2014 Odds to Win the Big Ten Conference for College Football with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 7/21/2014
College football is just around the corner. Finally. For the Big Ten this is a very important season. What was once the cream of the sport is now an afterthought. The last several years have been largely embarrassing, and it has been a long time since the conference has been truly relevant in January. Can that change this year? Or are we headed for more of the frustratingly-poor play that they have made an art of? Here are the 0dds to win the Big Ten for college football from Bovada with picks and predictions thrown in for good measure.
The giants: Urban Meyer has mostly owned the Big Ten for two years at Ohio State (10/11), and he has nothing to show for it. Two years ago his team was ineligible for the postseason, so their undefeated season meant nothing. Last year they were unbeaten heading into the Big Ten Championship Game, but were outplayed by Michigan State. They then capped their season with another loss - to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. It was a rough way to end the season, but unless it leaves some psychological scars they are well poised this year to get right back to that championship game. They feature a QB, Braxton Miller,who is the third choice to win the Heisman behinda repeat from Winston and Mariota, and a talented roster beefed up by stellar recruiting from Meyer. Their nonconference schedule is a joke, with a down Virginia Tech team their biggest test. They avoid Wisconsin in conference play, and they get Michigan at home. The biggest tests are trips to Penn State and especially Michigan State, but by game time I expect the Buckeyes to be favored in both. It pains me to say it, but the Buckeyes are certainly the team to beat this year.
Last year's champs: After so long toiling in the shadows of Michigan and Ohio State, and even Wisconsin, Michigan State (4/1) finally broke through last year and was the very impressive conference champion. But can they do it again? The team had a few losses - especially in the offseason - but still return a reasonably strong team. Most importantly, they were able to keep Pat Narduzzi around as defensive coordinator. He had his pick of several head coaching jobs, but his comfort outweighed his ambition. With him on board this team will be very tough to play against. My gut feeling is that they aren't good enough to beat Ohio State, but then I said the same thing last year. Getting the Buckeyes at home is huge for them, and they also host Nebraska and Michigan. A season-ending trip to Penn State could be tough, but James Franklin is likely a year or two away from real strength.
Wisconsin is Wisconsin: The Badgers have a formula, and they stick to it - big lines, and a style of play that doesn't dazzle but wins games. Last year, though, they faced a change in coaching that involved a big shift in styles. As we enter the second year of the new regime, I expect a solid step forward. Their biggest asset is an almost impossibly soft schedule - they don't play Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State or Penn State. A trip to Iowa and a home game against Nebraska are the only real tests. They are the team to beat in the West Division, but I find it hard to believe that any team in that division will be able to touch the East champs - no matter which team that is.
Nebraska?: Storylines sure can change fast in college football. Just a few months ago Bo Pelini seemed like a dead man walking - and deservedly so. His team was in chaos, and yet more public relations gaffes seemed to have made him expendable. But then he beat Georgia in the Gator Bowl, and now Nebraska (11/2) sits as the second choice in the East and the fourth choice in the conference. Remarkable. There are a few things to like, but if you find the coach confidence inspiring then you obviously haven't been paying attention.
The hottest of seats: Brady Hoke started out his tenure with so much promise at Michigan. Lately, though, he has recruited much better than his teams have played. Hiring Doug Nussmeier from Alabama as his new offensive coordinator was a big move, but if things go like they have the last couple of years then the calls for his head will be very loud. They have the talent to be better offensively than they have been. They should be a relative value at 9/1, but having to play both Michigan State and Ohio State on the road dims the enthusiasm considerably.
The usual suspects: Other people are more excited about Iowa (14/1) than I am - mostly because I have no faith in the coaching staff. Outside of that, there isn't a team to spend any more time at all thinking about. There are some really deep conferences, but this is not one of them. Penn State could be good but can't play for the title, so they are irrelevant except as a spoiler.
New Blood: This year, for reasons that I will never entirely understand and which almost certainly have everything to do with greed and profit, Rutgers (200/1) and Maryland (100/1) are joining the Big Ten. As the odds suggest, neither team has much to add on the field, and they are just not going to win the league. Rutgers, in particular, will be lucky to win more than a game or two in conference play.
College Football Odds to win the Big Ten Conference Championship
Ohio State (10/1)
Michigan State (4/1)
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