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Big Ten College Football Sports Betting Preview (2019)

by August 12, 2019

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We are officially two weeks away from the first college football action of the season. Part two of our five-part conference betting preview focuses on the Big Ten Conference. Year in and year out, the Big Ten East division is absolutely loaded with conference championship contenders. Will Ohio State keep rolling without Coach Urban Meyer? Is this the year that Coach Jim Harbaugh gets over the hump and finally beats Ohio State? Will the Big Ten West division representative overcome big odds and win the first conference title since 2012? Let’s take a look at each Big Ten team.

Odds to win the 2019 Big Ten Championship (odds courtesy of FanDuel)

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Team

Odds

Ohio State

+125

Michigan

+250

Wisconsin

+1000

Penn State

+1100

Nebraska

+1400

Michigan State

+1600

Iowa

+3000

Minnesota

+3000

Northwestern

+4000

Purdue

+4000

Indiana

+6000

Illinois

+25000

Maryland

+25000

Rutgers

N/A

 

The Favorites:

Ohio State +125
Ohio State has won the last two Big Ten Championships. They look to build on last season’s momentum when they finished 13-1 and ended the year with a Rose Bowl victory over Washington. Coach Urban Meyer resigned and is replaced by head coach Ryan Day. Day served as offensive coordinator under Meyer the last two seasons.

Ohio State begins the year ranked fifth in the preseason coaches poll. They return five offensive and 10 defensive starters. The Buckeyes are led by new quarterback Justin Fields (UGA transfer), the former number one ranked prospect of his class. Ohio State needs to replace three starting offensive linemen.

Even though wide receiver Parris Campbell is gone to the NFL, the Buckeyes return three outstanding receivers in KJ Hill, Austin Mack, and Binjimen Victor. JK Robbins returns at running back, and the defense is led by All-America candidate defensive end Chase Young Jr. The defense returns three of their top four tacklers, and are strong in the secondary with physical cornerbacks and excellent safeties. Ohio State has to travel to Nebraska and Michigan while getting Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Penn State all at home.

Michigan +250
Fans in Ann Arbor are starting to wonder if Coach Harbaugh can ever win the big one. He is 0-4 against Ohio State (all Urban Meyer-led teams), 2-2 against intrastate rival Michigan State, and 0-1 against Notre Dame. Michigan starts the year ranked seventh in the preseason coaches poll. They hired a new offensive coordinator in Josh Gattis, who was Alabama’s co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach last season. In their spring game, they ran a lot more shotgun-spread and up-tempo offense.

Michigan finished second in the Big Ten in scoring last season, and return eight offensive starters. Quarterback Shea Patterson looks to continue his maturation and is helped by the best 1-2 wide receiver combination in the country in Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Michigan has uncertainty at the running back position after losing Karan Higdon and with Chris Evans suspended. They have one of the best offensive lines in the Big Ten.

Though the Wolverines lost a ton of talent on defense to the NFL Draft, the linebackers and secondary should be their strength. Defensive coordinator Don Brown is always aggressive and will rely on his five returning starters to help bring along the younger players on his unit rather quickly. 

Michigan travels to Wisconsin and Penn State and plays Michigan State and Ohio State at home. 

Other Contenders:

Wisconsin +1000
Those confused by Wisconsin’s odds need to remember that they play in the Big Ten West division, which is not nearly as loaded as the Big Ten East. It also helps to have the best running back in the country in Jonathan Taylor, along with six other offensive starters returning. The Badgers will have to replace three starters on the offensive line, as well as last year’s starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook who transferred to Florida State. Defensively, they endured their worst season since 2007 in terms of total yardage per game allowed. Wisconsin will look to build off the momentum of a 35-3 rout of Miami in last year’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Penn State +1100
Penn State starts the year ranked 14th in the preseason coaches poll. They were shown a lot of respect from the coaches, given that they have to replace one of the best quarterbacks in school history in Trace McSorley. Tommy Stevens, the man who should have replaced him transferred to Mississippi State. Thus, the Nittany Lions will rely on redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford who has just seven career pass attempts. Penn State also lost leading running back Miles Sanders and need to replace the right side of their offensive line. To survive a brutal schedule four-game conference stretch, the Nittany Lions will rely on a defense that led the nation in sacks last year. That side of the ball brings back six starters, including their top cornerback and both safeties.

