Big Ten Football: B1G Tiers Going into Week 12

It’s the penultimate week of the 2022 college football season. Can you believe we only have two football Saturdays remaining for most teams? Many will be playing their final home game this week. Where did the season go?

While nothing has changed atop the Big Ten East, the West Division opened up with an upset by the Purdue Boilermakers over the first-place Illinois Fighting Illini in Champaign. So much so that a four-loss team nearly controls its destiny in the division, and you may not believe who it is.

Odds below from FanDuel.

Tier 1: Michigan (+270) & Ohio State (-310)

With both teams at 10-0 and over two-touchdown favorites this week, the collision course between the Big Ten behemoths hasn’t veered.

The Ohio State Buckeyes responded to their lackluster showing against Northwestern by taking it out on the Hoosiers. OSU ran for a whopping 340 yards, including 147 yards on ten carries by Miyan Williams; however, their leading rusher was carted off the field.

Dynamic sophomore TreVeyon Henderson has missed the past two games with injury, which further puts into question their ability to run the ball against top-tier competition. It’s hard to remember the last time we questioned Ohio State’s rushing attack to this extent.

The Michigan Wolverines have questions of their own. Their defense continues to dominate, with just three points allowed in the second half of their past five games, none in the last three, as does their rushing attack. Blake Corum has seven-straight 100-yard games (four of 160+).

Their passing game, however, seems entirely out of sync heading down the stretch, as J.J. McCarthy failed to complete 50 percent of his attempts for the second-straight game. Both he and his receivers will need to be better if the Wolverines are going to reach or exceed last season’s success.

Tier 2: Penn State (OTB)

The Penn State Nittany Lions continue to prove they are a cut above the rest of the Big Ten, as they jumped out to a 27-0 first-half lead over bowl-bound Maryland. I’d be stunned if they lose again in 2022. 

Short-yardage situations can often lead to explosive plays, especially when you have a runner like Nicholas Singleton. The freshman took a 4th & 1 run and scampered 45 yards to paydirt, and two drives later went 27 yards for his second touchdown on another fourth & short situation. 

Tier 3: Illinois (+10000), Iowa (+5000), Maryland (OTB), Minnesota (+20000), Purdue (+2000), Wisconsin (+20000)

We have the five remaining B1G West contenders, plus the Terps. Yes, five teams have a chance of winning the division. Nothing is more B1G West. 

After winning seven-straight contests, Illinois dropped their second-straight game leading up to this week’s trip to Ann Arbor. A glass-half-empty person would say the Illini choked away their division lead, but let’s not forget how far this program has come under Bret Bielema to even be in this tier.

The same could be said of Purdue, who had to replace elite talent off last season’s roster. With their win in Champaign, the Boilermakers won their third B1G road game, all against teams in this tier. Jeff Brohm’s passing attacks have always traveled well and are now the favorite in the West.

How about Iowa? With 94 passing yards, 146 total yards, and 2.1 yards per play, the Hawkeyes won a game only they could. Phil Parker’s defense is elite, and their special teams is among the best in the nation. Will it be enough? The Hawkeyes need the least help to win the West after ten games.

Every time Wisconsin seems (key word) to take a step forward, they take a step back. While it’s not as bad as Iowa’s, Wisky’s offense (2.6 YPP vs. Iowa) is broken. The quarterback and offensive line development are not where they used to be when they recruited lesser talented players. 

Minnesota did what they do against Northwestern. Beat up on inferior teams. Their out-of-conference opponents are 5-24 on the season, and their B1G wins have come against teams in tiers four and five. Against Tier 3 schools, the Gophers are 0-2, with two more cracks to end the season.

Since they lost a very winnable home game to Purdue (thanks to a missed PAT), Maryland hasn’t been the same team due in part to injuries. Even before Mike Locksley’s arrival in College Park, the Terps have never responded well to defeat or when they’ve needed to dip into their depth. 

Tier 4: Michigan State & Nebraska

With back-to-back wins and three out of four, Sparty is approaching bowl eligibility and is separating itself from the Huskers. 

They handled business against Rutgers, but Michigan State’s fifth win wasn’t very pretty. Payton Thorne missed open receivers, while the defense allowed 460 yards and 5.8 yards per play to an inept Scarlet Knights offense, who somehow outgained the Spartans in East Lansing. 

Without quarterback Casey Thompson, Nebraska is non-competitive and no better than the teams in Tier 5. They lost a game against Michigan where they couldn’t even cover a 30.5-point spread, and the offense has scored 25 points in the past three games, as bad as any offense in the B1G.

Tier 5: Indiana, Northwestern, Rutgers

This trio has won one Big Ten game each (including Rutgers over Indiana) as they sit in last place in their respective divisions.

We’ll give some love to Rutgers, who played arguably their best offensive game of 2022. Sophomore Gavin Wimsatt threw for over 200 yards and had a TD pass (two) without an INT, both for the first time in his career, while RB Kyle Monangai (162 yards) topped his career-best by nearly 100 yards

Northwestern must go back three weeks (23 points in the past three) to reach the 21 points RU scored in Week 11. They’ve gone two straight games without having a 100-yard passer, hard to do as a non-option team, and have scored more than 14 points once in the past seven games.

Indiana’s offense isn’t much better without Connor Bazelak (five passes vs. OSU). After three quarterbacks combined for 131 passing yards (4.5 YPA, 3 INTs) against PSU in Week 10, IU passed for 119 yards (5.0 YPA, 37.5 percent passing) in Week 11. And the offense is probably their “strength.” 

In today’s SportsGrid Daily, we begin with college basketball as our lead analyst Dave Connelly dives deep into the Houston Cougars’ chances of breaking through. From the hardwood to the gridiron, college football expert J.D. Yonke breaks down Drake Maye’s Heisman odds.

Mr. Insights Zack Cook focuses on the offseason in Major League Baseball with his top five value free agents, while Ben DiGiacomo previews what I’m Watching Tonight as the Celtics at the Hawks will be on my screen, a potential postseason matchup in the Eastern Conference.

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