College Football Betting Primer: Big Ten

By Ryan Fowler

Despite losing to Penn State halfway through the regular season, Ohio State rattled off five straight wins and stumbled into the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years. However, it was those same Nittany Lions whose 21-point rally to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship helped bump the Buckeyes back into the playoff picture. Urban Meyer's squad was then blasted 31-0 by Clemson in the semifinals.

Fast forward to 2017, and know that 11 of the 14 teams in the Big Ten return 14-or-more starters. Illinois returns 12, Michigan State seven and Michigan five as Jim Harbaugh enters year three and builds up the program with his own recruits.

Prediction Machine Big Ten Champion Favorite – Ohio State
With 15 returning starters including quarterback J.T. Barrett and an uber-experienced defensive line, Ohio State is our favorite to win the Big Ten title. Our college football pick engine tags them with a 44 percent chance to raise the trophy in Indianapolis. No other Big Ten squad projected a 25 percent chance to win the title. The Buckeyes (-120 Big Ten Champion Futures Odds) toughest stretch is spaced out over three weeks: AT Nebraska on October 14 and home to Penn State on October 28. So, feel free to challenge “tough stretch".
Barrett completed 61.5 percent of his passes last season – a career low. While he matched his 6.7 YPA year-over-year, his production the past two seasons is a far cry from his breakout freshman campaign when he passed for 2,800+ yards, rushed for 938 yards and accounted for 41 touchdowns. If Barrett continues to regress, the experienced defense – which allowed the third-fewest points per game (15.5) last season – will need to save the day once again.

Prediction Machine Big Ten Value Pick – Penn State
At +375, Wisconsin owns the second-lowest Big Ten title future odds in Vegas. With no Ohio State or Penn State on the schedule, our college pick engine projects the Badgers a virtual lock to win the Big Ten West at 74.1 percent - compared to the Buckeyes 58.1 percent projection to win the Big Ten East Division. Still, you have to wonder with no regular season challengers and the 2016 Big Ten Championship game meltdown, is investing in Wisconsin the smart play?

The Nittany Lions at (+550) and their 18 returning starters would provide more bang for the buck if they take care of business in Columbus on October 28. Forget what you think you knew about Penn State, the 2016 team scored 37.6 points per game – fifth-most in school history. Returning quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley accounted for 3,614 passing yards, 2263 rush/rec yards and 58 total touchdowns.

Prediction Machine Big Ten Team To Fade – Michigan
The Wolverines added 30 new players, which was the largest recruiting class in the conference and a sign coach Harbaugh has his sights set on 2018 and beyond. It would also appear that backing the Wolverines (+550) to win the Big Ten when they share the same odds as Penn State would be an exercise in futility.

Other College Football Betting Primers:
Big 12
Pac 12