Penn State and Rutgers have played each other, but essentially the Big Ten Conference schedule begins in earnest this Saturday. Here is a glance at the updated odds to win the conference title game at Sportsbook.com.
Big Ten Bashing In Vogue
There's no question that the Big Ten has taken a beating so far this season in terms of national reputation as the conference has generally had its hat handed to it when playing not only other Power 5 conference but also occasionally by Mid-American Conference schools. However, could things be turning around? In Week 4, the Big Ten went 12-1 against non-conference opponents. OK, it wasn't exactly the toughest of schedules with Indiana winning at Missouri the Big Ten's only win over a ranked team. But Iowa was an underdog at Pittsburgh, Maryland was at Syracuse and Rutgers was at Navy and they all won. The lone loss was by vastly disappointing Michigan at home to Utah, which likely all but seals Coach Brady Hoke's fate in Ann Arbor.
Michigan State and Ohio State are currently +190 co-favorites to win the conference. Obviously only one of the two will play in the Big Ten Championship Game because they reside in the same East Division. The Spartans are back in the Top 10 following a 73-14 shellacking of Eastern Michigan last week. They had fallen out of the Top 10 in the wake of their 46-27 loss at Oregon on Sept. 6. MSU played terrific football for nearly three quarters in that game before the Ducks wore down the Sparty defense. Michigan State's Big Ten opener isn't until next week, but it's a big one: home against No. 21 Nebraska. The Spartans have a possible trap game this week as 30.5-point favorites against Wyoming.
The Huskers and Buckeyes are the only currently ranked teams left on Michigan State's schedule so the Spartans 100 percent must win out to have any chance of reaching the College Football Playoff. Ohio State also plays one more non-conference game this week, vs. Cincinnati (+14), before opening conference play at Maryland next week. That will be a pumped up crowd in College Park in the Terps' first Big Ten home game.
Wisconsin is at +300 at Sportsbook.com to win the Big Ten. The Badgers should be unbeaten but choked away a 24-7 lead in their opener in Houston against LSU. UW has followed that win blowouts of Western Illinois and Bowling Green, running for a Big Ten-record 644 yards last week against the Falcons. I haven’t seen a defense that might be able to slow that ground game in the Big Ten. The Badgers face South Florida this week, with the Bulls at +33. Wisconsin opens Big Ten play next week at Northwestern. UW seems unlikely to lose before hosting Nebraska on Nov. 15.
Nebraska (+650) is the best betting value right now and Coach Bo Pelini is off the hot seat temporarily. To be fair, the Huskers really haven't played anyone of note yet. Miami (Fla.) is just OK and the Hurricanes lost 41-31 in Lincoln last week. Ameer Abdullah continues to get into the Heisman conversation as he had 229 yards rushing and three total TDs against the Canes. He also saved Nebraska from a potentially mammoth upset on Sept. 6 against McNeese State. The Huskers are -20 this week against Illinois; might they be looking ahead to Michigan State?
Iowa (+1000) has not played very well yet, getting close wins over Northern Iowa and Ball State -- and Pitt, but that's acceptable -- and losing to Iowa State. The Hawkeyes may have found something in backup QB C.J. Beathard, who was great in relief of an injured Jake Rudock against Pittsburgh. The Big Ten schedule sets up as well as possible for Iowa with no Michigan State or Ohio State and both Wisconsin and Nebraska at home. The Hawkeyes are -10 this week at terrible Purdue.
As bad as Michigan (+2500) has looked at times, the Wolverines are still unbeaten in the conference. Expect Hoke to name backup Shane Morris as his starting QB in place of an ineffective Devin Gardner this week at Minnesota. The UM offense has failed to reach even the red zone in losses to Notre Dame and Utah. Gardner has been picked off six times this season and the Michigan offense has turned it over a whopping 12 times. UM is last in the nation with a minus-10 turnover margin. The Wolverines are -11 against the Gophers, who have lost to Michigan 22 of the past 23 times. Michigan also has won eight straight Big Ten openers and 31 of its last 32.
The other conference openers this week are Northwestern (+4000) at Penn State (+4000), with the Nittany Lions as 10.5-point favorites, and Maryland (+5500) at Indiana (+6500), with the Hoosiers -5 on college football odds.
Free College Football Picks: Michigan State beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game as our college football pick.