There’s one thing you can say for the majority of Big Ten offenses: Improvement should be easy to come by in 2022.

In 2021, only 5 Big Ten offenses ranked 60th or better nationally in scoring average. On the flip side, 9 B1G defenses were in the top 40 in scoring average.

The whole thing is a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario. Do Big Ten offenses struggle to score because the league’s defenses are so strong? Or are B1G defensive stats inflated because the offenses are so inept?

But that’s a debate for another day. The present issue at hand is identifying those Big Ten offenses that are going to show improvement from their 2021 numbers in the upcoming season.

I consider the following 5 teams close to being stone-cold locks in that regard.


2021 finish — 17.3 ppg (123rd in FBS)

Why improvement is imminent: Because to get worse, the Hoosiers would need to build a sub-basement to Memorial Stadium. But this isn’t just about the mathematical improbability of Indiana once again being 1 of the 7 worst scoring offenses in college football.

Injuries forced Indiana to play 4 quarterbacks last season, and the results were predictable. Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak will bring stability to the position as long as trips to the training room don’t become an annual tradition.

Tom Allen also made a necessary change, replacing offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan with former UMass head coach Walt Bell. Bell had success as a coordinator in stops at Maryland and Arkansas State before running into a brick wall running a program that never should have moved up from the FCS level.

Even if Indiana improves by a touchdown per game, it will likely rank somewhere in the 90s nationally. But that still counts as significant improvement over what we witnessed last year.


2021 finish — 20.2 ppg (116th in FBS)

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Why improvement is imminent: It’s a similar storyline for the Fighting Illini. New quarterback, new coordinator, better results.

The quarterback is Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito, who showed flashes of potential in an injury-riddled, up-and-down career with the Orange. In Bret Bielema’s run-heavy offense, he’ll just be asked to minimize mistakes and make the occasional deep throw that keeps defenses honest.

The coordinator is Barry Lunney Jr., who helped lead UTSA to a 37-30 win at Illinois last season. Lunney and Bielema already have a solid working relationship, as Lunney was his tight ends coach at Arkansas from 2013-17.

The Illini have one of the Big Ten’s best running backs in Chase Brown, and he’ll be able to score well north of last season’s 5 touchdowns with more holes opening up.

Penn State

2021 finish — 25 ppg (90th in FBS)

Why improvement is imminent — Penn State’s offense was almost impossibly bad in 2021, particularly when compared to the rest of James Franklin’s tenure. The Nittany Lions, who were 6th nationally in scoring in 2017 and 15th in 2019, somehow dipped all the way to 90th last year.

Penn State has the mathematically highest possible level of experience at quarterback, with Sean Clifford back for his 6th year with the program. And despite losing Jahan Dotson to the NFL, he’ll have plenty of talent to work with. Western Kentucky transfer Mitchell Tinsley will join Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith to give Penn State one of the B1G’s best receiving trios.

The offensive line is what will make or break the Nittany Lions. Penn State was 117th in yards per carry last year and 113th in tackles for loss allowed.

If the line gets better, Penn State will have a top-35 scoring offense. If not, the improvement will be far more modest.


2021 finish — 25.4 ppg (84th in FBS)

Why improvement is imminent — The Badgers won’t just have a fresh face calling plays. They’ll have a fresh face with an NFL pedigree.

After wearing the hats of head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last season, Paul Chryst recognized there is a much better way of doing things. Enter Bobby Engram.

Engram was John Harbaugh’s tight ends coach for the Baltimore Ravens before jumping at the chance to call plays at the college level. It’s very similar to the move Michigan made last season in hiring Ravens assistant Mike Macdonald as defensive coordinator, and there’s no arguing with those results. It worked out so well that Baltimore went and hired Macdonald back as DC this year.

And it’s not as if the Badgers weren’t moving the ball last year. They just couldn’t figure out how to cross the goal line.

Wisconsin was 39th nationally in red-zone attempts, but just 86th in red-zone scoring percentage and 101st in red-zone touchdown percentage. The Badgers were 102nd with 13 interceptions, which is unacceptable in a risk-averse offense.

With Engram calling plays, Chryst can offer a more personal touch coaching quarterback Graham Mertz. The Badgers are unlikely to be dynamic, but they’ll be much better. It certainly isn’t impossible — Wisconsin’s offense was 21st in scoring as recently as 2019.


2021 finish — 29 ppg (60th in FBS)

Why improvement is imminent — Given the way the Boilermakers closed the season, it’s wild to think they were barely in the top half of the country in scoring. But that’s because the flip switched midway through the season when Aidan O’Connell finally took ownership of the quarterback job.

Following its 30-13 loss to Wisconsin, Purdue averaged 37.1 points per game over its final 6 games. Even without wideout David Bell in the mix, that’s the form Jeff Brohm’s offense will carry into 2022.

And the Boilers already were in position to be a far more potent offense in 2021. Purdue was 24th in overall red zone attempts, but just 122nd in red zone touchdown percentage. Being dead last nationally in yards per carry will do that to you in the red zone.

This still will not be a rushing juggernaut. But Iowa transfer receiver Tyrone Tracy could be utilized in the running game a la Deebo Samuel, and fellow former Hawkeye Charlie Jones seems suited for some jet sweeps.

It’ll be absolutely stunning if Purdue doesn’t improve on its 2021 scoring average this season.