hope to tell enthralling stories about the world of sports as it unfolds around me.

Hot College Football Stories