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Big Ten Power Rankings - Week 1 Edition

A season begins anew but some things never change

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Ohio State Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings again college football fans. We find ourselves at the opening of another college football season, where hope springs eternal, you haven’t lost to your most hated rival yet, and every promising recruit and stud transfer will be the key to unlocking the treasure that is 2022 for your favorite team. Due to the nature of its insane traditions, wild power structures, and ever-changing landscape, sometimes it feels like each season is a unique story that stands alone as an iconoclast for the history books. And while that may be true on a team-to-team basis, sometimes, when you look at the top of the rankings/standings, college football can feel like Groundhog Day.

Five different teams have won the College Football Playoff in the eight years of its existence. Four of those teams were ranked 1-4 in the initial AP poll. The favorites to win the the SEC, Big Ten, and Big XII are familiar names: Alabama, Ohio State, and Oklahoma, respectively. Despite NIL, future playoff expansion, and so many transfers to make your head spin more than Goldy the Gopher’s, the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.

As we turn our eyes to the Big Ten, this sentiment still rings true. The Ohio State Buckeyes are a heavy favorite to win the East. The West, which has had three different champions in the last three years, remains a mystery. Such is the way in the Big Ten. Doormats remain so. Nebraska remains a continual disappointment to their fans and a continual source of schadenfreude to the rest of us. The Iowa offense remains an abomination to the human eye and heart. The aforementioned Buckeyes continue to carry the banner for the conference in big non-conference games. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Which brings us to our theme for the inaugural rankings. To paraphrase the great philosopher David Wooderson, “That’s the great thing about Big Ten football. We get older, it stays the same age.” While we may grow long in the tooth, Big Ten football is here to give us familiarity and comfort. And the most useless Big Ten power rankings in all the digital land are here to continue to provide you with half-hearted analysis and half-baked takes. Without further ado, I give you the first edition of the 2022 Big Ten rankings, tier names inspired by characters from the 1993 Richard Linklater classic Dazed and Confused.

(Note: I will not be citing specific ranking systems this year but know that I do examine recent results, current standings, as well as a variety of ranking systems like SP+, FEI, Sagarin, etc. to come up with my rankings, along with inherent bias such as Iowa sucks, Nebraska sucks, Michigan is overrated, etc. Season and conference records next to team’s name, respectively)

The Randall “Pink” Floyd Tier

#1 - Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0, 0-0)

Adored by all and a stellar on-field performer, the Buckeyes remind us of our favorite Lee High quarterback. Despite a slow start this past Saturday, Ohio State closed out the hated Fighting Irish of Notre Dame to notch a significant non-conference victory and press forward on what seems to be a yearly odyssey towards national championship contention. Pink was the epitome of cool and a friend to all. The Buckeyes, while perhaps not a friend to the other Big Ten teams, do an excellent job of upholding the reputation of the Big Ten in on-field competition. Early season projected College Football Playoff invitees, marquee game Week 1 winners, and all-around top-of-the-class vibes from the squad in the introduction to 2022 give these Buckeyes the top slot and tier all to their own.

The Darla Marks Tier

#2 - Michigan Wolverines (1-0, 0-0)

#3 - Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0, 1-0)

#4 - Wisconsin Badgers (1-0, 0-0)

Despite Darla’s high social standing at Lee High, she didn’t seem to be liked by anyone. Well, enter in these three entrants into the early season “and then” tier that follows the seemingly superlative Buckeyes. Michigan had a strong showing against a weak opponent to begin their follow-up season to their first CFP appearance last year. Penn State grabbed an early road conference victory against a respectable opponent in defeating the Boilermakers in West Lafayette. And Wisconsin bowled over a hapless non-conference cupcake. These three programs are despised by many but working with limited data, appear to still stand tall among the social order of the rest of the Big Ten teams.

The David Wooderson Tier

#5 - Michigan State Spartans (1-0, 0-0)

#6 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-0, 0-0)

#7 - Northwestern Wildcats (1-0, 1-0)

Alright, alright, alright. Three alrights, one for each team in this tier that represent teams on the brink of greatness. Northwestern’s Week 0 win over Nebraska in Dublin gives the Wildcats hope that their every-other-year pattern may see another promising peak. Michigan State successfully thumped a MAC cupcake and look to build on a surprising 2021 season that saw them on the cusp of a division title. Minnesota looks to finally climb the hill that is the Big Ten West and started out with their typical grinding offensive attack and staunch defense against the worst team in FBS. Nothing to write home about but for now, all these results should do alright and keep their respective fanbases L-I-V-I-N.

The Ron Slater Tier

#8 - Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0, 0-0)

Sluggish, lethargic and often lacking sound logic. That’s what the Hawkeyes have in common with their tier name sake. Their Week 1 performance was so bad in victory, I had to customize a tier just for them to reflect the offensive nature of their offensive while still acknowledging that this is the typical Iowa long game that somehow still leads to an 8-4 record an upset or two of vastly superior squads. In these power rankings, you don’t score 3 offensive points and not get penalized. But one must acknowledge that football is played in three phases and Iowa’s defense, much like a potent bowl of the best ganga, is nothing to mess around with.

The Mitch Kramer Tier

#9 - Indiana Hoosiers (1-0, 1-0)

#10 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-0, 0-0)

#11 - Purdue Boilermakers (0-1, 0-1)

#12 - Maryland Terrapins (1-0, 0-0)

#13 - Illinois Fighting Illini (1-1, 0-1)

The largest tier of the power rankings contains several teams that may seemingly be able to break into the middle third of the conference this year but its hard to tell from the earliest of returns where to place them. Much like the scrawny, whiny incoming freshman, these teams could very well have promise this season but all we know about is potential and a couple of games to make judgements on. It’s never a bad thing to start off the season with a conference win, so Indiana stands atop this confusing group of teams for the time being after knocking off Illinois. Rutgers gets points, albeit only a few, for beating a Power 5 team on the road to start the season (nevermind that it’s hapless Boston College by a single point). Purdue stumbled out of the blocks against a very good Penn State team at home but I remain uncertain about the prospects for the Boilermakers as a whole. And Maryland did what Maryland does. Thump bad non-conference teams. It’s possible someone from this group could end up hanging out with the cool kids by the end of the season, much like our string-bean pal Mitch finds himself invited to the Emporium and the kegger at the moontower.

The Fred O’Bannion Tier

#14 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-1, 0-1)

Long past their prime and disliked by just about everyone, the Cornhuskers seem to be repeating the same mistakes over and over again. While the talent is undoubtedly there, it seems like they always just end up throwing a tantrum after having a can of paint poured all over them while attempting to pick on seemingly weaker foes.