This was set to be a banner year for the Big Ten. Penn State loses one Heisman-level superstar but retains another as an upperclassman. Wisconsin’s ground game is an institution. Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa lurk as spoilers who could evolve into more.
Did we forget Ohio State? That team that won another Big Ten title last season. That school where one great, bullish QB seems to replace another. That university whose iconic head coach just got suspended after lying about domestic violence incidents involving an assistant coach.
Meyer’s loyalty to bad eggs is a pattern, but the news has hit Columbus hard. Sportsbook handicappers are especially unsure what to do. MyBookie is keeping Ohio State’s futures odds to win the conference right where they were at (+100), while Sportsbetting.ag has Wisconsin almost a co-favorite next to the more than 2-to-1 Buckeyes.
Ohio State – Love ‘em but Leave ‘em
The suspended coach’s hubris will cost the Buckeyes no matter how things turn out on the sidelines. If Meyer remains in charge, controversy swirling around The Horseshoe will distract the team. If the coach is asked to leave campus for good, then the outcry from fans will also dilute focus.
So long as the odds remain in a holding pattern, Ohio State is an excellent under-bet on win totals of (10) or more. Sure, there’s a chance for the Scarlet & Gray to reach the pinnacle again this year. But think of the unlikely drama that would have to unfold.
Dwayne Haskins, an untested sophomore, would have to light it up while blocking-out the noise surrounding the practice facility. Nick Bosa would have to eat opposing QBs for lunch, while playing on a defense scattered with new faces.
Nobody can dedicate this season to Urban Meyer given the coach’s misdeeds. If the skipper is court-martialed, the crew will be set adrift…at least in 2018.
Betting the Win-Totals: Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan
PSU’s win-total lines are hovering between 9 and 10 victories. I like the Nittany Lions to win conference games, and there’s nothing wrong with an ace like Trace McSorley at QB. But they’re losing 8 starters on defense and a Pro Bowl-level talent at tailback. Lean: Under
Wisconsin’s consensus O/U is (10) total wins. I’m liking the squad a whole lot, given efficient Alex Hornibrook paired with Jonathan Taylor in the backfield. Linebackers like the versatile T.J. Edwards are killing teams whose offenses can’t get on the field against the Badgers. Wisconsin will benefit from playing in the West division and face only UNM, Western Kentucky and BYU in OOC play. Lean: Over
The Michigan Wolverines (consensus (9) total wins) have shown flashes under Jim Harbaugh’s icy glare but have not broken through to win a Big Ten season. UM’s defense is loaded, and Rashan Gary is a heck of a pass rusher. But Shea Patterson may not be the savior of Michigan’s meager passing game. Lean: None
Line-er Notes: Handicapping the Rest of the Big Ten
I’m loving Nebraska to exceed their win-total line of (6) in 2018. The upper of having Scott Frost in town should boost a poor defense at least temporarily, and young Adrian Martinez is capable of getting the ball to Stanley Morgan Jr.
Ohio State’s institutional woes may affect betting on Michigan State’s (9) win-total line, as the Spartans can probably win their final five if they can get past the Buckeyes on November 10th. Brian Lewerke is looking like a quintessential MSU quarterback, and the offense returns almost his entire supporting cast.
I adore the program at Iowa, and the Hawkeyes deserved all the glory of a 55-24 blow-out of Ohio State in ’17. I can get down with a Hail-Mary futures bet on Iowa, because the Black and Gold will have a watershed someday. But I’m not recommending Kirk Ferentz’s team as an over bet against (7 ½) total wins due to the potential of a green LB corps to blow early leads. Northern Illinois is always underrated and a good bet to cover (+10) vs Iowa on 9/1.
You can trust Indiana (5) to come in under their win-total line.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.