1. #1
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    Best Big Ten College Football Bets 🏈

    Best Big Ten college football bets: The numbers our experts like


    Although the sports world is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, it doesn't mean we can't look ahead to a time when there is college football again.

    Caesars Sportsbook just released season win totals and conference title odds for every FBS team, and our experts -- Bill Connelly, David Hale, Doug Kezirian, Preston Johnson and Phil Steele -- give their best bets for teams from the Big Ten.

    Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

    Big Ten championship best bets

    Wisconsin Badgers (+550)

    Steele: I feel that Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten and has a great shot at running the table this year. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes have -140 odds, and in this season of uncertainty betting on a big favorite is not the best choice. Most of my nine sets of power ratings have the Badgers winning the West, and that means they would be one upset away from winning the Big Ten. Wisconsin has 15 returning starters this year, and led Ohio State 21-7 at halftime of last year's conference title game.

    Michigan Wolverines (9-1)

    Hale: It's hard to get excited about Michigan when even Jim Harbaugh seems to routinely play up the talent gap between the Wolverines and their rivals to the south. Still, Shea Patterson never felt like a great fit in Ann Arbor, and a fresh start at QB might inject some life into the offense for Harbaugh's team to have some sneaky upset potential. With minimal value on Ohio State (-140) or Penn State (+450), maybe it's worth a roll of the dice on Big Blue at +900. It has to happen eventually, right? Right? Hello? Anyone? Bueller?

    Nebraska Cornhuskers (25-1)

    Connelly: I know, I know. Saying "This might be Nebraska's year!" isn't really going to resonate after so many failed declarations in this century. But 25-1 (the equivalent of a 4% chance) is pretty decent for a team with the third-highest conference win total in the West Division per SP+ (4.7, versus 6.9 for Wisconsin and 5.6 for Minnesota). The Huskers are projected 25th overall and get Minnesota at home. This is a "take a flier" kind of pick, but there is still value here.

    Season win totals

    Nebraska Cornhuskers over 6.5

    Johnson: One of my favorite season win total buys is on teams following a year they drastically underachieved after being egregiously overhyped. There are usually valid reasons that the hype exists, it's just that an overreaction tends to manifest itself in the market that makes it worthwhile betting the other way.

    That was the case last season when Nebraska's win total was bet up as high as nine wins at some sportsbooks. It made sense with Scott Frost and quarterback Adrian Martinez in Year 2 in Lincoln, since Frost led Central Florida to a 13-0 season in his second year there in 2017. It requires more time to take even a fraction of that leap in the Big Ten conference, however, and with my projections coming in at 7.14 wins I was thrilled to bet under (No. 22 in my top 25 college football futures list).

    Just one year later, the previously hyped Cornhuskers are at only 6.5 wins in the early market -- and my projection is right at 7.1 again. Despite winning just five games last season, Nebraska's second-order wins were 6.2 (second-order wins are luck-adjusted win expectations based on the team's advanced statistics). The Cornhuskers performed like a six-to-seven-win team in Year 2 anyway, and I expect to see improvement this season. In fact, with an extremely backloaded schedule, I think there's a reasonable scenario the Cornhuskers are 7-0 before they head to Columbus to face Ohio State on Halloween.

    Hale: In Frost's first two seasons with the Cornhuskers, Nebraska is a woeful 3-9 in games decided by a TD or less. Yes, that's partially a function of some shaky performances and lackluster talent, but it's also some bad luck. The Cornhuskers were also well below the FBS average in red zone scoring and TD rates, inside 40 scoring rates and had 12 fumbles. It's worth rolling the dice on Frost finally turning the corner in Year 3 with a little better luck on his side.

    Illinois Fighting Illini under 5

    Hale: Yes, Illinois was a nice, feel-good story last year, reaching a bowl game for the first time since 2014, but let's be clear: Illinois was also very lucky. The wins versus Wisconsin and Michigan State were utterly improbable, the Illini had the fourth-highest change in points off turnover margin from 2018 to 2019, they were the only Power 5 team to trail by more than a TD on more than 40% of their drives and still make a bowl, and they lost their last three games of the season by 9, 19 and 15, respectively. Luck, especially in places like Illinois, doesn't last into a second season.

