It took seven years, but Jim Harbaugh finally beat Ohio State and claimed his first Big Ten title last season. Is Michigan here for a good time, or a long time?
Not only will Harbaugh and the Wolverines have to replace several game changers on their great defense, including Heisman finalist Aidan Hutchinson, but they’ll also have to contend with a Buckeyes’ offense that is as dangerous as ever.
Meanwhile, Penn State and Michigan State are waiting in the wings — and that’s just in the East Division.
Out of the West Division, will a team like Iowa, Minnesota, or Wisconsin emerge as a real contender for the conference title?
Here’s our 2022 Big Ten college football betting preview.
Big Ten odds 2022
|Team||Odds||Win total O/U|
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook as of July 25, 2022.
Favorites to win the Big Ten in 2022
Ohio State (-215)
The Ohio State Buckeyes had their streak of four consecutive conference titles snapped last season, when Michigan defeated them 42-27 in their regular season finale in the Big House, but they are the odds-on-favorites to return to the top of the Big Ten for a reason — and it all starts with their offense.
Stroud is coming off a season where he threw for over 4,000 yards with 44 touchdowns and six interceptions, and there is still room for improvement.
Henderson can take the next step in his development, as well, and be the latest in the long line of great Buckeyes running backs.
Normally, you would think the loss of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave would crush a team’s wide receiver depth, but did you see what Smith-Njigba did without them in the Rose Bowl? (15 catches for 347 yards and three scores, if you live under a rock).
Ohio State’s problems last season stemmed from not being physical enough on the defensive front. The teams it really struggled against last season — Oregon, Michigan, Utah, and even Minnesota early in the season — were able to push the Buckeyes around in the trenches.
So, Ryan Day went out and poached defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, who did a fantastic job turning Oklahoma State's defense over the last couple of years. If Knowles can inject some physicality into this defense, the Buckeyes won’t just be favorites to win the Big Ten but will have a great chance to win the whole damn thing.
So, the Michigan Wolverines finally summited the Big Ten mountain, defeating Ohio State and winning its first conference title in the Jim Harbaugh era, but the stay at the top might not be a long one.
It is going to be hard for the Wolverines to replicate last year’s great heights. For starters, Harbaugh had to replace both coordinators, but maybe even bigger than that, the team will have to replace basically every key member of what was an elite defense.
That includes Heisman finalist Aidan Hutchinson, All-Big Ten edge rusher David Ojabo, and first-round pick safety Daxton Hill.
If the Wolverines do plan on defending their Big Ten crown, they will have to rely on an offense that is capable of taking another step forward this year.
Quarterback Cade McNamara is coming off a season where he threw for over 2,500 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’ll be supported by one of the better running backs in the country in Blake Corum and a solid wide receiver room.
Additionally, the schedule isn’t the worst out there. A date at Iowa in early October is the first tough test while Penn State and Michigan State visit the Big House. It should set up another epic showdown with Ohio State — expect this year, the game is in Columbus.
Sleeper to win the Big Ten in 2022
The Big Ten is another conference where it is hard to identify a sleeper. You can’t really say anyone in the East because of Ohio State and Michigan’s presence, even if Michigan State and Penn State might show some improvement this year. And it’s hard to call Wisconsin a sleeper, since the Badgers are the favorites to come out of the West and play in the Big Ten Championship Game.
So, looking a little farther down the board we land on the Minnesota Golden Gophers at +2,800. PJ Fleck’s squad bounced back last season, going 9-4 after a tough 2020, and there isn’t much separating the Golden Gophers from the likes of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Purdue.
That bounce-back was due to the emergence of a defense that was one of the best in the country a year ago. While they have lost some talent on the defensive line to the NFL, the team still returns seven starters and did well in the transfer portal.
If Minnesota really wants to get back where it was in 2019, when it went 11-2, it knows the offense will have to be better. So, why not start by bringing back the offensive coordinator from that season in Kirk Ciarrocca? Well, that’s exactly what Fleck did.
Fleck is hoping the reunion of Ciarrocca will do wonders for QB Tanner Morgan, who threw just 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions last season. The return of running back Mohamed Ibrahim and wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell will be a big boost, as well.
This team played Ohio State tough before Ibrahim’s injury last season and had solid wins over Purdue, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. If a young offensive line can gel quickly, we may see some more Golden Gopher magic in 2022.
Pick to win the Big Ten: Ohio State (-215)
Things are just setting up too well to fade the Buckeyes this season. The trio of Stroud, Henderson, and Smith-Njigba could be the most electric in the country. On top of that, they play eight games at the Horseshoe.
Ohio State bookends a season-opening matchup against Notre Dame, in which we should find out very quickly what this team is capable of, before the regular-season finale with Michigan.
As noted before, this team isn’t just the favorite to win the Big Ten, but a legitimate threat to win the national championship.
Big Ten 2022 best bets
Best ATS bet: Penn State
Trying to figure out which team will be a good (or bad) ATS bet prior to the start of the college football season can be a difficult task, but there are a few things I like to look at when it comes to covering spreads in college.
Having an experienced quarterback who makes smart decisions with the ball, a strong defense, and the ability to successfully run the ball are among those factors. The Penn State Nittany Lions check two of those three boxes right off the bat.
This team is more talented than its 11-11 record the past two seasons. As much as he gets dogged, Sean Clifford returning is big for the Nittany Lions. He got much better as the season went along and ended the year with 3,107 yards, 21 touchdowns, and just eight picks (it just feels like he had way more). He also gets the same offensive coordinator for consecutive seasons for the first time in his career.
