2013 Big Ten Football Predictions and Futures Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 8/19/2013
I think that most Big Ten football fans would agree with my assessment that the SEC is overrated and a little too full of itself.
I don’t think that most of those same college football fans would agree with me that the second-most overrated football conference is their beloved Big Ten. But the fact is that while this league is seeped in tradition it is also seeped in mediocrity at the moment.
In my Pac-12 Conference preview I said that the league is on an upswing because of a major upgrade in coaching talent over the past several seasons. The opposite could be true for the Big Ten. Coaches in this conference used to be institutions unto themselves. Hayes. Schembechler. Alvarez. Paterno. Carr. Tressel. Bielema. Even guys like Purdue’s Joe Tiller and Kirk Ferentz have had their moments during distinguished tenures.
But a quick scan through the league right now reveals a lot of unproven leaders and bumbling anti-legends. There has been a brain drain in the Big Ten over the past several seasons. And what is left is Urban Meyer playing chess and the rest of the lot struggling with checkers.
Here is a look at my 2013 Big Ten football predictions and futures odds, with the college football odds courtesy of Bovada:
The Favorite: Ohio State (-165)
The Buckeyes are one of the biggest favorites in the country to win their conference and be a National Championship player. While I don’t expect things to be as simple as everyone in the media does – seriously, is it me or is everyone just penciling the Buckeyes in at 12-0 already? – Ohio State is again the class of the league. But the Buckeyes are not without weakness. Ohio State lost nine of its top 14 tacklers, and the defense has major holes in the front seven. The offense should be able to pick up the slack after averaging 37.2 points in Urban Meyer’s first season. Also, Ohio State’s schedule is a joke. Their toughest games are at Northwestern and at Michigan. Yes, you read that right. The Buckeyes should be able to kick the ribs of a weak Big Ten this year and could find their way back to the national title game. But that said, I don’t think Ohio State truly is one of the Top-5 teams in the country. And you can already tell that the Buckeyes will be nearly impossible to bet on this season because of the inflated expectations surrounding this crew.
The Challengers: Wisconsin (+750)
The two-time defending league champions have to deal with the surprising defection of coach Bret Bielema. New coach Gary Anderson brought toughness and physicality to his Utah State teams, and he should transition well in Madison. But losing Bielema will definitely have an impact on the Badgers. They have 14 starters and a lot of depth back from last year’s Rose Bowl team. This is a proud, upperclassmen-dominated roster. Also, most of their six losses last year were close, winnable games. But quarterback Joel Stave is kind of a joke, and Wisconsin has to go on the road to play Arizona State and Ohio State before we’ve even hit Oct. 1. This team was the league’s best last year at just 8-5. If that doesn’t tell you where this conference is at, I don’t know what else could. Look for another solid-but-unspectacular season for UW as they start a new era.
Nebraska (+700) - The Huskers are being pegged as the main competition for Ohio State this year. But I have seen enough of Bo Pelini to know that Nebraska isshaky at best. This team got steamrolled 70-31 in the conference title game last year and then gave up 45 points to Georgia – in a massive letdown spot for the Bulldogs – in a bowl game. And Nebraska’s defense could be even worse this year with eight of the top 10 tacklers gone! Offensively the Huskers are loaded with experience. Their running game is solid and features two 1,200-yard rushers. But Taylor Martinez throws like a girl, and eventually someone on this offense will have to be able to make a play in the passing game. Nebraska starts with five straight at home and then has easy games at Purdue and at Minnesota. They also avoid Ohio State.
The Dark Horse: Michigan (+350)
I was the only analyst in the country last year who didn’t buy into Michigan’s hype. After a fluke run through 2011, the Wolverines came back to reality in Brady Hoke’s sophomore campaign. This year will give us an idea of where the Wolverines are headed. Just 13 starters are back for this team. But junior quarterback Devin Gardner will have the offense all to himself, and the Wolverines are solid in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Michigan also has a favorable schedule, with its three toughest games – Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State – all being played in Ann Arbor. If the Michigan defense remains stout and if Gardner explodes then I could see Michigan playing Ohio State in what would be an epic conference title game.
The X-Factor: Michigan State (+750)
Sparty will be a thorn in everyone’s side in the Big Ten this year. But I don’t think they have the goods to run the table and become a surprise conference champion. Michigan State has seven starters back and 14 of the top 18 tacklers from one of the best defenses in the country. They absolutely smother opponents, and the stop unit could be even better this fall. But the Spartans have major issues on offense. They were terrible on offense last year and actually lose do-everything runner Le’Veon Bell. Andrew Maxwell was a bust in his first year at quarterback, and I don’t really see a lot of potential. But he will have to be better for this team to step forward. State avoids Ohio State, but they have to travel to Nebraska and Northwestern in back-to-back weeks after facing Michigan. That is a tough stretch. But other than those three games, the Spartans really could run the table, and they have a shot at getting to 10 wins this season.
