Big Ten East: 5 most important division games for 2022
Big Ten East races traditional center around a quartet of programs. Under the current system, it is usually the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State who position themselves to be competitive in November.
While the current format might change when USC and UCLA join the B1G, things for 2022 are likely shaping up in a similar fashion. The 4 previously mentioned teams look to once again lead the race for the division, and that means they are likely to play the most important games of the season.
One note before we get to the games: This piece is only focusing on divisional games between East opponents. As such East vs. West games (Iowa-Ohio State, Wisconsin-Ohio State and Michigan-Iowa) were not considered, but those contests will inevitably shape the race in some fashion.
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So, let’s get to it! Here are the 5 most important games in the B1G East for 2022.
5. Ohio State at Michigan State – Oct. 8
When it comes to the group of Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State, it will be the Buckeyes vs. the Spartans as the first head-to-head matchup of the group on Oct. 8. It also should provide a good measuring stick for both programs.
In 2021, it was the Spartans who were annihilated 56-7 in Columbus. If Mel Tucker wants his team to be a legitimate power in the east, Michigan State will need to prove it can hang with the Buckeyes. Ohio State hasn’t lost to the Spartans since 2015.
4. Michigan State at Penn State – Nov. 26
By the time the final weekend of the regular season rolls around, these 2 teams will know what exactly they are playing for. Spoiler alert: It is unlikely to be a trip to Indianapolis for either team.
However, a lot could be on the line if the Spartans prove 2021 was no joke and the Nittany Lions capitalize on a strong defense throughout the heart of the schedule. Either way, these 2 programs have produced some nice battles for the Land Grant Trophy and should be jockeying for bowl positioning to close the season.
3. Penn State at Michigan – Oct. 15
Oct. 15 will be Penn State’s first game against an east opponent this season, and it will be a key step for Michigan two weeks removed from a trip to Iowa City. Win or lose against the Hawkeyes, the Wolverines will need to make a statement against the Nittany Lions to maintain expectations for an east title.
As for Penn State, this will be the third conference game on the schedule after beginning B1G play vs. Purdue and Northwestern. By the middle of October, fans should have a solid barometer on the Nittany Lions. A trip to Ann Arbor will either confirm Penn State as middle-of-the-pack in the east or a surprise challenger to the Buckeyes.
2. Michigan State at Michigan – Oct. 29
Rivalry showdowns still carry the day in the B1G East, and few are as heated – and intriguing – as the battle for Paul Bunyan. Mel Tucker has also added fuel to the fire by starting his career in East Lansing with a 2-0 mark against Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines.
However, this will be Tucker’s first trip as head coach of the Spartans to a fan-packed Big House in Ann Arbor. (Fans were not allowed during the 2020 contest) To say the Spartans will be facing bad blood on Oct. 29 is an understatement. And the outcome of the game will solidify one team as an east competitor and the other as an afterthought.
1. Michigan at Ohio State – Nov. 26
It goes without saying, but the most important game in the east once again is The Game. The season-ending rivalry between the Wolverines and Buckeyes has traditionally decided the east winner, and there’s a solid chance it is the same situation in 2022.
This time around, Ryan Day gets his shot against TTUN at home as he looks to bounce back from his first defeat in the rivalry series. Day has also reiterated Ohio State’s goals for the season begin with beating Michigan.
No additional intrigue is needed to make The Game important, and it should be another good one in 2022.