When it comes to the defense, despite losing a couple of impact players, this unit should be one of the better in the Big Ten once again and should have a particularly strong defensive line and secondary.
That leaves running the football, which Penn State was shockingly bad at last season — it ranked 118th nationally — but injuries and poor offensive line play are partly to blame. That said, there are a bunch of fresh faces in the trenches (which is a good thing, considering the play last year), and five-star freshman running back Nick Singleton should provide a boost to a running back group that still returns Keyvone Lee.
The schedule isn’t too bad either. At Auburn isn’t as daunting as it was a few years ago, while Ohio State and Michigan State both visit Happy Valley.
It just seems weird that a team we associate with Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders in recent years could be that bad at running the football. Last season feels like the exception, not the rule.
If the offensive line can protect Clifford and create some holes in the running game, this Nittany Lions team could be very competitive on a weekly basis and cover a bunch of spreads in the process.
Best Over/Under bet: Maryland (Overs)
The Maryland Terrapins were my favorite Over bet in the Big Ten last year, and ended up tied for the best Over record in the conference at 7-5 O/U. There is very good reason to believe that the Terrapins could be in plenty of high-scoring affairs again in 2022.
It all starts with a high-octane offense led by Taulia Tagovailoa. Tua’s little brother set Maryland records for passing yards, completions, completion percentage, and touchdowns last season.
This year, he’ll have the chance to eclipse those numbers thanks to what should be a deadly wide receiver room highlighted by Rakim Jarrett, Dontay Demus Jr., and Florida transfer Jacob Copeland. Tagovailoa will also be protected by a veteran offensive line that is returning four starters.
But, what gives the Terps great potential as an Over bet this season, is their defense.
Brian Williams becomes Maryland’s fourth defensive coordinator since 2019, and he will be tasked with turning around a defense that lost a ton of talent in the front seven during the offseason and ranked 98th nationally in scoring defense and 85th in total defense last year, allowing 30.7 points per game. While there is some potential in this unit, expecting them to make a big leap might be asking a little much.
It will be interesting to see if Maryland can compete with some of the upper echelon teams in the Big Ten this year. If it does so, it might be because it puts up 35-plus points per game.
Best win total bet: Nebraska (Under)
It’s put up or shut up time for Scott Frost. It’s Year 5 of the Frost era, and the team is just 15-29 with no winning seasons or bowl appearances over that time, culminating with an ugly 3-9 record last year.
So, you knew Frost would be changing things up this year, handing the reins of his offense over to new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who comes over from Pittsburgh. Also, the Adrian Martinez experiment at quarterback is over after he transferred to Kansas State.
Why does a team that went 3-9 last season have a win total of 7.5? Well, we can give the Nebraska Cornhuskers some credit, as they lost all nine games by single digits and by a total of just 63 points. For a point of reference, 3-9 Northwestern had a negative point differential of 149.
However, expecting the Cornhuskers to jump from three to eight wins with this season's roster and the schedule seems a tad optimistic.
Texas transfer Casey Thompson likely takes over at quarterback, but he doesn’t have much to work with as the offensive line and wide receiver groups are both quite inexperienced. Meanwhile, the defense has big holes on both the defensive line and the secondary.
Then, there is the schedule. It actually opens rather favorably — if everything goes their way, the Cornhuskers could start 4-1. But trips to Rutgers and Purdue won’t be cakewalks, and closing vs. Minnesota, at Michigan, vs. Wisconsin, and at Iowa is a pretty daunting task.
There is some improvement on tap in Lincoln, just not a five-win improvement, as this looks like a 6-6 team. So, Frost may finally get his team to a bowl, but it won’t be a good one. Yes, this team lost a lot of close games last season, but they still lost them.
Best 2022 Big Ten props
Braelon Allen - Heisman Trophy winner (+6,000)
I’d love to take Jaxson-Smith Njigba as a dark horse candidate to win the Heisman but honestly, even if he has an amazing season, CJ Stroud would've probably gone bonkers as well, and the tie goes to the quarterback. So, instead, take a shot on the latest in a long line of elite Wisconsin running backs in Braelon Allen.
The sophomore ended last year with 1,268 yards and 12 scores, and that’s after barely playing in the first month of the season. He will be the focal point of the Badgers' offense and could be in for a huge year.
Minnesota to win the Big Ten West Division (+450)
We are rolling our sleeper pick into a more realistic prop and one that gives us some real value. Wisconsin is probably the best team in the West and is the favorite but Minnesota is in the next group of teams, which includes Iowa and Purdue.
As noted, I expect a resurgent year for the Golden Gophers and the schedule sets up fairly well. At Michigan State and at Penn State are tough mid-season tests, but Purdue and Iowa are at home. The season finale, against the Badgers, looms large and could have big implications for another special Golden Gophers season.
Big Ten 2022 Stat to know
A team from the East Division has won nine consecutive Big Ten Championship games with Wisconsin being the last West team to do so back in 2012.
Big Ten 2022 Preview FAQs
Ohio State is the odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten in 2022, followed by Michigan and Wisconsin.
Michigan won the 2021 Big Ten Championship Game, beating Iowa 42-3.
Michigan has 43 Big Ten championships, followed by Ohio State's 39 (with one vacated) and then Minnesota at 18.