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Big Ten 2017 Season Betting Preview

The college football season is quickly approaching and fall camps are in full swing. However, keeping track of 10 conferences and 129 teams in just D1 football is near impossible for bettors. With that in mind, we have decided to break down each of the Power 5 conferences for bettors in hopes of making you a few more dollars this season.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Surprise, surprise: Ohio State is favored to win the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have as much talent from top to bottom as any team in the nation. They also have one of the best coaches in Urban Meyer. It’s sort of beating a dead horse but the Big Ten is Ohio State’s until someone proves otherwise.

2016 was Ohio State’s worst under Meyer. I use that term lightly because the Buckeyes ended the year 11-2 and made it to the College Football Playoff. Quarterback JT Barrett returns for one more kick at the national championship but will need some younger players to step up as targets. The defense should easily replace the talent that left for the NFL, something the crew in Columbus is all too familiar with.

A win total of 10.5 might seem high but Meyer has never won fewer than 11 games during his tenure with Ohio State. The schedule isn’t anything too unnerving outside of a non-conference game with Oklahoma and a trip to The Big House to end the season. This team deserves to be the favorite to win the conference and one of the top national championship contenders.

Ohio State 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
+650-12010.5 (-150/+120)

Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin enters 2017 coming off three straight 10-plus win seasons and three consecutive bowl victories. If you’ve ever watched the Badgers play then you know what you’re getting. Wisconsin runs the ball down your throat behind an excellent offensive line and dominates on defense.

If Wisconsin wants to take the next step and become a national title threat, it needs quarterback Alex Hornibrook to be able to score. The running game can only do so much and Hornibrook had moments during his redshirt freshman season but threw plenty of picks and had a low completion percentage. Luckily, his top two targets return.

Wisconsin is easily the favorite in the Big Ten West. The team’s schedule is sort of a joke with the only real competition being from Michigan. The Badgers will need to clear out everyone on such a flimsy schedule and win the Big Ten championship to get national title attention.

Wisconsin 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
+3300+3759.5 (-200/+160)

Michigan Wolverines

Jim Harbaugh and company have huge turnover to deal with, as Michigan is returning just six starters from last year. Luckily for Wolverines fans, Harbaugh has been a recruiting monster during his time in Ann Arbor. There may be some growing pains, but the talent is too plentiful to expect anything other than success.

Wilton Speight will helm the offense once again and he has proven to be an efficient, capable starter at quarterback. But his top three receivers from last season are gone and he will need to mesh with a bunch of new faces. However, how Michigan reloads on defense is the key with 10 starters leaving the program after 2016. As long as Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown are around, though, this D will be deadly.

The Wolverines are still looking for their first Big Ten title during the Harbaugh regime and it won’t be easy in 2017. The defense will be fine but the offense is still a little sketchy. Plus, dates with Florida, at Penn State and at Wisconsin make a daunting schedule. 

Michigan 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
+1600+5509.0 (-150/+120)

Penn State Nittany Lions

Hype surrounding Penn State is reaching a fever pitch. The team rattled off nine straight wins to claim the Big Ten title last season before losing a shootout to USC in the Rose Bowl. The offense returns every starter from that team and the defense is more than good enough to slow any quarterback not named “Sam Darnold.”

Quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley both enter 2017 with Heisman hype. McSorley can be erratic but nobody throws the long ball like him and Barkley is a workhorse of a back with top-five NFL draft potential. The defense will need to find a few new players to rush the passer but should be in good shape.

The Nittany Lions have a high win total of 9.5 but double-digit wins seem very plausible for this team. The schedule looks pretty soft outside of back-to-back games against Michigan and Ohio State in October. Pick up a win in either of those and Penn State could be in the national championship conversation.

Penn State 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
+1600+5509.5 (-135/+105)

Nebraska Cornhuskers

After opening 2016 6-0, Nebraska faltered to a 2-4 record in its final six outings. The team enters 2017 facing transition with four-year starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong gone and new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco going from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.

