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Last season, Michigan notched its first win over arch-rival Ohio State, 42-27, since 2011. That was also the last time the Wolverines advanced to the Big Ten conference championship game which began that year. Michigan went on to thoroughly dominate Iowa, 42-3, for its first outright Big Ten title since 2003. The Wolverines tied Iowa for the crown in 2004. The grand prize was the school's first invitation to the College Football Playoff where the season abruptly ended in a 34-11 crushing by the eventual national champions, Georgia, in the Orange Bowl.
Repeating 2021's success will require Michigan to beat its rival in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1999-2000, but this year's matchup will take place in Columbus and the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com have the Buckeyes prevailing by 6.72 points.
The computer thinks Ohio State looks like the cream of the national crop as Ryan Day, 34-4 in his short head caching career, is once again loaded for bear and QB C.J. Stroud is a consensus top Heisman candidate after finishing fourth a year ago. The Buckeyes also return the top two rushers and leading receiver, along with eight starters on defense. Ohio State starts the season with five straight home games.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh says Cade McNamara will start the opener at QB vs. Colorado State, and J.J. McCarthy will get the nod for game two vs. Hawaii. Michigan's first four games are at home.
The West division is a three-way battle between Iowa, Purdue and Minnesota, with the computer favoring the Hawkeyes by a game over the Boilermakers and Gophers. But we believe Wisconsin could be a surprise.
Nebraska already dropped its opener in week 0, blowing a 28-17 second half lead to fall 31-28 to Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland. Last year, a 56-7 destruction of Northwestern was the Cornhuskers' only conference win. Nebraska will need to recover quickly or Frost will be exiting Lincoln with a few shoe prints on his behind.
As the computer sees it, only three undefeated teams will remain in the country after the conference championship games - Ohio State, Alabama and Air Force. Three other teams that are picked to make it through the regular season unscathed - Pitt, Baylor and Georgia - are all picked to lose in their respective conference title contest. Air Force finishes the year 13-0 but will get passed over by the selection committee, due largely to a low schedule strength that ranks 119th.
Ohio State and Alabama would be ranked 1-2 and are definite shoo-ins. Georgia's loss to 'Bama in the SEC Championship would be its first of the season and the committee won't let that block the defending national champions from returning to the pool.
The fourth team will be a lot tougher to determine as these teams would all be in consideration:
Clemson (12-1) - ACC Champ
Cincinnati (12-1) - American Champ and 2021 Final Four participant
Oklahoma State (12-1) - Big 12 Champ
Utah (12-1) - Pac-12 Champ
Notre Dame (11-1) - Top independent
Our best guess is that Clemson gets the committee nod as the program is recognized as a Playoff 'blue blood'.
For the record, every Big Ten head coach returns for 2022.
|1||1||Ohio State||Big 10-E||98.66||98.66||12||0||9||0||8|
|3||14||Michigan State||Big 10-E||90.03||75.03||10||2||7||2||16|
|5||60||Penn State||Big 10-E||77.65||38.83||6||6||4||5||5|
|*Ohio State defeats Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis|