According to odds makers, the Big Ten Conference is Ohio State’s to lose coming off an unbeaten regular season, which was quite impressive since the Buckeyes had nothing to play for last year other than themselves. Let’s breakdown each team and price point, and see which seem like solid college football picks.
Ohio State (-120)
The Buckeyes are the class of the Big Ten and while their chances of repeating 12-0 are not good simply on principle, they could be a better, with a more talent-laden squad in Urban Meyer’s second season in Columbus. Quarterback Braxton Miller should be the league’s MVP and he’s become a true team leader as a junior. The defense has spots to fill and most believe Meyer will coach them up to excellence. With a very manageable schedule, Ohio State offers no value as futures bet, yet is the wisest wager.
With just seven starters returning, college football odds makers are counting on the talent coach Brady Hoke has on hand and trusts he can meld it together to win the Legends Division. QB Devin Gardner arguably has the strongest arm in the conference and has athletic pass receivers to work with. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has brought back the “Michigan defense” mentality and will piece this group together. The backups have ability but are very raw. Why not bet Michigan? Because does anyone believe they can defeat Ohio State twice in eight days at the end of season?
Taylor Martinez made tremendous strides as a thrower in 2012 and has a good collection of pass catchers to work with this season. The senior and the Nebraska offense will have to carry the load and Husker fans are hopeful the defense solidifies, with the front seven having more questions than Edward Snowden has enemies. This is probably the best sports pick from a wagering perspective; however, several aspects have to come together.
Michigan State (+550)
The back seven of the Spartans defense will rival that of any top contender in the country. What everyone wants to know is what players in the green and white uniforms will step up at quarterback, running back and wide receiver? Difficult choice to wager on.
With 23 seniors and enough talent sprinkled throughout the roster, the Badgers at least deserve consideration for a fourth consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. What derails their chances is being unusually thin in the offensive line and lacking a football chucker who can stretch the field.
With 15 returning starters, Northwestern should at least be in the conversation to win the Legends Division. The offense will average 30+ points and has seven defensive players who know the system. The Wildcats will hold their own fate starting in November with games at Nebraska and welcoming Michigan and Michigan State to Evanston.
The helium in the Hawkeyes' balloon is escaping and the Iowa football program has the look of needing a new direction. Coach Kirk Ferentz has done a superb job in Iowa City, however, the recruiting has fallen dramatically in recent years (no four-star recruits this past spring) and it might be time for change for a squad which lacks athletes at all the key positions.
Minnesota and Indiana (+5000)
Each of these teams have improved their stock as their head coaches Jerry Kill and Kevin Wilson respectively, have made visible improvements on the field in terms of talent, preparedness and discipline. The Golden Gophers are breaking in new quarterback who could halt their development and the Hoosiers have a horrific Big Ten road slate.
Purdue and Illinois (+10000)
For these two universities, the best aspect for the future is Maryland and Rutgers arriving next season, which might move them up. If anyone can have success at Purdue it's Darrell Hazell, who turned around Kent State’s dormant program. However, it will not be this season. The knock on Illini head coach Tim Beckman was "Can he recruit at this level?" and his first true class this past year was somewhere between seventh and ninth in the conference, which is not good enough.
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