The start of the college football season is just a few short weeks away and it promises to be an entertaining race in the Big Ten. Now, if you are an Ohio State fan, you are hoping it is not too interesting, especially after coming up short last season. But the other 13 teams have scholarships and uniforms too and there is no denying that there is plenty of talent spread out around this conference.
It got us to thinking about the top players at specific positions going into the season. Ohio State fans are always well-aware of who their favorite team has but what about the rest of the teams in the league?
The Buckeyes have had some top offensive centers through the years, Ohio State is tied for the most Rimington Award winners with three (tied with Alabama) with Billy Price, Pat Elflein and LeCharles Bentley all winning the award since it was first handed out after the 2000 season.
When people talk about the offensive line, so much of the talk centers around the offensive tackles and rarely about the center. Sure, if there is a bad snap then everyone knows the name of the culprit, but we are about celebrating the best and let’s talk the top-five centers going into the Big Ten 2022 season.
5. Juice Scruggs – Penn State
Penn State has had some offensive line woes for many years and while we are picking Scruggs to make the list, it doesn’t mean we are saying that everything is fixed in Happy Valley.
Scruggs is another Ohioan to get away and play elsewhere, as this Ashtabula (Ohio) product picked Penn State several years ago and now the redshirt senior is a fixture of this line.
For as old as Scruggs is, 2021 was the first year that he was a starter with 13 games under his belt. For his efforts he was named honorable mention to the All-B1G by both the coaches and the media.
4. Joe Tippmann – Wisconsin
When in doubt talking about offensive linemen in the Big Ten, look to Wisconsin.
Well, we did, and Joe Tippmann makes the cut. He was honored last year in the preseason as a Rimington Award watch list member and while 2021 did not go exactly to plan, the talent is there for Tippman to be among the best in the conference.
Tippmann played in 11 games last season with 10 starts and as we have said before, the Wisconsin run game was among the best in the league and in the nation (once things got rolling). Tippmann played a big part in that up front.
3. Victor Oluwatimi – Michigan
Transfers count too and while Oluwatimi was not in Ann Arbor (Mich.) last season, he was getting it done at Virginia in the ACC.
This imposing center was a product of a familiar high school program, DeMatha Catholic before initially picking the U.S. Air Force Academy and then transferring to UVA.
Oluwatimi has 35 starts under his belt with the Cavaliers and was named a semifinalist for the Rimington Award last season.
He was a top-15 national transfer according to 247Sports.com and a huge get for the Wolverines as they were looking to stay at the top of the conference in terms of offensive line play.
2. Luke Wypler – Ohio State
The margin between No. 2 and No. 1 was really close and maybe just because we know that this is an Ohio State-centric site, we graded the “hometown” guy on a more difficult scale just to remove any appearances of favoritism.
Wypler stepped into the role once held by Harry Miller before his retirement from football and made the move smoothly and without much fanfare, which generally is a good thing when you figure that offensive linemen are rarely talked about for doing things right, rather the opposite.
It will be interesting to see how the Ohio State offensive line performs this year as it moves to a more traditional make-up with guards playing guard instead of tackles playing guard.
This Ohio State offense is deep and experienced at so many positions and having a returning offensive center to pair with your returning quarterback is never a bad thing.
1. John Michael Schmitz – Minnesota
Experience means something and Schmitz has that as he enters his 6th season. The 6-foot-4, 320-pounder has played in 44 games and 23 starts at center.
The Big Ten coaches named Schmitz to the second team of the All-B1G postseason team of 2021.
When we revisit this in the postseason, we already know that the Ohio State offense will be more impressive on paper (as well as on the field) but when we are trying to just look at player-to-player, Schmitz’s experience just resonates a little bit more with us, at least for now. This is one that we are fully prepared to catch some grief on come December.