Editor’s note: Ryan O’Gara and Connor O’Gara grew up following sports in suburban Chicago. The brothers, separated by 20 months, debated about their favorite teams and players so often that their father would often have to remind them, “This isn’t PTI.” Each Friday, they’re bringing that debate to you, centered around the Big Ten and college football as a whole.

This week’s debate: What are your way-too-early hot takes for the 2022 season?

RYAN: I always love checking out the way-too-early Top 25s for the following season the morning after the national championship game. For some reason, my brain loves the shift in focus and looking ahead, even if the season is still 8 months away.

With that in mind, let’s talk way-too-early hot takes for 2022.

The first one that comes to mind is that I think Minnesota is going to win the West. The Golden Gophers went 9-4 this season with their best player, running back Mohamed Ibrahim, getting hurt in the season opener. That’s nearly winning double-digit games despite losing home games to Illinois and Bowling Green. Minnesota will have a clunker every now and again because it isn’t the most talented team in the conference, but it plays the good teams tough. It nearly won at Iowa and thwarted Wisconsin’s bid for a West title in the season finale.

I’m optimistic because unlike after 2019 when they lost a coordinator (Kirk Ciarrocca), the Golden Gophers held on to their star coordinator this time around. Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi got an extension for building a top-5 defense. Offensively, Minnesota hasn’t been the same since losing Ciarrocca. But Ciarrocca is back in the fold as OC, along with QB Tanner Morgan and Ibrahim.

There hasn’t been a team other than Wisconsin, Iowa or Northwestern to win the West, but I think this is the year for either Minnesota or Purdue to break through. Wisconsin loses a ton from that defense, mainly that great linebacker unit, and Iowa’s offense isn’t scaring anyone.

Another hot take: By season’s end, Drew Allar will be Penn State’s starting QB, and JJ McCarthy will be Michigan’s starting QB. Both of these guys are more talented than their older, more experienced counterparts.

McCarthy, in particular, has already proven himself capable of playing at this level and even elevating an offense; the former 5-star recruit is a very accurate deep ball thrower, he is a good athlete who can pick up yards on the ground and frankly, he raises Michigan’s offensive ceiling, which will be necessary next year when Michigan loses its 3 best defenders.

Allar is more of an unknown since he’ll be a true freshman, but he comes in with the same kind of recruiting pedigree: 5-star QB who was actually 247’s No. 1 QB (though No. 4 in the 247 Composite). Sean Clifford has been good, but he’s maddeningly inconsistent and injury prone. Penn State is 11-11 the last 2 years, so I wouldn’t understand James Franklin staying too loyal to Clifford.

My last hot take is that Nebraska makes a bowl game and Scott Frost keeps his job. I don’t think the Huskers want to fire him, or else they would’ve already. I think he made a great hire in getting Mark Whipple from Pitt to be his offensive coordinator, he got a promising QB in Casey Thompson and the schedule is, um, not hard at all for the first 2 months of the season. Of Nebraska’s first 8 games, there are 2 games in which they will be underdogs: at home against Oklahoma and at Purdue. Neither of those games will be unwinnable, either. The Huskers’ first 3 B1G games are against Northwestern, Indiana and Rutgers, with non-conference games against North Dakota and Georgia Southern in addition to the Sooners. They also get Illinois at home to close out October before a brutal November. If Nebraska isn’t 6-2 or 5-3, then you may as well just get rid of Frost right then and there, because it’s never going to happen.

What are your too-early hot takes?

CONNOR: It’s never too early to bring the heat with some takes, and I think you did just that. I’m not quite there on the Minnesota front because I worry about overhauling the offensive line. That’s obviously been such a strength during the top years of the PJ Fleck era. I love the Ciarrocca reunion, and anytime you can return a quarterback like Morgan, that’s always a plus. Maybe I’m just resisting the urge to get worked up about the team that finishes the year on a nice little run.

As for your Nebraska take, I’m on board with that. I’m doing everything in my power not to get too amped about Thompson because I’ve been high on him since the Sam Ehlinger days at Texas. Let’s not do the Brett McMurphy thing and put Nebraska in our way-too-early Top 25, but it’s not bold to say that Frost is in for his best season yet after essentially being stripped of his power in Lincoln.

I understand the timing of this take is weird, but my first fire take is that 2022 is Kirk Ferentz’s last year. I know, I know. He just signed a new deal to stay in Iowa City through 2029. At this rate, our grandkids will be watching Ferentz punt the ball from the opposing team’s 35-yard line. The advisory board dissolvement story is strange to me, and it suggests that at the very least, not all is business as usual. I could see Ferentz having a setback year in which Brian Ferentz again gets dragged for his offensive play-calling. Couple that with the ever-shifting NIL ways with year-round recruiting of the active roster, and yeah, I’ll say that Ferentz has had enough by season’s end.

This has been a pretty West-heavy debate column, but let’s take it a step further. Aidan O’Connell breaks Purdue’s single-season passing yards AND single-season passing touchdowns records. That’s essentially saying that I think O’Connell, even without David Bell, has a 4,000-yard, 40-touchdown season. It’s easy to forget that he wasn’t even the full-time starter until October. He still managed to throw for more touchdown passes and yards than any Purdue quarterback since Curtis Painter in 2007. We know that Jeff Brohm’s offense is going to air it out a ton, and with O’Connell getting a full offseason and a full regular season with the first-teamers, I think we see him take another step.

