For the first time in the conference’s history, the Big Ten has earned two spots in the College Football Playoffs, as the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines and No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes were selected. The Wolverines are making their second-straight CFP, while OSU is making their fifth appearance.Tier 1: The College Football Playoff
1. Michigan Wolverines (13-0) | Fiesta Bowl (-7.5) vs. TCU
The Wolverines have proven that 2021 was no fluke, as Jim Harbaugh has built a sustainable winner at the highest level. Despite losses to the NFL, the defense is as good if not better than last season, and the decision to go with J.J. McCarthy at QB has paid off, elevating their ceiling on offense.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) | Peach Bowl (+6.5) vs. Georgia
Over the past two seasons, C.J. Stroud and Company are 22-1 against everyone other than Michigan. This is still the most talented team in the Big Ten, with elite playmakers like Marvin Harrison Jr. and TreVeyon Henderson on offense. They have a lot to prove in the Peach Bowl. Will they respond?Tier 2: New Year’s Six Bowls
3. Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2) | Rose Bowl (+2.5) vs. Utah
This has been a different team in the second half of the season, as several important young players improved and took on important roles. Freshmen running back Nicholas Singleton (941 yards, 10 TDs rushing) and linebacker Abdul Carter (6.5 sacks) are stars of tomorrow shining today.Tier 3: Bowl Bound
4. Illinois Fighting Illini (8-4) | ReliaQuest Bowl (-2.5) vs. Mississippi St.
In his second season in Champaign, Bret Bielema has completely turned the Fighting Illini around. They were extremely physical on both sides of the ball, played top-level defense (No. 1 in scoring defense), and controlled the clock with a bruising ground attack led by Chase Brown (1,643 yards).
5. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5) | Music City Bowl (-2.5) vs. Kentucky
The Hawkeyes had the top defense in the Big Ten West, even better than the nation’s No. 1-ranked scoring defense. They were among the best in college football on all three levels. The problem? The offense was so ineffective that it left Kirk Ferentz’s team with little margin for error.
6. Purdue Boilermakers (8-5) | Citrus Bowl (+10.5) vs. LSU
Considering the high-end talent they lost to the NFL, it was an excellent season for the Boilermakers, as they made their first-ever Big Ten Championship Game. This was Jeff Brohm’s most-balanced team in West Lafayette. It’s too bad he won’t be building on this season’s success.
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4) | Pinstripe Bowl (-7.5) vs. Syracuse
The Gophers were just a little behind the top of the Big Ten West. The problem? They lost all four of their games to teams that finished with a winning record, so it’s hard to make a case that they should be ranked higher. Against inferior foes, the defense dominated (7.0 PPG in wins).
8. Maryland Terrapins (7-5) | Duke’s Mayo Bowl (-1.5) vs. NC State
In the B1G West, the Terps would compete for a division title, which is out of the question in the East. Maryland’s offense is easily the most balanced and explosive of this tier. Mike Locksley has recruited top-20 offensive talent, particularly at the skill positions, led by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa.
9. Wisconsin Badgers (6-6) | Guaranteed Rate Bowl (-3) vs. Oklahoma St.
The Badgers aren’t accustomed to being in the bottom half of the Big Ten, but this isn’t a one-year fall, as they’ve been trending in this direction. After they finished ranked in five-straight seasons (2013-17), this will be the fourth time they will finish the campaign unranked in the past five seasons.