After a poor showing in bowl games, the Big Ten appears poised to have several contenders for the playoffs if the NCAA football futures odds are on target.
By the end of the regular season and league championships last year, it was pretty clear that the Big Ten was the best conference on the college gridirons. Four of the top 8 teams in the rankings before bowl games hailed from the Big Ten, and those same four filled out a third of the New Year’s Six invitations.
The same couldn’t be said for the conference once the bowl season concluded. A 3-7 overall record in bowl games was made to look even worse when Ohio State was demolished by Clemson in the College Football Playoffs, the eventual champion Tigers blanking the Buckeyes, 31-0, Urban Meyer’s first shutout loss as a head coach. Meyer and the Buckeyes are back among the favorites again this year, Ohio State currently +700 at BetOnline to win a second national championship in four CFP seasons.
Penn State, Michigan Top Challengers To Buckeyes In East Division
Replacing nine starters, including big-time playmaker Curtis Samuel, won’t be easy, but it should be made easier by the excellent classes Meyer has brought to Columbus the past two signing days. Though it’s not necessarily easy, the Buckeyes do have a favorable schedule that should have them giving up points on the NCAA football odds until possibly their final regular season contest at Michigan. Ohio State opens on the road at Indiana, then has nine days to prepare for Oklahoma’s arrival at The Shoe. The Buckeyes also get Penn State and Michigan State in Columbus, with no Wisconsin on this year’s fixture.
Presenting Ohio State’s biggest challenge are the defending league champs from Penn State. In his third season trying to turn PSU’s program around, James Franklin saw his team come together with the big upset coming at Happy Valley over the Buckeyes. The return of QB Trace McSorely and tailback Saquon Barkley are two big reasons why the Nittany Lions are 15/1 to win the College Football Playoffs. Weeks 8-10 are going to tell the story as Penn State hosts Michigan then goes on the road against Ohio State and Michigan State.
Also at 15/1 on the college football futures odds is Michigan. We know that one of these days, the tightly-wound and competitive Jim Harbaugh is going to add a CFP Championship to his resumé, but will it be this season? The Wolverines are tested right out of the gate with Florida coming to Ann Arbor, and they do get both Michigan State and Ohio State at home. Those trips to Penn State and Wisconsin could be the decisive contests.
Badgers Remain Top Contenders In West Division
If someone asked you which school had been to the Big Ten Championship the most, would you know it was Wisconsin? The Badgers made it to the title game for a fourth time last season, and once again look like the class of the conference’s West Division. Those 50/1 futures odds to make it to the CFP don’t appear to give Wisconsin much of a chance to win the national title, but the schedule is friendly and the Badgers have 15 starters returning. The best they face from the East is Michigan, and they get the Wolverines at home.
After leaving Western Michigan for Minnesota, PJ Fleck’s job is two-fold: Build on a 9-4 season that ended with a bowl victory and repair the team’s image following the scandal that marred such a fine campaign. Fleck has to find a new signal caller but has 13 starters coming back to hopefully help the Golden Gophers repeat and challenge Wisconsin. A fast start could have them attractive college football picks come the fall.