College Football Betting Preview: This Week in the Big Ten
by Darin Zank - 9/25/2013
Big Game time comes quick in the Big Ten this season, considering the Legends Division could be decided Saturday when Ohio State takes on Wisconsin at the Horseshoe (8 p.m. ET, ABC). This is expected to be one of the best games of the season in the conference, and betting handle should be enormous for this one.
Badgers-Buckeyes Throwdown at the Horseshoe
Last week the Badgers got their conference season off to a good start, grounding out a 41-10 win over Purdue, covering as 23-point favorites.
Wisconsin ran for 388 yards against the Boilers and is now averaging 350 yards per game on the ground this season. That's come, however, against a rather weak schedule outside of that head-slapping loss at Arizona State.
Ohio State, meanwhile, for some reason, played Florida A&M last week. The results were as one might expect if the varsity were to play the freshman team. With backup quarterback Kenny Guiton tossing six touchdown passes in the first half, the Buckeyes were on their way to a 76-0 victory.
Oh, yeah, and they covered as 48-point favorites.
Buckeyes QB Braxton Miller was supposed to be a Heisman contender this year, and he still could be. But in two-plus games in relief of Miller, who's dealing with a sprained knee, Guiton has hit on 68 percent of his throws for 13 touchdowns and run for 186 yards.
Miller is supposedly ready to go for Saturday, but whether it's him or Guiton, neither the oddsmakers nor the bettors seem to care. Ohio State opened at -7.5, and that number had held steady into mid-week.
Wisconsin is 4-0 ATS this season and covered in its only game as an underdog when it lost at Arizona State 32-30 while getting six points.
A Couple of Dandies
These two teams have played two very good games the last couple of seasons. Two years ago Miller hit Devin Smith on a 40-yard scoring strike in the last half-minute to give the Buckeyes a 33-29 victory in Columbus. Then last year the Badgers scored with eight seconds left to force overtime at Camp Randall, but OSU regrouped and won in overtime, 21-14.
Wisconsin outgained and outrushed the Buckeyes last year and held them to one offensive touchdown through regulation play.
The QB Situation
While Ohio State has been getting fantastic play from its quarterbacks, Badgers QB Joel Stave has been erratic, at best, and missed on several throws last week. If he can't hit for at least a few third-down conversions Saturday, and make at least a couple accurate deep throws to stretch the Buckeyes defense, the Wisconsin offense might be in danger of becoming too one-dimensional.
Then again, OSU's weak spot might be along the defensive line, which didn't return any starters from last season. The Buckeyes have only allowed 80 YPG on the ground this season, but they've also played with a big lead almost all the time.
Wisconsin will have to get another big effort from its running game and enough plays out of Stave – or whoever - to keep Miller/Guiton and the OSU offense off the field. The Badgers will also need perfection out of their special teams and a couple of turnovers from their defense. That seems to be asking a lot. So in the belief that sometimes picking a winner against the spread is as simple as picking the winner of the game, I'll give the points and go with the Buckeyes Saturday.
Last Week in the Big Ten
As a whole, the Big Ten provided its financial backers with another winning effort last week.
Minnesota racked up 353 yards on the ground and pulled away from San Jose State, winning 43-24 and covering as four-point home favorites.
Iowa walloped Western Michigan 59-3, covering as 17-point chalk.
Penn State bounced back after getting upset by Central Florida, beating Kent State 34-0 and covering as 22-point Happy Valley favorites.
And Michigan State outgained and outrushed Notre Dame, lost 17-13, but covered as 4.5-point dogs in South Bend.
On the other side of the coin, Indiana got outgunned by Missouri 45-28 and couldn't cover as three-point home dogs. And Michigan, as 19-point favorites, had to rally from a 21-7 third-quarter deficit at Connecticut to scrape out a 24-21 victory.
There must be some concern in Ann Arbor after two straight tight games against inferior opponents.
So as a group last week, Big Ten teams, in nine nonconference games, went 7-2 SU and 5-2 ATS.
This Week in the Big Ten
Elsewhere on a very limited Big Ten schedule this weekend;
The 2-1 Fighting Illini of Illinois, after having last week off, are favored by 24 points at home over 0-3 Miami-Ohio (noon ET, Big Ten Network).
Purdue, 1-3 after the loss to Wisconsin, jumps back out of conference play to host 3-0 Northern Illinois (noon ET, ESPN2). In the early betting the Boilers were 3.5-point home dogs against the Huskies.
And the 3-1 Iowa Hawkeyes are favored by one point at 4-0 Minnesota in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
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