USA TODAY Sports’ Erick Smith released his post-spring college football rankings recently where the Iowa Hawkeyes checked in at No. 11 nationally. Based on some of the other post-spring rankings out there, it’s actually quite a bit higher than most.
247Sports ranked the Hawkeyes as the nation’s No. 23 team in its post-spring rankings, while ESPN’s Mark Schlabach had Iowa sneaking into the top 25 in his updated way-too-early rankings at No. 25.
Smith was more optimistic about Iowa’s 2022 outlook, though. While he certainly has his questions about what the Hawkeyes’ offense has in store in 2022, ultimately, Iowa’s defensive playmakers were enough to convince Smith that the Hawkeyes will once again contend in the Big Ten West.
Let me know if you’ve heard this before. The Hawkeyes will go as far as their quarterback play will take them. That’s because no program may before more frustratingly consistent than Iowa. The defense again looks like one of the best in the Big Ten. Defensive back Riley Moss and linebacker Jack Campbell will be two of the leaders. The offense, however, has to get out of the bottom half of the conference to go beyond just being very good team and that starts with Spencer Petras. – Smith, USA TODAY Sports.
Now, Smith’s colleague at USA TODAY Sports Paul Myerberg released his full post-spring re-rank of all 131 FBS teams. Myerberg also has Iowa at No. 11 nationally.
While Alabama enters the summer ranked No. 1 according to Myerberg, how do the rest of the Big Ten programs stack up in Myerberg’s post-spring rankings for USA TODAY Sports?
No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes
Adam Cairns/USA TODAY NETWORK
With 2021 Heisman Trophy finalist CJ Stroud back in the fold and surrounded by an arsenal of weapons, it’s really no surprise to see Ohio State all the way up at No. 2. Stroud threw for 4,435 yards with 44 touchdown passes against just six interceptions.
No. 4 Michigan Wolverines
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Michigan is fresh off its first College Football Playoff appearance after winning the Big Ten championship last season over Iowa, 42-3. The Wolverines then got blown out by eventual national champion Georgia in the Capital One Orange Bowl, 34-11.
Now, there’s questions on whether or not quarterback Cade McNamara will be able to hold off JJ McCarthy for the starting job. The Wolverines finally beat Ohio State last season, too. An encore performance would go a long way in silencing any Jim Harbaugh critics.
No. 11 Iowa Hawkeyes
Bryon Houlgrave/The Register
With a cast of defensive playmakers returning, Iowa has the potential to repeat as the Big Ten West champion and perhaps close the gap between themselves and USA TODAY Sports’ top two teams here in Ohio State and Michigan. Quarterback Spencer Petras began the spring listed as the Hawkeyes’ starter and Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said that remains the case following the spring.
“You know, overall, yeah, but, I mean, we’re going to keep an open mind. That’s the way with our whole football team. We’ll let guys keep competing. I think he’s done a lot of really good things and he seems confident. He’s healthy. He throws the ball well,” Ferentz said of Petras.
No. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford returns after passing for 3,107 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2021. After a 5-0 start, the Nittany Lions lost six of their final eight games to finish just 7-6 overall and 4-5 in Big Ten play. Pundits might be pointing to the fact that of those six losses, only a pair came by more than one score. Penn State lost at Ohio State, 33-24, and in the Outback Bowl against Arkansas, 24-10.
No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers
Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
Wisconsin is ranked No. 18 by Myerberg. The Badgers return quarterback Graham Mertz who threw for 1,958 yards. Mertz had just 10 touchdown passes and was intercepted 11 times in 2021. How much his production from him grows and improves in 2022 will determine whether or not the Badgers can unseat Iowa in the Big Ten West.
Wisconsin also brings back star sophomore running back Braelon Allen. The Fond du Lac, Wis., native rushed for 1,268 yards in his true freshman season and registered 12 rushing touchdowns. His 2021 season included a pair of three-touchdown performances against Northwestern and Nebraska.
No. 28 Michigan State Spartans
Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
Michigan State just misses Myerberg’s top 25 and instead slides in at No. 28 nationally. The Spartans welcome quarterback Payton Thorne back after throwing for 3,240 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2021. Michigan State was a perfect 8-0 to start last season before a pair of November losses. That included a shocking 40-29 loss at Purdue and then a 56-7 beatdown at the hands of the Buckeyes. The Spartans rebounded with a 31-21 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl win over Pittsburgh.
No. 33 Minnesota Golden Gophers
Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
Longtime quarterback Tanner Morgan is back for one final go in 2022. The Union, Ky., native has seen action in 42 games in his career thus far and thrown for 8,072 yards and 56 touchdowns. Morgan completed just 59% of his passes for 2,044 yards in 2021, though. I have finished last season with 10 touchdown passes against nine interceptions.
No. 48 Nebraska Cornhuskers
AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz
Nebraska went into the transfer portal and scooped up ex-Texas Longhorns quarterback Casey Thompson. The Cornhuskers are hoping Thompson can deliver more of what he did in the Red River Shootout against Oklahoma when Thompson completed 20-of-34 passes for 388 yards and five touchdowns. Thompson threw for 2,113 yards with 24 touchdown passes against nine interceptions.
The Longhorns stumbled to a 5-7 finish, though, and Thompson was replaced in several games for quarterback Hudson Card. He’s got his new landing spot in Lincoln. Now, can he deliver in a season Nebraska head football coach Scott Frost needs desperately?
No. 57 Purdue Boilermakers
Nikos Frazier/Journal & Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK
Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell burst onto the Big Ten scene with a big 2021 season. The Long Grove, Ill., product passed for 3,712 yards and 28 touchdowns last season and helped lead the Boilermakers to a 9-4 finish that included a 48-45 overtime win over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.
No. 69 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com/USA TODAY NETWORK
Former Nebraska quarterback Noah Verdal established himself as the starter at Rutgers for the past two seasons. After starting all 13 games last season for the Scarlet Knights and passing for 1,813 yards and seven touchdowns against seven interceptions, it appears he’s in a competition with Gavin Wimsatt and Evan Simon. Rutgers finished 2021 with a 5-8 record and a 2-7 mark in Big Ten play.
No. 73 Maryland Terrapins
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
The Terrapins return their starting quarterback in Taulia Tagovailoa. The Ewa Beach, Hawaii, native passed for 3,860 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2021 and led the Terps to a 7-6 finish overall that included a 54-10 thrashing of Virginia Tech in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Maryland was just 3-6 in Big Ten play, though.
No. 81 Northwestern Wildcats
Nikos Frazier/Journal & Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK
After winning the Big Ten West in 2020, Northwestern stumbled to a 3-9 finish in 2021. The Wildcats started three different quarterbacks last season and Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald is still undecided following the spring. It looks like the job will be either Ryan Hilinski’s or Brendan Sullivan’s. Hilinski passed for 978 yards and three touchdowns against four interceptions in 2021.
No. 93 Illinois Fighting Illinois
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Illini had the nation’s No. 112 total offense last season, so Illinois brought in Syracuse transfer quarterback Tommy DeVito along with new offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. DeVito’s best season was in 2019 when he passed for 2,360 yards and 19 touchdowns for the Orange. For his career, DeVito has registered 3,866 passing yards and 28 passing touchdowns. Illinois finished 2021 with a 5-7 overall mark and a 4-5 record in Big Ten play.
No. 97 Indiana Hoosiers
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Last season was a disappointing one for the Indiana Hoosiers to say the least. Thought to be a preseason factor in the Big Ten East, instead the Hoosiers flopped to a 2-10 finish and an 0-9 mark in Big Ten play. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is gone and now Indiana will turn to either Jack Tuttle or Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak.
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