Making 1 bold prediction for every Big Ten offense in 2022
If you’re looking for wimpy, watered-down predictions, you’ve come to the wrong place.
We make bold predictions here at Saturday Tradition. It’s like drinking hot sauce straight from the bottle.
So in that spirit, it is time to make a bold prediction for every Big Ten offense for the 2022 season. Actually, it’s probably a bit early to do so. But that’s half the boldness, isn’t it?
Chase Brown will be Big Ten’s No. 2 rusher
Illinois running back Chase Brown rushed for 1,005 yards in just 10 games a year ago, which was good enough for 7th in the conference.
In 2022, I think Ohio State’s TreVeyon Henderson — more on him later — will be the only Big Ten back to top Brown. And oddly enough, it’s because of Brown’s quarterback.
I don’t expect Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito to light the world on fire, but I do think he’ll get an offense that averaged 156.2 passing yards per game last year somewhere closer to 200. Brown broke 1,000 yards last year despite missing a couple games with injuries and the fact everyone knew he was getting the ball.
With even an average Illinois passing game, defenses will have 1 fewer man in the box. Brown could flourish.
An All-Big Ten season for DJ Matthews
It would be difficult to fully account for everything that went wrong for Indiana last year, but a season-ending injury to receiver DJ Matthews was among many moments leading to a complete catastrophe.
Matthews’ 5 receptions for 120 yards against Cincinnati’s top-rated pass defense provided a glimpse into what he’s capable of. With Connor Bazelak presumably bringing some stability to the Hoosiers at quarterback, Matthews has a chance to flourish in 2022.
900 receiving yards for Sam LaPorta
Only 9 players in Iowa history have amassed more than 900 receiving yards in a season. Despite a strong Hawkeye tradition at the position, none of them were tight ends.
I believe LaPorta will change that.
LaPorta had 53 receptions for 670 yards a year ago — an average of 3.8 receptions and 47.9 yards per game. He will be fed more this season.
Obviously, part of this will be incumbent on quarterbacks Spencer Petras or Alex Padilla showing some significant improvement. If they do, it’s an attainable goal.
30 TD passes for Taulia Tagovailoa
CJ Stroud was the only Big Ten quarterback to throw for more than 30 touchdowns last season. I expect Tagovailoa to break that mark as well in 2022.
This isn’t exactly going out on a limb — Tagovailoa had 26 touchdowns last season. With another year of maturation, he’ll have a shot at 35 if the Terps can make a bowl game.
Cade McNamara fends off JJ McCarthy
This is based on little more than a hunch, which makes it either the boldest (or dumbest) of these predictions. But I expect Cade McNamara to reprise his role as QB1 when the Wolverines open the season against Colorado State, and he will not be replaced by the Big Ten opener against Maryland 3 weeks later.
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Jim Harbaugh is a loyal guy, and I think he’s going to give McNamara every opportunity to keep this job after leading Michigan to its first Big Ten title since 2004.
My crystal ball gets murky when it comes to whether this remains true by the time the Wolverines travel to Columbus. But I think McNamara will be the man in September.
Payton Thorne becomes Big Ten’s QB2
Stroud is the clear top banana among Big Ten quarterbacks, and Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell became the pretty clear 2nd-choice by the end of last season.
But I think Thorne will move past O’Connell into the No. 2 spot in 2022. With Kenneth Walker III sitting out the Peach Bowl, the Spartans let Thorne cut it loose against Pitt. He completed 29-of-50 passes for 354 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Thorne must improve his accuracy, which was just 7th in the B1G last season. If he does, Michigan State will be a pass-first offense.
Tanner Morgan throws more TDs than ’20 and ’21 combined
This is admittedly on the tepid end of bold predictions, because it shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish.
Morgan threw 7 touchdowns in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and 10 a year ago. So that means I’m anticipating at least 18 touchdown passes in Morgan’s 2022. He’s already proven capable of it, throwing for 30 as a sophomore in 2019.