    Michigan Wolverines under 9 (-105)

    Connelly: Washington, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State on the road. Penn State, Indiana and Wisconsin at home. To hit the over, Michigan has to go at least 5-2 in these six games. Possible? Of course. But even though the Wolverines are projected a decent 15th overall in SP+, they're given only an 11% chance of winning more than nine games and a 68% chance of winning fewer. Even if Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis catch fire with a new QB, this is a really high bar to clear.

    Rutgers Scarlet Knights over 2.5 (+135)

    Connelly: Now let's talk about a low bar. There's no question that Greg Schiano is inheriting a massive rebuild, and Rutgers is among the lowest-projected Power 5 teams in SP+ (101st). But the defense should be solid, and the Scarlet Knights will almost certainly beat Monmouth to start the season. That leaves 1.5 more wins, and SP+ gives Rutgers at least a 29% chance in four remaining games. This isn't going to be an amazing season, but the Knights have a 69% chance of winning at least three games, and at +135, the break-even point here is 43%. Good value, even if you have reservations about putting money on Rutgers to win football games.

    Iowa Hawkeyes over 7

    Steele: Iowa loses QB Nathan Stanley, but I believe that this year's squad is stronger than last year's version. The Hawkeyes go from just 10 returning starters to 12, and more experienced skill players surround the new QB. Kirk Ferentz is one of the most underrated head coaches. Iowa has had at least seven wins in each of Ferentz's past seven years and has topped that total in six of those.

    Northwestern Wildcats O/U 5.5

    Steele: Pat Fitzgerald had the Wildcats in the Big Ten title game just two short years ago, and his team averaged nine wins per season the four wins before last year. Last year Northwestern had only 11 returning starters, but this year the Wildcats have 19 back. Northwestern is at the top of my Stock Market Indicator and also was minus-10 in turnovers last year, so is poised for a "turnovers equals turnaround" type of season. I have the Wildcats favored in seven games.

    Pick: Over 5.5

    Kezirian: Northwestern owned one of the worst FBS offenses in 2019, ranking 128th out of 130 in yards per play. Despite a strong defense, the Wildcats managed just three wins and I don't really see reason for much optimism in 2020. Quarterback play was a weakness, but Fitzgerald does return all his guys and brought in a new offensive coordinator. While Fitzgerald is usually a safe bet to improve a team, I am skeptical with the coronavirus pandemic disrupting the offseason. This team needs work and I am unsure the Wildcats will have enough of a preseason to get it all accomplished.

    As for the schedule, it is fairly challenging by Northwestern standards. The Cats host Tulane, Central Michigan, Maryland and Morgan State. I expect some wins but nothing is guaranteed. Northwestern has the typical slate of a Big Ten conference that is often respectable. I don't envision a bowl next season in Evanston.
    Pick: Under 5.5

    Michigan State Spartans under 4.5

    Steele: Last year, Michigan State was under the guidance of Mark Dantonio, and he had a veteran squad with 16 returning starters. The Spartans had a top-notch defense with eight returning starters but still managed just six wins in the regular season. Dantonio stepped down unexpectedly in February, and Michigan State had to scramble to hire Mel Tucker from Colorado. Tucker has only three returning starters on defense and a much less experienced team overall. The Spartans' nonconference schedule is challenging with BYU, Toledo and Miami (Fla.), who should all be improved this year.

  2. #2
    gojetsgomoxies's Avatar Become A Pro!
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    i like the logic on many of those picks.... i really like the iowa pick

    is mich state really at 3.5 wins? yikes!........ pretty sure i'd play that OVER basically blindly (no research)

    no one picks minnesota either way........ gotta be a big drop-off from last year.... if memory serves correctly, decent O returning, but alot of key D's are gone

  3. #3
    gojetsgomoxies's Avatar Become A Pro!
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    rutgers is tantilizing...... gotta look at the schedule