Graphic by Mike Meredith

Another year, another set of preseason Big Ten expert picks with Ohio State atop the conference. While that story may be tired to some, the annual assumption received a bit of a reprieve last season when Michigan emerged to stomp OSU, win the Big Ten title and advance to the College Football Playoff for the first time.

Though the heat is now off Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh, the team's prospects of repeating are relatively low due to personnel departures and a Buckeyes roster that is as loaded as any in the country. Ohio State has multiple Heisman Trophy candidates on offense alone along with a fresh perspective on defense to boot.

But if it's not Ohio State -- a -250 favorite to win the Big Ten, according to Caesars Sportsbook -- on top at the end of the season, who might take that mantle? Wisconsin out of the Big Ten West is a popular choice to play for the title, while most expect recent contenders Michigan State and Iowa to take a step back due to personnel losses of their own. That could open the door for a resurgent Penn State, which suffered some unfortunate close loses a year ago and is looking to make a statement in their senior quarterback's final season.

Big Ten has been the talk of the offseason for its expansion and new television deal, but where it can make its greatest statement is on the field. Our CBS Sports college football experts are here to provide their picks and predictions for the Big Ten ahead of the 2022 campaign. Check them all out below.

Most overrated team

Michigan: Last season, Michigan rode a combination of two brilliant coordinators, a workhorse running back and one of the best defensive end combinations we've seen in years to the playoff. Only one problem: Every one of those pieces is gone. The Wolverines should have another good season behind a handful of solid returners, but compete for the Big Ten? Finish top 10 in the country? It's a bridge too far. -- Shehan Jeyarajah (also Barrett Sallee)

Michigan State: The Spartans are riding a lot of momentum off last year's double-digit win breakthrough and New Year's Six appearance, and that's helping power a top 15 national ranking heading into the season. I think that's a bit too high, especially considering some of the turnover on the offensive line and the defensive vulnerabilities that were on full display last season. The offense should be explosive with lots of talent at wide receiver, but an experienced and deep OL room did a lot to create the opportunities for a Kenneth Walker III (also gone, by the way) to have his stellar season. -- Chip Patterson (also David Cobb)

Penn State: The Big Ten East is always a bear. The Nittany Lions need bear repellant because this season they're not in the class of Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. Sean Clifford in his last season will be a factor, but nine wins would be an upset. James Franklin slumped last season after the loss of Clifford against Iowa. That was the difference. Penn State just doesn't measure up against powerhouse Ohio State, Michigan and a Michigan State squad that could make a run at 10 wins again (after winning 11 in 2021). -- Dennis Dodd

Purdue: Purdue had an excellent season in 2021, but I don't see an encore performance. While some programs are able to replace their best players without dropping off, I don't believe Jeff Brohm's program is at the place where it can replace David Bell and George Karlaftis without struggling. Add in losing top returning receiver Milton Wright because of an academic issue, and this team is probably fighting with Illinois, Nebraska and Northwestern for fourth place (at best) in the West. -- Tom Fornelli

Nebraska: Scott Frost was brought in to return the Cornhuskers to their glory days, but the only thing Nebraska has done well since Frost got there is turn the ball over. They are -18 in turnover margin since he arrived and have never been positive in that area in a single season. That might help explain the 15-29 overall record and 10-25 mark in Big Ten play during his four seasons. It is also why Frost is on the hot seat now. Still, there are folks who are optimistic. History does not seem to back them up. Their schedule is weak enough that they could manage to get to a bowl, but would that be enough to save Frost's job? -- Jerry Palm

Most underrated team

Penn State: Two years of falling well short of expectations have resulted in Penn State going into 2022 unranked in the preseason poll for the first time in six years. The Nittany Lions were a much better team than their 7-6 record might indicate last season, but I think the big step forward comes not just from getting better bounces in close games but from an infusion of young talent -- especially at the running back position -- that will create a spark offensively. Penn State is a top-25 caliber team and potentially the third-best team in the Big Ten; 2022 will be the rebound that proves this is one of the pace-setters in the conference. -- Patterson (also Fornelli, Jeyarajah)

