Big 10 Fallout: El Downgrade

Submitted by jamiemac on September 7th, 2009 at 7:57 PM

(Diarist Note: I edited the title. just trying to be a smartass)

Just some thoughts while watching the best team in Ohio destroy Rutgers in their season opener.

Brian covered a lot of ground in The Downgrade about the weekend that was for our Big 10 brethern. I will try to avoid being overly repetitive, but let me add a few more words to the discussion.

Th Big 10 spent the offseason seeing their reputation get skinned alive. Opening weekend only added more blood to the feeding frenzy. The public turned more anti-Big 10 with the early 2009 returns. For proof, lets go to the big betting board. Odds tilted in the favor of Big 10 foes for key upcoming games after the less than impressive debuts Saturday. Lets talk about them on a team-by-team basis.


They say home field advantage is worth three points in the spread, but aparently sleep walking your way through a game and nearly losing to a service academy at the buzzer is worth a few more.

The Buckeyes spent all summer as unshakeable 3.5-point underdogs in their showdown next week with USC. (Real quickly something to keep in mind: Books release Game of the Year Odds in the summer. They stay up all year, but always get pulled from the board sometime before the weekend action kicks in. They get re-released after the weekend games conclude)  This morning? Ohio State is now +7, a 3.5 point swing from Friday's line. Even more compelling on what kind of action the experts in the desert expect to see on the game is the fact that Las Vegas Sports Consultants, who release recommended lines, leaned to USC -4.5 just yesterday. Oddsmakers took one look at that, promptly said NOT GOOD ENOUGH and raised the action to a full touchdown in hopes of luring in some Buckeye money, that's not already invested in trailer park safety upgrades.

My take? Keep in mind that I dont see myself betting this game. I wasnt going to be taking OSU +3.5 and I remain unenticed at +7. Besides, I have people on the payroll in charge of slugging me if I ever bet against the Trojans when they're playing a Big 10 team. They are big, mean and goony looking.  I am not ready to test them yet.

That said, I do discount some of the lethargy we saw in the Shoe. Keep in mind, they were playing a team that has been to six bowl games in a row. That qualification alone should tell you that Navy brings more game to the table than the stereotypes built up in the public mind. I dont think the Buckeyes played with the right level of urgency coming out of the gates, perhaps a symptom of them coming out of the tunnel together with Navy in solidarity. Tressel didnt have their settings on 'Babby Eating' at the start and it showed as Navy was able to establish their offense. Once Navy does that, you're in trouble, no matter who you are.

Of course, Ohio State did allow a meticulous 99-yard TD drive, were dominated on third downs on both sides of the ball and made the Naval QB, in his second ever start, look like a good passer. He may be a good passer, but the performance eased a lot of fears out there that a Trojan QB making his first ever start could be overmatched on setting alone.


The Hawkeyes own dismal performance against Northern Iowa was also worth a field goal in their own grudge match this coming Saturday. The Hawks travel to Ames to play Iowa State and initially were given the nod as 10-point favorites. The Cyclones have proven a Waterloo of sorts for Iowa backers, not only covering the spot in 10 of the last 11 games, but also winning seven of them outright, including 4-1 SUATS in games at Ames. On series history alone, despite how bad Iowa State appears to be, catching double digits looked mighty mighty tempting. Iowa laying chalk to Iowa State is Dutch for "Its a trap!" Little known fact.

The Hawkeyes were a mess on offense Saturday. They are supposed to have one of the best offensive lines in the country. Injuries and suspension forced them to play a brand new interior and the line could not control the point of attack against one the better FCS teams in the land. After playing depth chart games all summer long with their only legit deep threat Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Iowa went more than two full quarters without him even stepping on the field. The Paki O'Meara experience as lead ball carrier went nowhere, giving way to Adam Robinson, a redshirt freshmen who is so obscure he didnt even have a Phil Steele number coming out of high school. And while Ricky Stanzi did get the passing game going, he was in midseason form with his patened 'No Stanzi' moments gift wrapping an early UNI score giving Hawk fans flashbacks to last year's Pitt game. Or was it Northwestern? Maybe MSU? You get the picture.

Kirk Calloway comes off suspension and will be back on the line and they could get injured starter Juilian Vandevelde back as well. Perhaps the DJK thing was a one game thing because they could get away with it against UNI. Ferentz has a history of unearthing sleeper running backs in these injury situations and Robinson's emergence might signal that continuation. Maybe Stanzi stops doing random and unexpected Anthony Morelli impersonations.

Maybe it all suddenly gets worked out this week with the despised Cyclones on the slate. At double digits, this looked attractive. Even though some of the icing have been wiped off, I still might take a bite of the cake at +7.  The history is strong in the series. Iowa has struggled to put points on the board against ISU in the past, and it didnt look last week that they're any better equipped to do so this go around.


Talk about laying an egg. Everyone was on Illinois. And everyone lost. When the Golden Nugget released its Games of the Year odds back in June, the Illini were just -2.5 in this game. By game time, the line was nearly a full touchdown. I cant shake the thought the Book came out way ahead on this one. 

Somehow all those talented defensive players flocking to Champagne and Juice Williams at QB have done nothing but get worse since arriving on campus. Welcome to the Ron Zook Experience. You could probably still buy real cheap tickets from Florida fans if you want a seat on the ride.

We wont see the Illini back on the betting board until September 26th when they travel to Columbus. They play FCS  team Illinois State this week and have a bye in the 19th. We have not seen the impact of the Illini's performance will have on the odds as future games have yet to be released since this weeks games arent officially over. But, they were +9.5 at OSU, +2.5 at home vs PSU and -7 at home vs UM. Those lines are being reconsidered, I am sure.

