NCAA Football Odds and Predictions: Big Ten Player Props
by Alan Matthews - 9/1/2011
We continue our look at some NCAA football conference player props offered by Bodog with the Big Ten today – which is now a conference of 12 teams, but for some reason refused to change its name (why start now, it didn’t for nearly 20 years with 11 teams), but it did add two silly division names in Legends and Leaders (and a rather ridiculous new conference logo) with the addition of Nebraska.
For years the Big Ten has been known as the “slowest” (in terms of overall team speed) and most behind-the-times offensive league in the nation. But that has started to change with the spread offense finally making its way to the Midwest, thanks in large part to former Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez. And the Wolverines have an amazing spread quarterback in Heisman Trophy candidate Denard Robinson, but new Coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges are going to more of a pro-style look. That is expected to mean fewer carries for Robinson – perhaps not a bad thing as it will mean a few less hits on a pretty frail body – and more use of the tailbacks, who were an afterthought in the RichRod’s offense. Still, it should also lead to more play-action throwing opportunities for Shoelace.
I bring this up because for the first time among these conference preview player prop stories, there’s a quarterback in both the rushing and passing categories and that is Robinson. Last year he was amazing in being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and finishing sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Robinson rushed for 1,702 yards and 14 touchdowns and threw for 2,570 and 18 touchdowns. He broke former Air Force QB Beau Morgan's major-college record for rushing yards by a quarterback and became the first player in NCAA history with 1,500 yards rushing and 1,500 yards passing in one year. In fact, Robinson made more than one All-America team as a running back.
Among the two quarterback props, most passing yards and most passing TDs, there are only three betting options: Robinson, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Northwestern’s Dan Persa. If you don’t know about Persa, he is the best pure passer in the conference. He threw for 2,805 yards and 17 touchdowns before going down in the Wildcats’ 10th game against Iowa and missing the rest of the year. Persa is the favorite on both props at -175 on the passing yards per game and EVEN on the TD passes. The only concern about Persa is that he’s still working his way back from that torn Achilles’ and it’s not even 100 percent he starts Saturday vs. Boston College. I would still go with Persa for yards per game but go with Cousins (2,825 yards, 20 TDs last season) on the touchdown prop at +150.
On the rushing yards per game and rushing TDs prop, here are your options: Robinson, Michigan State’s Edwin Baker, Wisconsin’s James White, Iowa’s Marcus Coker, Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead and Penn State’s Silas Redd. Baker is the slight favorite over Robinson in both props. And while I love Baker (1,201 yards, 13 TDs last year), he will share carries with Le’Veon Bell (6-5 yards, eight TDs). Ditto on White with Montee Ball. I can’t see Robinson coming within a mile of his number last year in the new offense. And Nebraska dual-threat QB Taylor Martinez will siphon off a lot of Burkhead’s touches. A week ago I might have gone with Redd and the yards because Stephfon Green had left the program – but now Green is back and will share duties with Redd. Thus, I would go with Coker on the touchdowns at 9/2. He’s the clear featured back at Iowa and is coming off a breakout performance in the Insight Bowl. I still think you have to go with Baker at 5/2 on the yards per game.
Finally, on the two receiving props the betting options are: MSU’s B.J. Cunningham, Indiana’s Damarlo Belcher, PSU’s Derek Moye, Northwestern’s Jeremy Ebert, Iowa’s Marvin McNutt and Michigan’s Roy Roundtree. Ebert led the Big Ten in yards per game last year at 73.3 (that does include a bowl game – no postseason stats count in these props). The other guys on this prop, sans Cunningham, were all next in line among returning players behind Ebert on that stat. I would stick with Ebert on the yards at 9/2. Go with Cunningham on the touchdowns at 11/4. He’s a big receiver who will catch plenty of jump balls and fades in the end zone from Cousins. Cunningham had nine TDs last year.
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