Iowa: Whatever happened to Iowa? Unranked in both major preseason polls after winning 10 games and playing for the Big Ten championship? Riley Ross is an All-American defensive back. Phil Parker has long been a genius there as a defensive coordinator. If Kirk Ferentz can squeeze enough out of Spencer Petras, I can easily see the Hawkeyes playing for the Big Ten title game. The Wisconsin game is at home, too. -- Dodd

Wisconsin: Ohio State gets all of the love as the top team in the Big Ten, but Wisconsin has all of the makings to be one of the best Badgers teams of all time. They have one of the best running backs in the country in sophomore Braelon Allen, a veteran quarterback in Graham Mertz (who has unrealized upside on the table) and one of the most fundamentally sound defenses in the country. To put it simply, it's a perfect blueprint for success for coach Paul Chryst. Are the Badgers the best team in the Big Ten? No, that's Ohio State. But if the two meet in the Big Ten Championship Game, Wisconsin is fully capable of putting together 60 good minutes and shaking up the college football world. -- Sallee

Maryland: If the Terrapins can make another small step toward defensive respectability in 2022, this will be the program's best team since the Ralph Friedgen era. Maryland's offense should be one of the best in the nation -- not just the Big Ten. Aside from a breakdown against Iowa, QB Taulia Tagovailoa was mostly brilliant last season, and he's got an absolutely stacked receiver group along with a veteran offensive line that is properly fortified to withstand the rigors of Big Ten play. Maryland isn't going to win the Big Ten East, but it could easily be 6-2 or even 7-1 heading into a challenging November. -- Cobb

Minnesota: Understandably, the teams in the Big Ten West -- other than Wisconsin and Iowa -- tend to fly under the radar. However, P.J. Fleck has turned Minnesota into a division contender as well. The Golden Gophers tied for the division title in 2019 but lost out on a tiebreaker with the Badgers. They finished second in the division last season and figure to contend again this time around. Fleck's teams are known for their physicality and effort and that is a big reason why they always seem to be in the mix. One of these seasons, Minnesota will break through. Maybe even this season. -- Palm

Bold predictions

  • Dennis Dodd: At some point during the season, the Big Ten will announce further expansion and revenue sharing with the players, thereby lapping the SEC not only in dollars but prestige and recruiting. These could be the checkmate moves commissioner Kevin Warren wants to make.
  • Tom Fornelli: Both Ohio State and Michigan will go into their annual rivalry game with 11-0 records. The winner of the game will go on to win the Big Ten title, while the loser will make the CFP as the No. 4 seed.
  • Chip Patterson: When the CFP Selection Committee makes its final rankings reveal at the end of the season, the Big Ten will have three of the top eight teams in the country and could put two in the playoff. 
  • Barrett Sallee: The 2022 Big Ten Championship Game will serve as a defacto play-in game for the playoff. However, if Wisconsin is capable of springing the upset on Ohio State, both teams could get in depending how the landscape of the football season evolves. 
  • Shehan Jeyarajah: Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud will not lead the Big Ten in yards passing. Instead, one of the productive QBs at Maryland (Tagovailoa), Michigan State (Payton Thorne) or Purdue (Aidan O'Connell) will narrowly edge Stroud out for the conference passing crown. 
  • David Cobb: Ohio State will beat Notre Dame by at least four touchdowns in Week 1. Two players from the Buckeyes' group of Stroud, running back TreVeyon Henderson and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be Heisman Trophy finalists.
  • Jerry Palm: The Big Ten West will be a dogfight; three losses will win it.

Big Ten predicted order of finish

Big Ten champion

Ohio State: Have you looked at this team's roster? Nearly everybody in the starting 11 on offense will be an NFL player, as will plenty of players on the two-deep. The Buckeyes' problem last season was a vanilla defense that didn't fool anybody. They just hoped their talent would win out. With Jim Knowles taking over, life is about to get a lot more complicated for the rest of the Big Ten. -- Fornelli (unanimous)

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