2019 Big Ten Football Betting Preview: Odds and Expert Wagering Predictions
We are less than a week away from the official start of college football, and the anticipation couldn't be higher. On Saturday, Aug. 24, the Miami Hurricanes will take on the Florida Gators, while Arizona will travel to Hawaii for some late-night nonconference action. Those games will serve as the appetizer for the following week when the Big Ten conference (and the rest of college football) gets underway. If this season is anything like last, we are in for many memorable moments such as upsets, instant classic games, suspensions and everything in between.
Based on the title of this article, the Big Ten will by my focus once again this year. And once again it may be one of the most competitive conferences from top-to-bottom.
This year, the Big Ten conference opens up the AP Top 25 preseason rankings with just two teams amongst the Top 10 but seven teams in the Top 25. Ohio State leads the way at No. 5, while Michigan is close behind at No. 7. Penn State checks in at No. 15 while Michigan State is at No. 18, Wisconsin is at No. 19, Iowa is at No. 20 and Nebraska at No. 24.
As of writing this, the Ohio State Buckeyes are the current favorites to win the Big Ten Championship, checking in at +165. Behind them, Michigan checks in at +285, while it's a pretty steep drop off to Nebraska in third at +875. Beyond them is where you'll find Michigan State +1300, Wisconsin +1325, Purdue +1450, Penn State +1500, Minnesota +2000, Iowa +2500, Northwestern +3000, Indiana +12500, Maryland +30000, Illinois +30000 and Rutgers +100000.
All odds are courtesy of 5Dimes.
Games to Watch
September 21, 2019: Michigan @ Wisconsin - This game is the Big Ten opener for both of these teams, and this game will go a long way in potentially deciding which team will make it to the Big Ten Championship Game come December. Michigan and Wisconsin have alternated victories over the course of the last three seasons, with Michigan winning last year and in 2016. It'll be interesting to see if Michigan can take the next step and challenge Ohio State in the East for the top spot. Wisconsin is no slouch either, though, as they have several returning starters, including a legitimate Heisman candidate in Jonathan Taylor.
November 16, 2019: Michigan State @ Michigan -This contest comes a bit later than we are used to as it hasn't been played this late in November since 1928. Last season was an ugly game, but it caused a lot of drama, most notably trash-talking between Mark Dantonio and Jim Harbaugh and Devin Bush defacing the Spartans logo with his cleats. One can only hope this year's game lives up to expectations.
November 30, 2019: Michigan @ Ohio State - It's a little bit of a cop-out to put Michigan in the must-watch category again, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a rivalry as fierce as the Buckeyes/Wolverines. Simply known as "The Game". Not much needs to be said about this epic rivalry, but this could be a very important game for the Buckeyes' playoff hopes if they can navigate the rest of the season against teams like Nebraska and Michigan State.
The Favorite: Ohio State +165
The Ohio State Buckeyes are in a precarious position to start the season. They will be without Urban Meyer patrolling the sidelines for the first time in seven years, and they will also be without their record-setting quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, who is now in the NFL as part of the Washington Redskins. The Buckeyes will be led by Ryan Day, who has been the offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes for the last two seasons. He will have a new shiny quarterback to break in with transfer Justin Fields coming to Columbus from Georgia. In the skill positions, Ohio State remains loaded with weapons, with JK Dobbins Jr. leading the charge from the running back position. Dobbins led the team with 1,053 rushing yards and became the first player in OSU history to break the 1,000-yard mark in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. The one problem I see with the Buckeyes is their schedule. They have tough away games against Indiana, Nebraska, and Northwestern and then end the regular season with a game at The Big House. Not enough value here to trust a new coach and a new quarterback.
The Contenders: Michigan & Nebraska
If there was ever a year for Michigan to snatch the Big Ten East away from the Buckeyes, it's this season. Jim Harbaugh is back for his fifth season. And if he can't find a way to get Michigan into the Big Ten title game and possibly the College Football Playoff, this could very well be his last. The Wolverines should benefit from a more experienced Shea Patterson at quarterback, and many believe he is the best QB in the Big Ten and will be able to produce solid numbers thanks to new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. This is the best chance Michigan has to snap the four-game losing streak to Ohio State. However, if it can't take care of business early in the season with games at Wisconsin and vs. Notre Dame, the season finale will be just another moot point.
Nebraska went 4-8 last season, and now they are being talked about as being a contender for the Big Ten title. That is thanks to quarterback Adrian Martinez, who tied a school record last year with four straight 400+ total yard games. However, the defense remains a big question mark despite returning six starters on that side of the ball. They ended last season giving up more than 30 points per game, but the addition of Darrion Daniels from Ohio State should help bolster the front line. The value is there if you believe a quarterback can single-handedly win ball games.
The Sleeper: Wisconsin
The Badgers' hopes of upsetting the balance of power in the Big East lie squarely on the shoulders of Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor. Taylor led the FBS in rushing last season with 2,194 yards, and this came on the heels of him setting a FBS freshman record with 1,977 yards the year prior. Wisconsin has a bit of an advantageous schedule as they open with a game at South Florida before returning home for five straight home games. Their two toughest conference tests come at home vs. Michigan and Michigan State. The value is there on the Badgers, but they'll need some luck to capture the top spot in the Big Ten West.
The Rest: Northwestern, Iowa, Maryland, Illinois, Rutgers, Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota
What can be said about the rest of the teams in the Big Ten Conference that would shine any positive light? To be honest, not much. There are no teams with odds lower than +1400, and that is definitely not enough value for me to take a flyer on. Purdue will likely be the most entertaining team to watch out of the bunch, and Rutgers will likely win two games this season.
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