Head coach Mike Riley is expected to adjust his playbook for a more pass-oriented quarterback now that the mobile Armstrong is gone. Redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien has the size of your prototypical QB while Tulane transfer Tanner Lee has the experience. The front seven on defense is a bit of an unknown with players changing positions due to the scheme change. The secondary should be the team strength, though.

Skill positions are depleted and the defense will be changing schemes. Nebraska will still win games but I can’t help but see a regression from a nine-win 2016 campaign.

Nebraska 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
+20000+25007.0 (EVEN/-130)

Northwestern Wildcats

If there is a punt worth taking in the Big Ten, it is Northwestern. The squad has a ridiculous amount of experience and depth, plus the schedule is friendly – the Wildcats don’t play Michigan or Ohio State.

The offense features maybe the most underappreciated duo in the country with quarterback Clayton Thorson a steady presence under center and running back Justin Jackson rushing for at least 1400 yards each of the past two seasons. The offensive line needs to mature and perform more consistently but the skill positions are there. Of course, the Wildcats are a defensive team that held opponents to just 22.1 ppg in 2016.

I’m very high on Northwestern this season. Looking at the schedule, the only rough patch is back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Penn State in October. Aside from that, the rest should be wins. And you’re not getting better value than +1600 to win the Big Ten.

Northwestern 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
+30000+16008.0 (-125/-105)

Iowa Hawkeyes

Can Iowa finally win a bowl game? The Hawkeyes have gone bowling in five of the past six seasons and have not once ended up on the winning side. Head coach Kirk Ferentz knew change needed to be done and revamped his coaching this offseason.

Iowa’s offense looked better on paper than it was in 2016, as they beat up on weak defenses but were shut down by good ones. New offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz will hopefully decide to throw the ball down the field more but the quarterback position is unsettled with CJ Beathard gone. The defense should be strong in 2017 with the top four tacklers returning to a unit that finished 13th in total defense.

The defense will likely need to carry Iowa once again. A winning record is likely, though not guaranteed. Iowa isn’t likely to be a legit threat in the Big Ten.

Iowa 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
+30000+25006.5 (-140/+110)

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota is the true wild card of the Big Ten. The Gophers went 9-4 last season and beat a tough Washington State team in the Holiday Bowl. Then they went out and got one of the hottest offense coaches in college by snatching PJ Fleck from Western Michigan.

It’s hard to predict what happens with Minnesota with a complete culture change from the Jerry Kill regime to the energetic Fleck, as well as moving forward from longtime quarterback Mitch Leidner. The defense is under new management as well with Robb Smith coming over from Arkansas. The coaching staff is loaded with amazing parts but the on-field talent is a lot of question marks.

Even with all the questions, Minnesota should be able to win at least eight games considering its schedule. The non-conference portion is a cakewalk while the Big Ten slate is fairly forgiving. If things break well for the Gophers, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them pick up double-digit wins.

Minnesota 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
+50000+33007.5 (+120/-150)

Michigan State Spartans

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Michigan State last season. The Spartans had their worst record since their winless campaign in 1994. Fans in East Lansing might want to keep their expectations low this season as well. With the team returning few starters, things are going to get worse before they get better.

The offense will likely rely on running back LJ Scott to pound the rock and chew up clock. Young and athletic quarterback Brian Lewerke seems like the guy but Damion Terry may provide a more steady presence. The defensive secondary should be a steady presence but the defensive line needs to improve at getting after the QB after tallying just 11 sacks last season.

Michigan State has a win total of 6.5, which feels high and more than likely inflated thanks to their name recognition. The proper move for coach Mark Dantonio is playing a few younger guys even if that means struggling in 2017. If that is the case, wins aren’t going to be easy for Michigan State.

Michigan State 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
+50000+33006.5 (+160/-200)

Indiana Hoosiers

Despite back-to-back bowl games, Indiana fired coach Kevin Wilson and promoted defensive coordinator Tom Allen to the head job. Allen’s defense made huge strides last season and will return nine starters in 2017, which means the Hoosiers could be in line for their first winning season since 1994.