The Illini are a compelling team for me to follow. They topped Phil Steele's list of most improved team and could figure prominently in my theory of following those teams when they're catching points. After watching them play Missouri, I am expecting them to be an underdog now more often in their games. I cant wait. I need a drink.


Michigan was the most impressive Big 10 team on the day. Wait a sec, did I say that right? Let me try again. Michigan was the most impressive Big 10 team on the day. Really, its supposed to read that? Ok, thats why I trust my writers, I'll go with it. I'll start over.

Michigan was the most impressive Big 10 team on the day.

Like a lot of the Michigan fanbase, everybody on the outside is also trying to manage possible new expectations for Wolverines. Oddsmakers and the betting public, however, have not been impressed yet. At least as it pertains to the Notre Dame game.

If you recall, the summer line for this game opened at ND -2.5. Bettors wasted no time in pumping Irish money into the coffers and the line quickly raised to 3, then 3.5, where it rested for the rest of the summer. Now? It's at ND -4. It actually opened earlier today at -4.5, so maybe oddsmakers pushed it a little too far. We'll see.

Michigan was placed as an underdog in all 6 Games of the Year that oddsmakers released. Based on the intial reactions with the ND line, its hard to imagine a whole lot of movement on those lines. I am still intrigued to see what they look like after Saturday's debut. And, if Michigan adds a win against Notre Dame, it's safe to say that Michigan will probably reverse roles in at least a couple of those contests.

There were a couple other games for this coming Saturday that have seen major line shifts on account on opening week. Real quickly, UGA fell from an 11.5-point favorite to just 7 points against South Carolina last week. Somebody advised weeks ago to get in on the Gamecocks at that first number. TCU was going to be 5.5 -point road chalk at Virginia this week, but after the Cavs were dominated by William/Mary (Sorry, OC. Sorry, MaizeandBlueWahoo), the Horned Frogs are walling into Charlottesville as double digit chalk at -11.



September 7th, 2009 at 8:13 PM ^

Quality, as always.
Question: I have been thinking about the vegas books lately, and the line for UM/ND. Your comment about the book coming out way ahead against Illinois made me think; Just how much is this practice used? Is it universal, to sucker people in, or is it generally only on higher profile games(thus bigger $), and tighter spreads? I'm not a sports gambler, so I'm genuinely curious.

West Texas Blue

September 7th, 2009 at 8:27 PM ^

Nice analysis, jamiemac. Take the under for the Georgia/SC game, as both offenses have significant problems, and the Under has won the last 10 times these teams have met. SC's offense completely stunk against NC State, as they only won because of a fumble on NC State's first play from scrimmage. Stephen Garcia looks hopeless, and Spurrier's magic seems to be gone. Georgia's OL has fallen apart again due to injuries, and the RBs and QB didn't look good. Big money on the under for that game.

Other Chris

September 7th, 2009 at 8:50 PM ^

Al Groh, that's who needs to apologize to me. He convinced Mr. Jefferson's University to trade in a bunch of charming if archaic traditions (scramble band, tie and sundresses at games, etc.) for the promise of a winning football team. I never liked it. I really don't like it now.


September 7th, 2009 at 9:35 PM ^

As an alum of UofM and UVa, I can say that for most of the time being a UVa fan was a nice relaxing experience. Decent teams with low expectations meant low stress. I always stress during Michigan games.

Groh has to be done. He has one good year out of the last three, and this year looks very bad.

I miss the sundresses and ties. It added a lot of character to the UVa crowd. I do prefer the new band. The scramble band was fairly lame and usually unfunny.


September 7th, 2009 at 8:58 PM ^

3.5-point underdogs in their showdown next week with USC.[...] Ohio State is now +7, a 4.5 point swing from Friday's line.

Isn't that a 3.5 point swing or am I missing some gambling jargon definition somewhere?


September 7th, 2009 at 9:34 PM ^

Good catch. I fixed it.

Surprised I missed that. The only good math I do involves adding point spreads and calculating score pace totals in my heads. Touche.

I also changed the title. I hope you guys can appreciate it and get a chuckle out of it.

OSUMC Wolverine

September 7th, 2009 at 9:28 PM ^

If TUOOS and Michigan both win this weekend, the story wont be the rebirth of the Big Ten, but rather the inadequacy of our opponents due to having a whale as a coach or having a frosh qb. The Big Ten will get no respect until it is no longer fashionable to do so. It will probably take 5 bowl wins including the top two matchups before anyone will take the Big Ten seriously again. As poorly as we have done in recent years as a conference in bowl games its probably deserved. That being said, all Big Ten teams are almost always underdogs in their bowls. The Big Ten has had too many years with 2 BCS teams which has shuffled the lower ranked teams in the conference into games where they are overmatched.


September 7th, 2009 at 10:13 PM ^

Like Coach Rod always says. "We'll be ranked when we deserve to be ranked." That goes for everything else. Michigan had a great opening week, and I was so excited to see them answer the question that the Game Day team asked if we had a splintered locker room. A resounding No! is believed by all now, and a little respect has moved in our favor.

We will continue to move that bar this week as we go forward and show ND and the nation that Michigan is back, and while we won't be perfect, we are gamers now on every play, and on every Saturday.

Wolverine In Exile

September 8th, 2009 at 7:15 AM ^

Before this weekend I was all over Western covering the spread and betting the over for UM/WMU, as well as saying "Man, Nevada is soo going to beat that big number".

Huh. Thankfully my Navy pick came home to roost. Back to betting nickles for next week...

BTW-- love the UGa /SoCar under pick... never have I seen a Spurrier offense so inept as the last 1.5 yrs at SoCar.