The Disappointment: Northwestern (+1000)
I know, I’m surprised too; but the fact is that Northwestern is getting a lot of preseason love and they are being considered as a real threat to win the Big Ten Legends Division. Pat Fitzgerald has done an awesome job with this program, and they have 15 starters back from last year’s 10-win team. Northwestern has a pair of talented quarterbacks and all of its skill players back, including running back Venric Mark. But Northwestern’s defense and offensive line both leave something to be desired. And unfortunately for them, they have one of the league’s tougher schedules, drawing both Ohio State and Wisconsin out of the Leaders. This team should easily make it back to a bowl game for the sixth straight season, which is nice. But I think their dreams of a conference title, coming off a double-digit win season, will die quickly.
Iowa (+3300) –It wasn’t that long ago – 2009 to be exact – that Iowa was winning the Rose Bowl. But after three straight lackluster seasons coach Kirk Ferentz sees the buzzards circling. Iowa went just 4-8 last year and were shackled with one of the worst offenses in the country (19.3 ppg). They are hoping that either Cody Sokol or Jake Rudock can breathe some life into the attack this season. They have a decent running game, a Ferentz staple, and Iowa welcomes eight defensive starters back from a solid corps. Iowa gets Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan at home and has winnable road games at Minnesota and at Purdue. If they can split those home games there is a great chance this group can go 8-4 and put some of the shine back on their embattled coach.
Penn State (NA) – It was impossible not to be impressed with what Bill O’Brien did in his first year at Penn State. The Nittany Lions shrugged off a slow start to win eight of their last 10 games and would’ve played in the Big Ten Championship Game had they been eligible. Phenom quarterback Christian Hackenberg will be the starter from Day 1. But the reality of Penn State’s scholarship losses and postseason ban should set in this year. The Nittany Lions lost a ton of experience and leadership from last year’s team. And even though the schedule favors them with just four true road games (in 12 affairs), I will be surprised if O’Brien is able to match last year’s eight-win tally.
Indiana (+5000) –The Hoosiers are becoming a sexy pick in the Big Ten right now. With 18 starters back and a manageable schedule, the Hoosiers could play their way to the school’s first bowl appearance since 2007 and just the school’s second postseason game since 1993. IU has its top two quarterbacks, top three rushers, and the top six receivers back from last season and will play seven of their first nine games at home. Indiana will likely get slaughtered in their four road games (at Michigan, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State). But they could actually be favored six times this year. This is Kevin Wilson’s third season at the helm, and he could have this team poised to be one of the feel-good stories in the league.
Minnesota (+6600) – Minnesota weaseled its way to six wins and a bowl bid last year. But rumors of their ascension may be a bit overblown. Minnesota took advantage of a comically easy schedule – their best wins came at home against mediocre Syracuse by just seven and against mediocre Purdue by 16 – to steal a bowl bid. They now have 16 starters back, and there is a feeling of confidence around the program. However, the Gophers benefitted from some crazy turnover luck and were generally pushed around last year. They again have a simple nonconference schedule. But if the Gophers don’t win at Indiana on Nov. 2 there is a decent chance that they will go 0-8 in conference play this year.
Illinois (+10000) – I don’t know if Tim Beckman was dropped on his head as a child or if he is just naturally slow. But that guy is a mess. Illinois was a spectacular failure last year despite having a fair amount of talent on the roster. Senior Nate Scheelhaase is a four-year starter at quarterback, and he has some decent pieces to work with. But defensively the Illini are a debacle, and there is already a lot of grumbling in just Year 2 of the Beckman reign. Illinois has a tough nonconference schedule, facing Cincinnati and Washington, and they have a punishing league slate. Even if this team makes massive improvements after an injury-plagued 2012 they will still struggle to double last year’s win total.
Purdue (+7500) – Somehow making back-to-back bowl games wasn’t enough for Danny Hope to keep his job. Hope is gone, and new coach Darrell Hazell parlayed one good season at Kent State into a Big Ten gig. Good for him. But I expect Purdue to backslide from its customary six-win season to maybe a four-win campaign. Senior Rob Henry is back for what seems like his 12th season at quarterback, and Purdue has seniors all over the starting 22. But the schedule is brutal, and this team made a bowl last year despite being outscored on the season. There is no hope indeed.
2013 Big Ten Football Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
3. Michigan State
1. Ohio State
4. Penn State
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc’s Sport and he has earned over $9,000 in football profit for his clients over the last 15 football months. He went 5-1 last week with his NFL preseason selections and will have an 8-Unit and a 5-Unit NFL futures bet released this week. Also, for the first time ever, Robert will release selections from his incredible KING College Football Betting System. (Learn more HERE.) We are so confident that you will be amazed by this moneymaking system we are going to give you a free, no-strings-attached $60 credit to use toward a purchase of Robert’s football selections. CLICK HERE for $60 absolutely free!
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