Adjustments on offense will be the key to Indiana’s season, as rookie head coach Allen entrusted the job to veteran offensive coordinator Mike DeBord. His first job will be limiting turnovers, especially from quarterback Richard Lagow. The signal-caller proved last season he has a cannon but his 17 interceptions hurt the offense far too much.

Indiana fans are surely hungry for a winning record and those hopes rest entirely on the offense. The defense should get better but DeBord’s offense won’t be as wide open as Wilson’s. If offensive turnovers are limited, then Indiana surpasses its 6.0 win total but if picks continue, it’s another losing year at The Rock.

Indiana 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
Not Listed+100006.0 (-125/-105)

Maryland Terrapins

2016 started with promise for Maryland, opening the campaign 4-0 while averaging 43.6 ppg. That proved to be an anomaly, as the Terrapins went 2-7 the rest of the season. The offense will be able to run the ball in 2017 but without a capable quarterback, Maryland may be in for another losing record.

Star recruit Kasim Hill will get every opportunity to win the starting quarterback job. The freshman easily has the most talent and potential of any signal-caller on the roster but there is plenty of competition from Perry Hills, Tyrrell Pigrome and Caleb Rowe. Of course, it may not matter who is throwing the ball if the offensive line doesn’t get better at pass protection.

Maryland’s schedule sucks. The Terps have to visit Texas, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State plus home dates with Michigan and Penn State. With an experienced defense and a good running game, Maryland should be more competitive but is at least a year away.

Maryland 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
+100000+100003.5 (-140/+110)

Illinois Fighting Illini

Lovie Smith didn’t exactly turn Illinois’ fortunes around, as the team won just three games in his first season on the sideline. To make it harder on Smith, the Fighting Illini will be returning a total of eight starters from 2016.

The offense struggled mightily last season by ranking within the bottom 10 teams in the nation in basically every measurable statistic. Running back Kendrick Foster returns for his senior season and will likely be the focal point of the offense. Quarterback play is a question mark with Chayce Crouch and Jeff George Jr. being nothing more than serviceable and juco transfer Dwayne Lawson signing his commitment late. Smith will need to work some magic on defense with the team’s four leading sackers from last season gone.

Illinois regressed basically everywhere in Smith’s first season as head coach and the team might be worse in 2017. The win total of 3.5 might seem a little optimistic.

Illinois 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
Not Listed+200003.5 (+105/-135)

Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue moved on from Darrell Hazell, as his disastrous tenure saw the team win three conference games in four years. Enter Jeff Brohm, a wizard who guided Western Kentucky and one of the most prolific offensive units in the nation.

Brohm has the luxury of coaching an overlooked stud at quarterback in David Blough but he’s working with a bare cupboard. The running back situation is fine, albeit a little muddy, but the offensive line looks abysmal and the receiving unit is nothing but question marks. The defense returns six starters but from a unit that allowed nearly 240 rushing yards per game last season.

Brohm gives the Boilermakers hope but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Purdue is tied for the lowest win total in the nation with books pegging them at 2.5 wins. A non-conference schedule that features Louisville, Ohio and Mizzou makes me think two wins might be the ceiling.

Purdue 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
Not Listed+200002.5 (-145/+115)

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

It was largely a year of downs for first-year head coach Chris Ash in 2016, as Rutgers went 2-10 while finishing last in offensive yards and points scored. Welcome, Jerry Kill. The former Minnesota head coach has been brought in as the Scarlet Knights offensive coordinator and he should emphasize a run-first game plan.

The offensive backfield has talent with Robert Martin, Josh Hicks and transfer Gus Edwards but that won’t do much if the offensive line doesn’t make some big strides. The receiving unit is stacked with potential No.1’s for Rutgers but who gets them the ball is a serious question.

Rutgers is returning the bulk of the lineup but that still doesn’t make me confident the Scarlet Knights can top their win total of 3.0. They went winless in conference play last season and their non-conference schedule features a date with Washington.

Ohio State 2017 Betting Odds
National ChampionshipBig Ten ChampionshipWin Total
Not Listed+300003.0 (-130/EVEN)

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