Guess what? I published a book this offseason. It's about baseball. The Cubs. The White Sox. And that one time they played each other in the World Series. Check it out. It's only available via Amazon Kindle right now, but a print on demand option is coming soon)
Hello Everybody! We made it to the new
Gambling Season Football Season! Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money! Previews are flying out everywhere and all of us are diving head first into the first weekend of the season. There is no time for chit chat. Except to say buy my book. We'll catch up throughout the season. Let's get right to my Over/Under picks for the Big Ten.
[hit THE JUMP for the lines and the angles]
Michigan Over/Under 10.5 wins
Over, +160; Under, -200
Oddsmakers have made betting a total on Michigan's wins a challenge. Over at Sportsbook, the total set is 9.5, but the price today was -225. That means you need to bet $225 to win $100, a pretty high moneyline price to pay for any bet like this. I try not to bet anything as high as -200 because the losses can be expensive and chew into your budget. But it's not like the price is pushing me towards the Under 9.5. That's silly. Michigan will be double digit chalk in 9 of 12 games this year. In their two toughest games outside of the showdown matches with Iowa, MSU, and OSU, they have been installed as early 14- and 11.5-point home favorites against Penn State and Wisconsin respectively. Over at 5Dimes, they have betting available on 10.5 wins. That's good news since 10-2 seems like a nice, safe projection for Michigan. Except the Under is -200. And while they also are hanging a 9.5 prop, their price on the Over is -210. More heavy prices to pay for a reasonable Michigan record.
I'm sticking with my rule against heavy juice and taking a stab at the Over 10.5. It pays out at +160, meaning the bettor wins $160 for every $100 wagered. Everything comes down to road games at Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State in Weeks 9, 11 , and 13. The Wolverines are favored by 3.5 at Iowa and by 3 at MSU according to the early summer lines. They're 5.5-point underdogs against the Buckeyes. Look at it this way: If the Wolverines manage a split in the Iowa and MSU games and need a win against OSU to hit this over, we can always hedge the bet on gameday. Over 10.5
Rutgers, Over/Under 4.5 wins
Over, +115; Under, -135
At least Carli Lloyd made her penalty kick in the Olympics. That'll probably be the highlight for Rutgers the rest of the year. I like the Chris Ash hire, but not to pay immediate dividends. The Knights are 26-point underdogs in Week One against Washington. They'll be doing well to win two games in conference. Under 4.5
Ohio State, Over/Under 9.5 wins
Over, -155; Under, +135
Don't weep for Ohio State despite wholesale changes in their lineup. They don't have backups in Columbus, they just roll out more starters from a string of top flight recruiting classes. And despite all the turnover, Urban Meyer still has one of the best quarterbacks in the B1G at his disposal. That seems relevant. Urban has lost more than two regular season games in a year just three times in his 12 seasons since leaving Bowling Green. This doesn't feel like the type of team nor is it going against a monster enough schedule to see the losses piling up. Gut pick with no real basis outside of the many times I've bet against Oklahoma in big spots: The Bucks upset the Sooners in Norman in Week 3. As for the two major East Division showdowns? Oddsmakers have installed the Buckeyes as 6-point favorites against MSU and 5.5-point chalk against Michigan. They probably wont go 0-2. Over 9.5
Michigan State, Over/Under 8.5 wins
Over, +120; Under, -140
Michigan State is one of the best football programs in the country. Maybe even ever. And now their quarterback is a captain. Over 8.5
Penn State, Over/Under 7.5 wins
Over, +125; Under, -150
Under James Franklin, the Nittany Lions are just 2-8 against eventual bowl teams from the B1G. Those wins were against an IU team last year playing Zander Diamont at QB and against Rutgers in 2014, a 13-10, horribly played affair. That does not bode well in games against Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan State, even if those latter three are in Happy Valley.
Here's a quick reminder of how bad the Penn State OL was a year ago.....
Will the Penn State offensive line finally stop being one of the worst units in the country? The Nittany Lions wont be able to do much this season if it cant. Here's some good news on that front. They have 17 offensive lineman on scholarship this season, up from 9 two years ago. But they'll still be leaning on a starting corps that's never really looked good while allowing 83 sacks and torpedoing scoring drives the last two seasons. The guard getting schooled in the clip above is now, at last look, their projected starting right tackle. At least he's not Paris Palmer. Shuffling them into different positions probably wont be enough of an answer. The new quarterback this offensive line will try to keep alive is Trace McSorley. He's got playmaking ability, but he's also the second smallest starting QB among the Power-5 teams. Be safe out there, kid.
Penn State squares off with old rival Pitt in Week 2. Given what we saw out of Pat Narduzzi's defenses when he was patrolling the league at MSU, can you envision PSU's new QB having a lot of success against the Panthers in just his second start? I can't. Mark that down as a loss. They need to replace some big time production on defense. And 46 scholarship players are redshirt or true freshmen. Are they ready to have a winning league mark? Maybe, but just barely. Not enough to get this over. Under 7.5.
