When it comes to college football recruiting, no conference is doing it better than the SEC. But the Big Ten had a strong showing in the national recruiting rankings once again for the 2022 cycle. Each Big Ten team finished in the top 50 of the national recruiting rankings, joining the SEC as the only conference to do so despite each conference having 14 members. And if you break down the overall rosters within the Big Ten, there is a familiar name once again sitting on top.
But has the gap between Ohio State and its top challengers been closing over the years? Penn State appeared to be trending in that direction in previous years but it has yet to translate to on-field results. And Michigan has the bragging rights right now after dominating the Buckeyes in their rivalry game last season and going on to win the Big Ten title. Was that just a minor setback for Ohio State, or a preview of things to come in a shifting Big Ten?
Below are the national recruiting ranking averages for Big Ten schools over the last five (2018-22) classes, according to 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings, and each team's record over the last five (2017-21) seasons. Obviously, this doesn't take into account roster attrition, but, over time, this should be considered relatively even across the conference.
Ranking the Big Ten's College Football's Rosters in 2022
Ohio State continues to be the most talented team in the Big Ten
Sure, the Buckeyes may have seen their run as Big Ten champion stomped by rival Michigan in 2021, but the Buckeyes still have the most talent across its roster than any of their peers entering the 2022 season. Ohio State has had the highest-rated recruiting class in the Big Ten in four of the past five seasons, and that eventually leads to a nice advantage in the talent gap.
Big Ten championship bump for Michigan?
The Wolverines finally got over the Ohio State problem last season and took their Big Ten championship into the College Football Playoff. Whether a coincidence or not, it is notable that Michigan saw a nice increase in its national recruiting ranking from the start of Dec. 2021 to National Signing Day. Jim Harbaugh, who will remain in Ann Arbor, has his second top-10 class in the last four seasons and has another roster set to compete for another Big Ten title in the coming years.
James Franklin can recruit, but now he has to win a few more games
There is no disputing that Franklin can work the recruiting trail after signing one of the best classes Penn State has landed in the recruiting service era. After a low ranking due to a smaller class in 2021, Franklin has a class that brings in plenty of potential stars for the Nittany Lions in 2022. But after going .500 in the past two seasons, it’s time to see if Franklin can get Penn State back to its top level in pursuit of being elite.
Paul Chryst just knows how to win
Despite having just one top-25 recruiting class since 2018, Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst has led the Badgers to an impressive record of 44-17 overall and 30-12 in Big Ten play. Only Ohio State has more conference wins in this time span. Some of that may be due to playing in the Big Ten West, but Chryst has Wisconsin embracing its identity and the results continue to show that is perfectly fine in Madison.
How close is Nebraska to getting some breaks in their favor?
Some will say the pressure is rising for Nebraska head coach Scott Frost. After a 2021 season saw the Cornhuskers field a more competitive team, it just felt as though there were so many close calls and breaks that always seemed to go the other way. Nebraska appears to have the kind of roster that should be resulting in more wins in Lincoln. We’ll see how 2022 plays out.
Indiana may have fallen short of preseason hype heading into the 2021 season, but Tom Allen clearly has something working in Bloomington. The Hoosiers have improved their national recruiting ranking each of the past two seasons, and Indiana just signed its best class by far in this five-year span of history.
Bret Bielema still has a long way to go to building something with Illinois, but it is worth noting the big jump Illinois took in the national recruiting rankings from 2020 and 2021 to 2022. If Bielema keeps this up, the Illini will be a factor in the Big Ten West soon enough.
We will also continue to keep a watchful eye on Rutgers with Greg Schiano bringing in another talented recruiting class.
While there are some teams who have taken a significant step back in their overall recruiting ranking in 2022 from the previous year or two, there isn’t a program that seems to be alarmingly trending in the opposite direction. Nebraska, Maryland, and Wisconsin all had sizable drops in national recruiting rankings but that is more a reflection on class size to some degree. So we’re not about to rip any Big Ten team for trending in the wrong direction at this point in time.
Podcast: Roster Rankings, Recapping NSD, Overachievers/Underachievers in Recruiting and Jim Harbaugh's Return to Michigan