I don’t like being too negative here with preseason predictions, but I think Michigan State has a “back to earth” season. I say that as someone who believes in Mel Tucker. I also believe he lost a ton of production, and he hit it just right in the transfer portal last year. We often expect these things to be linear, but I’m worried that Payton Thorne will have a bit too much pressure on him without so much attention by opponents on shutting down the ground game. Thorne struggled against Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue when MSU faced early deficits. I’ll say Tucker’s squad is playing for a bowl berth in the regular season finale.

Oh crap. I totally just prompted a Tucker cigar tweet, didn’t I?

RYAN: I think Michigan State is going to have a tough time replicating what it did this year (especially in the East with going 2-1 against Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State), but I would push back on the Spartans fighting for bowl eligibility at the end of the season. Not having Kenneth Walker III is going to be a challenge, but they did get a running back transfer in Jalen Berger who was a top-150 recruit and should be able to ensure Michigan State doesn’t fall into the pre-Walker days of anemic rushing. Payton Thorne isn’t perfect, but if he can bring that completion percentage up a few points, look out. He averaged 8.3 yards per attempt this past season (basically the same as O’Connell), and he has the best non-Ohio State wide receiver in the conference in Jayden Reed. I’m actually kind of optimistic about Michigan State; it had the worst pass defense in the country, yet still won double digit games. That’s pretty impressive, and you figure Tucker will spend quite a bit of time fixing that defense in the offseason.

O’Connell was awesome in the second half of the season, but I am a little skeptical and certainly wouldn’t make a prediction of him setting records without David Bell. That Music City Bowl performance was awesome, but he is also the same guy who has won the starting job and lost the starting job more times than I can remember. I’m still not sure if the second half of the season was just a full-blown heater or if he really is that good. We will have to wait and see on that one. Bell is a huge loss, obviously. And those defenses in the West are tough.

That Ferentz prediction is interesting. I’m sensing that the fan base is getting tired of watching this style of offense, with no intention of modernizing. If Ferentz doesn’t replace his son as offensive coordinator and the Hawkeyes struggle again on that side of the ball, then you may be right. He may pull a Mark Dantonio and just randomly call it a career. But I also think Iowa is still going to win some games next year with that defense, which could be even better next season.

Here’s one more prediction for you: CJ Stroud will win the Heisman. I’ve already written that I think he has a better path to the award than Bryce Young. Why shouldn’t I put my money on Stroud, aside from the fact that the top 2 in preseason odds rarely win?

CONNOR: I’m glad you brought that up. I’m trying to get the trademark for “Friends don’t let friends bet on preseason Heisman favorites.” It’s a movement. Why? Since 2009, only once has someone in the top 2 of the preseason Heisman Trophy odds actually won the award. That was Marcus Mariota in 2014. Since 2009, only twice has someone in the top 3 in the preseason Heisman Trophy odds gone on to win the award. In addition to Mariota, Baker Mayfield did it in 2017.

Ever since Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the Heisman in 2007, it’s been a narrative-driven award. It’s no longer a lifetime achievement award like it was in the 20th century.

Having said that, I’d be really intrigued if Stroud slipped to No. 3 in the odds. I do think there’s something to be said for standing on stage and having to deal with Desmond Howard cackling as he makes fun of your offensive line. Stroud is going to be mentioned after Young in everything he does. If he leads the Buckeyes to a 13-0 start (the Heisman ceremony is after conference championship weekend), he could follow that Heisman narrative by virtue of avenging the Michigan loss. There’s also the unique angle of Stroud being the conference’s first Heisman winner since Troy Smith 2006 … when he was 5 years old.

At this point, I suppose that makes it a fire take to say that a B1G player will win the Heisman. It’s also the likely scenario that if Stroud doesn’t match the production of Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields, that’ll hurt his Heisman campaign. Both of them hit that ridiculous 50-touchdown mark pre-Heisman ceremony. Stroud would need to be at least flirting with that. In 2021, Bryce Young had to live up to that 2018 Tua Tagovailoa and 2020 Mac Jones production, but unlike Stroud, Young wasn’t necessarily competing against a previous version of himself. Subconsciously, I think voters take that into account.

Wow, that was more than I expected to get into with Stroud’s Heisman chances. Maybe my fire take should just be that a non-Stroud B1G player will win the Heisman? TreVeyon Henderson? JJ McCarthy? Jaxson Smith-Njigba? Thompson?!?!?

Ok, I’ve gone too far. I’ll just take the non-Stroud B1G field to win the Heisman for the first time in 16 years.

RYAN: Numbers won’t be a problem for Stroud. He’s coming off a 4-game stretch to close the season in which he averaged 440 passing yards and 10.5 yards per attempt, with 19 TD passes and 1 INT. Three of those games were against teams that finished 12th or better in the final AP poll, and the other was against a Purdue squad that was receiving votes. Oh, and he only played 1 half in 2 of those games.

The best bet in your non-Stroud field is Smith-Njigba, who is coming off a 15-catch, 347-yard performance in the Rose Bowl. Especially after Devonta Smith opened the door for him 2 years ago.

Check back in about 10 months to see how we did!