The champions of the Big Ten reside in Ann Arbor for the first time in a long time. Doesn’t that feel nice to say?
Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t players from around the conference that catch our eye as high quality talent. The Big Ten boasts some of the most successful and historic programs in college football, and they all bring in top recruiting classes in the country. In a true “What If?” scenario, let’s evaluate opponents who we would love to see don the Maize and Blue.
Ohio State: QB C.J. Stroud
We aren’t overthinking this one. The Heisman candidate from last season is the obvious choice. More than 4,000 passing yards, 44 touchdowns to just six interceptions, Stroud is the clear pick here. Could you imagine his arm along with the rushing attack and defense the Wolverines had last year? They could have been the best team in the country.
Purdue: QB Aidan O’Connell
The Boilermakers pulled off a pair of top-five upsets last season, and a lot of was because of O’Connell’s play. The graduate quarterback is one of the more experienced players in the Big Ten and tossed 28 touchdowns last season racking up more than 3,700 passing yards. He is my non-Michigan hero after throwing for 536 yards and three touchdowns to beat Michigan State in a game that helped solidify the Wolverines’ spot in the Big Ten Championship last season.
Wisconsin: RB Braelon Allen
Braelon Allen is potentially the best back in the Big Ten, and maybe even among the best in the country heading into 2022. The converted linebacker ran for 100+ yards in eight of the nine games to wrap up his true freshman season. He was a huge reason for the Badgers’ turnaround and is a staggering 6-foot-2, 238 pounds.
Illinois: RB Chase Brown
Brown quietly had a really strong season in the first year of Bret Bielema's tenure in Champaign. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards and averaged 5.9 yards per carry, earning him an All-Big Ten Third Team honor. He ran for 233 yards and three scores against Penn State in the marathon the two teams played in last year.
Michigan State: WR Jayden Reed
Reed was one of 38 players in all of college football to record more than 1,000 receiving yards last season. He also eclipsed the double-digit mark in receiving touchdowns, proving to be one of the best wideouts in the country. His ability to stretch the field would certainly be welcomed in this Michigan offense.
Maryland: WR Rakim Jarrett
It was a tough call here between Jarrett and Taulia Tagovailoa, but Jarrett gets the nod. He’s a two-time honorable mention Big Ten receiver and a former five-star receiver. Pairing him in the long-term with JJ McCarthy could have been something dangerous.
Nebraska: TE Thomas Fidone II
As the No. 1 tight end in the 2021 recruiting class, Fidone would have made some noise in the Big Ten a season ago. However, an injury suffered prior to the season kept him out of Scott Frost’s offense. The Iowa-native is 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, the perfect size for an NFL-caliber tight end. Expect him to be a playmaker for the Cornhuskers next season.
Minnesota: OL John Michael Schmitz
Schmitz has started 45 games for Golden Gophers in the last four seasons. He’s a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and is entering his sixth year of eligibility in 2022. The wisdom, longevity and skill he boasts would be welcomed on the interior of this Michigan offensive line in 2022.
Northwestern: OT Peter Skoronski
There is a legitimate possibility Skoronski hears his name called in next year’s NFL Draft. He’s been the Wildcats' starting left tackle the last three seasons and is a two-time All-Big Ten Second Team honoree. Recruited as a center, Skoronski was kicked out to a tackle in his time in Evanston. That position versatility cannot be undervalued in a grueling Big Ten season often riddled with injuries in this position group.
Indiana: EDGE Dasan McCollough
The Bloomington native stayed home to play for the Hoosiers in a risky recruiting move, picking Indiana over Ohio State, Texas A&M, Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and more. His potential is absolutely through the roof. He was the No. 75 recruit in the 2021 class and played receiver, safety, corner and edge in high school. He’s one of those unique athletes that once he gets a position down, you can almost guarantee he is going to be successful, and edge feels like the natural position for him standing at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds.
Penn State: DT PJ Mustipher
The 2022 season will likely be the second consecutive that Mustipher will be a captain for the Nittany Lions. After losing two veteran defenders on the line for the Wolverines, having a player like Mustipher with a ton of experience would certainly be helpful. He is an impact lineman who is a run-stuffer in the middle, a valuable piece to a solid Big Ten squad.
Iowa: LB Jack Campbell
The Wolverines will miss Josh Ross in the linebacker group, and Jack Campbell is an absolute stud. He was second in the Big Ten in tackles a season ago with 143. He had double-digit tackles five times last year. He’s a captain and a leader on and off the field.
Rutgers: P Adam Korsak
This might sound like a diss, and it kind of is depending on how you look at it, but Korsak is one of the best punters in the country. He was a second-team All-American in 2022 and holds the school records for career punting yards, career punts, season net punting yards and holds the longest punt in Rutgers history. Korsak also set the NCAA record in 2021 for net punting yards by averaging 45.25 yards per boot — that would have been good enough for first place in the NFL last season. With the field position battles that come in the Big Ten, Korsak would definitely be a weapon, and certainly the best to come from Piscataway.