Buckeyes out to restore Big Ten order; Badgers pick in West

The Big Ten shook up college athletics this summer by announcing the additions of Southern California and UCLA in 2024 and negotiating a blockbuster multimedia rights deal.

When it comes to what's expected to happen on the football field, the narrative is the same as usual.

Everybody's chasing Ohio State.

Michigan and Iowa rose up to reach the 2021 Big Ten championship game, ending the Buckeyes' run of four straight conference titles. But coach Ryan Day appears to have fixed what ailed his team last year by hiring a new defensive coordinator, and he has playmakers everywhere on offense.

Now add the motivation derived from losing to Michigan for the first time since 2011.

'œI'm excited about what this team is,'ť Day said, 'œand I would kind of describe them as edgy this offseason.'ť

With quarterback C.J. Stroud, running back TreVeyon Henderson and receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba the top skill players, the Buckeyes should make a run at matching their nation-best 45.7 points per game.

The defense ranked in the bottom half of the Big Ten and returns most of its personnel. The difference: Jim Knowles was hired away from Oklahoma State after he put together the best defense in the history of the Cowboys' program.

'œWe expect a top-10 defense,'ť Day said.

No. 8 Michigan, which won its first Big Ten title since 2004, must rebuild a defense that lost seven starters and has a new coordinator in Jesse Minter. The Wolverines have experienced quarterbacks in Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy, a breakaway threat in Blake Corum and what coach Jim Harbaugh said could be his best group of receivers in his eight seasons.

Penn State has a known quantity in sixth-year quarterback Sean Clifford, but questions abound on the offensive line and on a defense now coordinated by Manny Diaz.

No. 15 Michigan State will be hard-pressed to duplicate its 11-win season with road games against Michigan and Penn State and a home cross-over game against Wisconsin.

No. 18 Wisconsin hasn't been to the Big Ten title game since 2019 but is the preseason favorite in the West for the third straight year and seventh time in the nine years of the East-West format.

The Badgers have a third-year starting quarterback in Graham Mertz, who's yet to match his recruiting hype, and a rising star in running back Braelon Allen. But the defense lost eight of its top 10 tacklers, and the Badgers must play Ohio State on the road.

Defending West champion Iowa capitalized on a ball-hawking defense to win 10 games for the second time in three years, and some of the biggest stars from that unit are back. However, there's no evidence the Hawkeyes have done anything to improve their plodding offense.

Purdue and Minnesota are in position to make runs. The Boilermakers posted their first nine-win season since 2003 and return quarterback Aidan O'Connell. The Gophers have a veteran offense led by quarterback Tanner Morgan.


Offense: Stroud was a Heisman Trophy finalist who threw for 44 touchdowns. Smith-Njigba was nation's second-leading receiver and set Rose Bowl records with 15 catches for 347 yards and three TDs against Utah. Northwestern OL Peter Skoronski is a projected first-round draft pick.

Defense: Iowa LB Jack Campbell led the nation with 143 tackles. Wisconsin LB Nick Herbig's nine sacks are most among returning Big Ten defenders. Michigan S R.J. Moten becomes a full-time starter and is poised to stand out for a defense with lots of holes to fill.


No coach faces more pressure than Nebraska's Scott Frost. Long gone is the capital he built from his perfect season at Central Florida in 2017. He's 15-29 at his alma mater and there's no consolation in the fact 20 of the losses are by eight points or less. Anything less than a 5-1 start against a manageable schedule is a bad sign.

Indiana's Tom Allen and Rutgers' Greg Schiano are safe for now but need to step it up.

Following the Hoosiers' breakout 2020 season, the bottom fell out with injury issues leading to a 2-10 season that ended with nine straight losses.

Two years into Schiano's second Rutgers stint, his most notable accomplishments are playing Michigan within seven points on the road last year and taking the Wolverines to three overtimes in 2020.


Penn State at Purdue, Sept. 1; Wisconsin at Ohio State, Sept. 24; Michigan at Iowa, Oct. 1; Ohio State at Michigan State, Oct. 8; Penn State at Michigan, Oct. 15; Ohio State at Penn State, Michigan State at Michigan, Oct. 29; Wisconsin at Iowa, Nov. 12; Iowa at Minnesota, Nov. 19; Minnesota at Wisconsin, Michigan at Ohio State, Nov. 26.


East: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State, Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana.

West: Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Northwestern.

Champion: Ohio State.


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FILE - Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud throws during the first half in the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Utah, Jan. 1, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. A Buckeyes attack that led the nation with 561 yards and nearly 46 points per game returns quarterback C.J. Stroud, leading receiver Smith-Njigba, 1,200-yard rusher TreVeyon Henderson and an experienced offensive line anchored by 6-foot-8, 360-pound right tackle Dawand Jones. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File) The Associated Press
FILE - Ohio State head coach Ryan Day talks to reporters during an NCAA college football news conference at the Big Ten Conference media days, in this file photo from July 27, 2022, in Indianapolis. Nine months later, the sting of losing to Michigan is still fresh for Ohio State. Coach Ryan Day said it's been the source of motivation for everyone at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File) The Associated Press
FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2020, file photo, Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz throws a pass during an NCAA college football game against Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. Mertz heads into his third season as a starter knowing he must develop into a more reliable performer(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) The Associated Press
FILE - Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen (0) and Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst confer after defeating Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl NCAA college football game Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in Las Vegas. After playing in five of the first seven Big Ten championship games, the Badgers have made it to Indianapolis just once in the last four years. They blew a chance to get there in 2021 by losing at Minnesota in their regular-season finale. (AP Photo/L.E. Baskow, File) The Associated Press
FILE - Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh watches an NCAA college football intrasquad spring game April 2, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Harbaugh's eighth team is his first at Michigan that is coming off a win over Ohio State. The eighth-ranked Wolverines' new challenge is to beat the Buckeyes on the road for the first time since 2000. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File) The Associated Press
Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell looks on during a college football media day, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) The Associated Press
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