Nebraska +1400
Nebraska brings back seven offensive and six defensive starters from a team that finished 4-8 last season. Quarterback Adrian Martinez is a Heisman sleeper look to make big strides under second-year coach Scott Frost. In order to compete for a Big Ten championship this year, the defense will have to improve considerably. They allowed a conference worst 31.3 points per game.

Michigan State +1600
Year after year, Coach Mark Dantonio has one of the most talented and punishing defenses in the conference and the country. Imagine what could be if they ever found an offense to complement that unit. Michigan State returns nine starters from a defense that led the nation in total defense and rushing yards allowed per game. However, their offense was one of the worst in the country scoring a mere 18.7 points per game. Quarterback Brian Lewerke will look to grow under new offensive coordinator Brad Salem’s scheme that will feature a more up-tempo and vertical passing attack.

Longshots:

Iowa +3000
Iowa is a solid bet to win the Big Ten West. They start the year ranked 19th in the preseason coaches poll. They have an experienced quarterback in senior Nate Stanley and return five starters from a defense that finished seventh in the nation last year. Iowa has been a model of consistency, winning at least eight games in five of the last six years.

Minnesota +3000
According to ESPN’s FPI, Minnesota has the best chance (32%) to win the Big Ten West. Minnesota has a very talented receiving corps but needs better quarterback production if they hope to improve on their 7-6 (3-6 Big Ten) record from a year ago. They get somewhat of a schedule reprieve by not having to face Ohio State, Michigan, or Michigan State.

Northwestern +4000
Northwestern is the defending Big Ten West champions. The Wildcats begin ranked 25th in the preseason coaches poll. Northwestern lost quite a bit on offense. They need to replace quarterback Clayton Thorson, top wide receiver Flynn Nagel, as well as the entire left side of their offensive line. The good news is that their top four tacklers from a stout defense are back, including linebackers Blake Gallagher and Paddy Fisher.

Purdue +4000
In order to improve upon last year’s 7-6 (5-4 Big Ten) record, they will need to get better production out of their defense. The 444.2 yards per game allowed was second-worst in the conference. Purdue expects to be in a lot of shootouts, as quarterback Elijah Sindelar is back to lead a passing attack that finished 11th in the nation last year.

Indiana +6000
The Hoosiers look to build upon last year’s 5-7 (2-7 Big Ten) record. Unfortunately, they play in the loaded Big Ten East division.

Illinois +25000
Illinois’ defense that allowed nearly 500 yards per game last year is a big reason why they finished last in a mediocre Big Ten West division.

Maryland +25000
Another team that plays in the Big Ten East that doesn’t stand much of a chance, outside of beating Rutgers.

Rutgers (No odds available)
The Scarlet Knights have two goals for 2019: try to win one conference game, and to not lose to Michigan or Ohio State by 70 points.

Best Bet: Michigan +250

Returning experience at quarterback and consistency on the offensive line is paramount for success in college football. This is why I love the Wolverines this year. The Big Ten East has question marks in Ohio State and Penn State’s quarterback situation, and the fact that Urban Meyer is not patrolling the sidelines for the Buckeyes anymore. Michigan State is intriguing at +1600, but asking them to survive trips to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State is not fathomable. Good luck trying to figure out who will come out of the Big Ten West division. Whoever does make it out of that balanced division will almost certainly be outclassed by the Big Ten East’s champion.

This is Michigan’s best chance to win a Big Ten championship since coach Jim Harbaugh was hired. They are loaded at the skill positions and the new offensive scheme will help quarterback Shea Patterson shine. They have the best offensive line and receivers in the conference. Though their young defense is a concern, defensive coordinator Don Brown will have them gelling by season’s end.

The Michigan-Ohio State game may certainly determine the outcome of the Big Ten East (for the second straight year). It helps tremendously that this game is in Ann Arbor. Michigan will beat Ohio State for just the second time in the last 16 years and will cruise to victory over a much lesser opponent in the Big Ten West champion.

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.