Morgan and the Gophers are reuniting with their offensive coordinator from ’19, Kirk Ciarrocca, and the gains should be obvious.
Casey Thompson becomes best QB in B1G West
This is another example of not exactly putting too much expectation on a guy’s plate. Quarterback play in the Big Ten West is, shall we say, modest.
But the division also includes Purdue’s O’Connell, who put up prolific numbers last season. However, I think the departure of David Bell to the NFL will cut into those numbers a bit this year.
At Texas, Thompson threw 24 touchdowns against some defenses that are far better than most people realize in the Big 12. Working with former Pitt offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who is fresh off coaching Kenny Pickett, Thompson has a chance to do big things.
An All-Big Ten season for Evan Hull
Hull was 6th in the Big Ten with 1,009 rushing yards last year, and 2 of the players ahead of him on that list are now in the NFL.
Northwestern’s quarterback situation leaves a lot to be desired, so opponents will know Hull is the Wildcats’ lone weapon. But led by left tackle Peter Skoronski, the Cats should be pretty solid up front.
Hull has a tough road to hoe, but 2nd team all-conference is still all-conference.
TreVeyon Henderson will be a Heisman finalist
Stroud will be getting all the love after reaching New York City last season. And he will also enter the year with talk of becoming the potential No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
But I think Henderson will be joining Stroud in New York this December — unless he’s the only Buckeye in attendance himself.
Ohio State had 3 of the best wide receivers in college football last year, and just lost 2 of those guys in the first 11 picks of the NFL Draft. I think the departures of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave will create plentiful opportunities for Henderson, both as a runner and a pass-catcher.
It’s tough for running backs to get much Heisman love these days, but Henderson will be too explosive to ignore.
Running game improves — perhaps dramatically
I know what Nittany Lions fans are thinking — can it get any worse?
Penn State has gone 16 straight games without a 100-yard rusher. What in the name of Ki-Jana Carter is going on here?!?
But Keyvone Lee is dangerous when he can actually reach the second level, and 5-star signee Nick Singleton is 1 of the most hyped incoming freshmen in recent Penn State history.
Penn State will be better than 13th in the B1G in rushing this year. We’ll just have to see by how much.
Tyrone Tracy will be Purdue’s Deebo Samuel
No one loves gadgetry more than Jeff Brohm, and he’ll get a Swiss Army Knife capable of fulfilling his zaniest schemes in the form of Iowa transfer Tyrone Tracy.
The Indianapolis native comes back home to play in a decidedly more fun offense than that which he left behind in Iowa City. Tracy had 16 rushing attempts in his Iowa career to go with 56 receptions. He might match both of those totals this season alone.
The Boilermakers have a pedestrian backfield, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tracy back there a lot — a la Deebo Samuel for the 49ers.
Transfer receivers will jolt offense
It won’t take much to jolt the Rutgers offense, which has as much life as Frankenstein’s monster before the electricity. But transfer wide receivers Taj Harris and Sean Ryan will bring some juice provided quarterback Noah Vedral can get the ball to them.
Harris had a very productive career at Syracuse, finishing over 550 receiving yards each season from 2018-20. West Virginia transfer Sean Ryan had at least 200 yards in each of his 3 years as a Mountaineer, including 399 last season.
Rutgers was 13th in the B1G in passer rating last season. The new wideouts will offer a chance to improve on that.
Bobby Engram will make an impact
New offensive coordinator Bobby Engram is going to have a noticeable impact on the Badgers, particularly when it comes to the passing game.
And that is part of the reason for my prior predictions about Henderson and Brown being the top 2 rushers in the Big Ten. Braelon Allen is poised for a huge sophomore year, but I think Wisconsin will need to rely on him less than it did last season. The Badgers might even be able to put Allen on a bit of a pitch count if things go well throwing the ball.
Graham Mertz killed the Badgers with turnovers last year. If Engram and Paul Chryst can get those out of his system, this offense can be something more than the reason Wisconsin loses games.