I’ll be previewing the Power 5 conferences as we get ready for college football season.
Below is a look at the Big Ten East with my season win total picks for each. I also give some betting tips on what kind of bet I think each team will be this season. (You can also check out the Big Ten West here.)
Hit me up any time with questions or comments @JonnyOddsShark.
Indiana 5.5 wins
The Hoosiers made strides on defense last year under new head coach Tom Allen but they only return three starters there along with six on offense. That’s the fewest in the Big Ten.
At first glance, 5.5 wins feels like an ambitious number. The Hoosiers have to get better on the ground on both sides of the ball where they ranked 106th in the nation in rushing yards allowed last year and 12th in the Big Ten in rushing (130.1 per game). Those are tough numbers against the Big Ten East.
The Hoosiers tend to be a better bet as a favorite, where they are 23-7 SU the last five years and 16-13-1 ATS. Meanwhile, they went 0-6 straight up and 0-5-1 as an underdog last season and are just 3-27 straight up (10-19-1 ATS) over the last five years. Ew!
After an OK recruiting class, I think the Hoosiers will get better but just not this year. This number is too high.
Michigan 9 wins (Over -160)
Michigan State 9 wins
Sparty exceeded expectations last year going 9-3 with a young team that was green in more ways than just the uniforms. So there are high hopes for Michigan State this year with 21 starters returning and a season OVER/UNDER win total set at 9.
Junior QB Brian Lewerke and this offense should get stronger after finishing in the middle of the Big Ten pack with 383 yards per game. The defense returns just about everybody from a top-10 squad in the nation so it’s up to the offense to make some leaps. And they’ll need to because Sparty scraped out five wins by eight points or less last season and I expect them to face bigger point spreads this year.
I have Sparty winning nine games. Michigan State doesn’t have Notre Dame for the first time in ages but they do travel to face Arizona State in Week 2. There are no easy schedules in the Big Ten East and I think this number is just about perfect.
The Terps might be the biggest wild card in the Big Ten this season with a new pro-style offense to try out under incoming OC Matt Canada. They’ll also have healthy quarterbacks after losing their top three throwers to injuries early last season.
I love that the Terps return four upperclassmen starters to the O-line to protect young QBs Kasim Hill (freshman) and Tyrrell Pigrome (sophomore). I don’t love a defense that finished near the bottom of the Big Ten in every statistical category last year and allowed 37.1 points per game – 120th in the nation.
No surprise Maryland was the biggest OVER team in the conference in the regular season last year at 8-3 O/U. The O/U is also 34-25 over the past five seasons (58 percent OVER).
Ohio State 9.5 (Over -300)
The Buckeyes are the clear faves to win the conference at +175 and they own the highest win total at 9.5 with massive juice on the OVER.
I wouldn’t advise taking the UNDER despite the tempting price. Urban Meyer may only have 12 starters returning but the man knows how to reload like few in college football. His 73-8 record at OSU proves it.
The Bucks don’t always get the best value against the spread, though. They went 6-7 ATS last year and are just 39-35 ATS under Meyer overall. They are a great OVER bet under Meyer, however, at 44-30-1 O/U during his tenure.
If you’re looking for reasons to take the UNDER or fade Ohio State, there are a couple. They replaced DC Greg Schiano with Alex Grinch. They lost seven players to the NFL draft and I’m not sure you can replace outgoing guys like cornerback Denzel Ward, QB J.T. Barrett or even center Billy Price. There are also some questions at linebacker.
Watch for inflated lines at home here – OSU is 16-20 ATS at home and 16-11 ATS on the road over the last five seasons.
Penn State 9.5
I have to wonder if expectations aren’t a little too lofty for Penn State this season. They probably own the best returning QB in the conference in Trace McSorley but I’m not sure you can overstate the loss of Saquon Barkley, whom I thought should have gone No. 1 in the NFL draft.
DaeSean Hamilton is a bigger loss at receiver than I feel many realize too, though four starters return on the O-line and another two at WR. Only two starters return on defense and how the Nits adjust to that will determine this season.
Penn State has to like its schedule with a cupcake-soft start of Akron, at Pitt, Kent State and at Illinois. They also get Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin all at home. I am going to take the OVER.
Keep in mind Penn State tends to be a much better bet at home at 4-2-1 ATS last year, 21-13-2 ATS over the last five seasons and 82-69-3 ATS going back to 1995.
Would it surprise you if I told you the Scarlet Knights were the best bet in the Big Ten East last season? They were. They went 8-4 against the spread despite just a 4-8 season SU.
They have a new OC in John McNulty and a new DC in Noah Joseph so expect some growing pains here. But that could also mean more lofty spreads and potential betting value for a team that doesn’t see much action at the books.
This offense finished near the bottom of the nation last year in total yards (129th), passing yards (125th) and points (121st). Gross. But Rutgers returns seven starting seniors on defense and I expect them to run the ball a lot more. Could be a decent recipe for the UNDER game to game. I’ll go with the OVER on the season win total.
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