Ranking the Top Ten Big Ten Football Games for 2022

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Now that Week 0 is out of the way and Nebraska’s Scott Frost is dodging all manner of criticism and insults after another close loss, we can turn our attention to Week 1, where we’ll see much more significant matchups. Ohio State has a big top-five matchup against Notre Dame in the non-conference, but after that the focus will really be on preparing for the Big Ten season.

The Buckeyes are expected to be the team to beat in the Big Ten once again, but that’s not to say there won’t be some epic battles against other teams who think they’ll have a say in who walks out of Lucas Oil Stadium. like the Big Ten champion.

We went through the conference schedule and picked ten games that we think could have the biggest impact on the race for both divisions and, ultimately, on what happens in Indianapolis. There will be some surprises, and this is just opinion, of course, but here’s what we see as the top ten Big Ten football games of the 2022 season, counting from No. 10 to the most anticipated game of the year.

10 Iowa at Minnesota (Saturday, November 19)

November 13, 2021; Iowa City, Iowa, United States; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Logan Lee (85) blocks a field goal attempt by Minnesota Golden Gophers kicker Dragan Kesich (99) during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Because it is important

It’s another matchup in the West division that you think could go either way and be a roadmap to see who comes out of that side to face the winner from the East. Going to Minneapolis will be a tough challenge for Iowa, and the winner could well be in a messy mess near the top of the division. This game could be the difference in which team plays at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3.

9 Minnesota at Wisconsin (Saturday, November 26)

The Big Ten's top five inside linebackers heading into 2021 Wisconsin linebacker Jack Sanborn (57) watches Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan (2) a quarter of their game on Saturday, November 30, 2019, at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Wisconsin beat Minnesota 38-17. MARK HOFFMAN/MILWAUKEE DAILY SENTINEL

Because it is important

This game could take on even more importance than we think right now before everything is developed. We feel pretty good about Wisconsin’s chances of being there for the West division crown, and there’s a chance things could work out for Minnesota, too. This could come down to an elimination game for Indy on the final weekend of the year.

8 Michigan State at Penn State (Saturday, November 26)

December 12, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, United States; Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Jesse Luketa (40) reacts after a tackle during the first quarter against the Michigan State Spartans at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Michigan State 39-24. Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Because it is important

There’s no way Michigan State can recreate last year’s magic, right? Maybe not, but the Spartans still have a chance to be pretty good. On the other hand, Penn State might have the most talent in the Big Ten for a team not named Ohio State. If quarterback Sean Clifford can stay healthy and put it all together under center, the Nittany Lions will make some noise in the race for the East, and this one could be pretty big if both teams reach their potential.

7 Wisconsin at Iowa (Saturday, November 12)

Top three NFL draft-eligible outside linebackers in the Big Ten Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig (19) strips the ball from Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras (7) during the second quarter of their game Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. Wisconsin got the ball back. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network

Because it is important

Iowa was a bit of a surprise winner of the West division last year and did so mainly because of an opportunistic defense. The offense appears to be better this year with a more experienced quarterback, and Wisconsin will offer a physical challenge with the winner likely in position to run to Indy.

6 Iowa in the state of Ohio (Saturday, October 22)

November 4, 2017; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Joshua Jackson (left) and linebacker Josey Jewell (right) celebrate an interception by Jackson during the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa won 55-24. Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Because it is important

Iowa fans are still basking in the glow of the last meeting between these two when the Hawkeyes handed Urban Meyer the worst conference loss of his seven years at Ohio State. He was ugly for OSU, but also five years ago. Iowa will get into the ‘Shoe and make Buckeye’s offense work for as long as it can. It’s a matchup that will have implications for both division races.

5 Michigan at Iowa (Saturday, October 1)

November 12, 2016; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Riley McCarron (83) catches a pass off Michigan Wolverines cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) during the first half at Kinnick Stadium. Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Because it is important

It’s a rematch of last season’s Big Ten Championship game, but more than that, Iowa always seems to be in a Donnybrook at home against the best teams in the league. We don’t know the playtime for this one yet, but if it ends up being night, the difficulty factor will go up for corn and blue. They are two teams that have plans to return to Indy and winning this one will go a long way toward reaching that goal.

4 Michigan State at Michigan (Saturday, October 29)

Michigan State’s Bryce Baringer, right, closes in on Michigan’s AJ Henning on a kickoff during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network

Because it is important

I mean, it’s Michigan versus the State of Michigan. This one was big last year and resulted in the Wolverines’ only conference loss. It’s always a hard-hitting deal, and Jim Harbaugh has had a tough time beating the Spartans consistently. There have been some classics between these two in recent years, and both are expected to be a factor in the Big Ten race again, at least at this point in the season.

3 Ohio State at Penn State (Saturday, October 29)

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Tyreke Smith (11) hits Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) after a pitch during the first quarter of their game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus , Ohio, on October 30, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Because it is important

If there’s one team that’s gotten closer to Ohio State over the past decade, it’s Penn State. There may only have been one win in that time frame (two in 11 years), but nearly every game has been a close one. The Nittany Lions will have the talent to match up and the game is in Happy Valley. Queue up the DVR.

2 Wisconsin in the state of Ohio (Saturday, September 24)

December 2, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Denzel Ward (12) intercepts a pass intended for Wisconsin Badgers tight end Troy Fumagalli (81) in the first quarter of the Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports

Because it is important

The kind of physical game Wisconsin brings to the table always seems to play well against Ohio State, and this could very well be a preview of what we’ll see in Indianapolis. Both are the favorites to win their respective divisions (Ohio State even more so), but the loser will have an uphill climb to get there. This will be one of the most physical games of the year in the Big Ten at a very early tilt that could set the table for the rest of the year.

1 Michigan in the state of Ohio (Saturday, November 26)

Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) makes a catch against Michigan Wolverines defensive back Daxton Hill (30) during the first quarter of their NCAA college football game at the Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mi, on Nov. 27, 2021. Credit: USA TODAY Sports Network

Because it is important

Okay, yes. It’s Ohio State versus Michigan. The game. Take that and add it to everything the Wolverines talked about after finally beating the Buckeyes last year and this one is going to have a ton of hype and drama before that. These look like the two best teams on paper in the East, and that usually means the best team in the league. It’s going to be unpleasant and it’s going to be physical with some tempers breaking out from time to time. More than that, there’s a good chance this one will lead to Lucas Oil Stadium and maybe the College Football Playoff.

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