Maryland, Over/Under 5 wins
Over -125; Under +115
The Terps should bank all three non conference games in the win column with Howard, FIU, and UCF. Purdue and Rutgers bookend the league schedule. That's five wins right there. With Illinois, Minnesota, and Indiana on the schedule and given how even their series with Penn State has been the last two years, there are enough winnable games on the schedule for a bowl appearance. Over 5.
Indiana, Over/Under 5.5 wins
Over, +110; Under, -120
I was excited to learn that Richard Lagow had indeed won IU's starting QB job. The big armed JUCO transfer is already the best QB in league history to ever wear #21. Probably. We don't need to research that. Let's just go with it. Regardless, there is tons of talent surrounding him on offense to keep Team Chaos in business and challenging for the postseason. Constant defensive issues aside, they should be favored against FIU, Ball State, Wake Forest, Maryland, Rutgers, and Purdue. Sounds like a road map to a bowl game to me! The program would already be on a bowl streak had they not had to play Diamont so much the last two seasons. Let's keep our fingers crossed this fall for better QB health and that a bowl streak finally starts. Over 5.5
Nebraska, Over/Under 8.5 wins
Over, -120; Under -110
At first blush, the Cornhuskers should rack up wins with home games against Fresno, Wyoming, Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, and Maryland and winnable road games at Indiana and Northwestern. That's eight wins right there. Find a way to get one out of Oregon, at Iowa, at Wisconsin, and at Ohio State, and you have the over. But it's not that easy. Nebraska is rebuilding in both trenches. They haven't shown much on defense since joining the conference outside of a dozen or so games when Randy Gregory was in the lineup. And while Tommy Armstrong gives them something most B1G West teams don't have--a QB who can generate points out of the passing game--he also knows exactly how to keep both teams in the game. Keep in mind, the Huskers have lost two of their last three games to Minnesota. Four of their last five games with Northwestern have been decided by a field goal or less with the Wildcats winning twice. And they lost to Purdue by double digits a year ago while giving up 55 points. They should be favored in their first seven games and probably in at least nine games total this season. But they've lost a dozen games outright as chalk over the last five years, including at least once in conference play every season they've been in the B1G. The more I run through their schedule, the more I'm convinced they will need to win the finale at Iowa for that ninth win. Spoiler Alert: They wont win that one. Under 8.5
Iowa, Over/Under 8.5 wins
Over, -170; Under, +145
Iowa's 12-0 regular season in 2015 will be hard to repeat. Or will it? The Hawkeyes will likely be favored in 11 of 12 games. And the one game they're expected to be an underdog--against Michigan--will be at home in November. The Hawkeyes should streak out to a 7-0 start against Miami (NTM), Iowa State, North Dakota State, at Rutgers, Northwestern, at Minnesota, and at Purdue. They would only need two wins against a closing run of Wisconsin, at Penn State, Michigan, at Illinois, Nebraska to hit the Over. That's probably more than manageable. It could come down to the Nebraska game in the finale. It was stated above that game keeps Nebraska from going over their win total. It will push Iowa over theirs, if they haven't already. Over 8.5
Purdue, Over/Under 4.5 wins.
Over, +125; Under, -140
The good news is Purdue does not play Michigan, Michigan State, or Ohio State in any of their crossover games with the East Division. The bad news is that does not make their schedule easy enough to flirt with a bowl game or even the Over 4.5. They'll lose to Cincinnati in Week 2, so they'll need three B1G wins to get to the Over. They've only won two league games over the last two years. They've also lost to the Hoosiers in three straight seasons. Imagine losing to IU Football three straight times. That doesn't even happen to MAC teams. The Old Oaken Bucket is not coming home this year either. Under 4.5.
Minnesota, Over/Under 6.5 wins
Over, -170; Under, +150
Minnesota has won at least seven regular season games only three times in the last 10 seasons. Two of those were the 8-win campaigns of 2013 and 2014 before last year's regression to five wins. The Gophers swap out Ohio State, Michigan, and TCU for games this year against Rutgers, at Maryland and at Penn State. They don't play MSU either, so they duck all of the hyped Big-3 from the Eastern Division. They have the schedule to get back to seven wins. Do they have the game? I don't think so. Mitch Leidner is still a one dimensional QB. The playmakers around him seem more average than usual outside of Shannon Brooks, whose sitting right now with a broken foot. The offensive lines, pass rush and special teams aren't among the league's best like they were in 2013 and 2014. There look to be seven wins on the slate with Oregon State, Western Illinois, Colorado State, Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers, and Purdue. They'd be favored in all those games today. That's probably why the Over 6.5 is a juicy -170. That's a high price to pay for an Over bet on an average squad. I'll take my chances with the better payout. Under 6.5
Northwestern, Over/Under 6.5 wins
Over, -130; Under, +110
Northwestern went 5-0 in one score games in 2015, so expect that 10-win mark they hit a year ago to come down. But I have faith, mostly in this athletic defense with All-B1G potential at each level, that it wont come down below this mark. Non conference games with Duke and Western Michigan will be tight, but Northwestern will come out with wins against them and Illinois State to start the season. They'll end the season with wins over Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois. Can they get one win in the six games in between with Nebraska, at Iowa, at Michigan State, Indiana, at Ohio State, and at Wisconsin? I see you, Indiana. Northwestern has won 26 regular season games outright as an underdog in 10 seasons under Pat Fitzgerald including at least one B1G game in nine of those years. That bodes well for an out-of-the-blue upset to help this cause. Over 6.5
Illinois, Over/Under 4.5 wins
Over, -115; Under, -105
Lovie Smith finally brings head coaching credibility to Illinois. But it wont translate to the win column just yet. The Illini probably only have five winnable games on their schedule: Murray State, Western Michigan, Purdue, at Rutgers, and Minnesota. They'd need to win all five of those to get this Over. I'm alright betting against that. Under 4.5.
Wisconsin, Over/Under 7.5 wins
Over, +140; Under, -180
Do you know a place that will give me odds on Wisconsin having to win their final four games of the season just to become bowl eligible? Let me know. I'd take a flier on that to back this play up. Wisconsin's monster schedule demands it. Unless something changes, the Badgers wont be favored against a fellow Power-5 team until at least Halloween weekend. Check out this stretch of games in the first half with the corresponding current Badgers odds: LSU, +10; at MSU, +3.5; at Michigan, +11; vs. Ohio State, +6; at Iowa, +3.5. Go ahead and circle any of those as a win. I'll wait.
Wisconsin did not perform well a year ago on offense. Their usually dominant rushing attack fell off a cliff, be it by traditional or advanced metrics. They were 111th in rushing success rate and 106th in points per trip inside the 40. Their yards per carry crashed from 6.92 yards per pop to 3.82 and 104th in the nation. After 57 rushes of 20 yards or more in 2015, the Badgers had just 12 a year ago. Tailback Corey Clement did miss a chunk of time with a sports hernia and his full-time return will add some giddy-up back to the rush attack. But it wont make up all the ground as this rushing attack rebuilds.
The program got shaky real fast up front a year ago and those issues still don't seem resolved. Every offensive line recruit for Wisconsin in their 2012 and 2013 classes has left the sport due to injuries. More injuries forced their hand all season a year ago and it's already doing so this summer with projected starters Dan Voltz suffering a career ending injury and Ryan Ramczyk, a D2 transfer penciled in at left tackle, barely practicing. Those two, by the way, are the only players on the OL two deep who aren't sophomores or younger. As we've seen with Michigan and Penn State, it takes a while to rebuild like that up front even with quality recruits. Eventually the Badgers will get it back together in this department, but they do not appear ready enough to wear to go up against so many heavyweights, most of whom appear loaded on their own defensive fronts, this early in the season. And it's not like that's the only question mark going into the season. The QB play still appears average, the WRs and TEs don't seem vintage, and replacing the amazing safety duo of Tanner McEvoy and Michael Caputo, will force an otherwise good defensive to take a step back. They might click in November, go on a late winning streak and be the team nobody wants to play in the Pinstripe Bowl, but they wont have more than seven wins going in. Under 7.5
That's a lot to track. Here are some quick suggestions away from the Big 10:
Navy, Over 6.5 wins. We're taking an Over on a team with just one returning starter back on offense. Stick around. We'll take you to even darker places. But Ken Niumatalolo always overachieves. And I more than trust the system that's churned out at least eight regular season wins in 10 of the last 13 years to keep on truckin' against its AAC schedule.
Toledo, Over 7.5 wins. The Rockets have won more than seven regular season games in 11 of the last 16 seasons. The offense is loaded. They'll beat Maine and Fresno in out of conference play and, like they do seemingly every year, they'll produce at least six league wins. If they beat Arkansas State in the opener Friday night, they'll waltz to this over.
Oregon, Over 7.5 wins. Save your Brady Hoke Is On The Coaching Staff jokes. No. Really. Save them. Try to get more creative. And then spring them on me when this play implodes later in the fall.
As for individual games this weekend, I've never been much of an opening week player. Seems like we talk the Week One games to death during the summer and nothing ever really jumps out at me. We'll tip toe into the waters on Sunday night with a play on Texas +4 over Notre Dame. Otherwise, we're just in observation mode for most of the weekend.