Big Ten season betting preview: Beasts of the East and the wild West

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Even the most stubborn college football fans might be willing to admit that after previews of the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12, this is the first time we'll touch on a team with a legit chance to win a national championship.

Ohio State addressed its fatal flaw from last season - a vulnerable defense - by hiring away Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State and scrapping last season's failed defensive system. FootballOutsiders.com rated the Cowboys second in the country in defensive efficiency in 2021, behind only Georgia. The Buckeyes will deploy Knowles' plan with better talent and an offense led by the Heisman Trophy favorite.

Big Ten conference championship odds

TEAM DIV. ODDS CONF. ODDS
Ohio State -320 (East) -215
Michigan +400 (East) +600
Wisconsin +190 (West) +1100
Penn State +950 (East) +1600
Iowa +400 (West) +2000
Nebraska +360 (West) +2200
Minnesota +450 (West) +2800
Michigan St. +1800 (East) +2800
Purdue +600 (West) +3000
Maryland +8000 (East) +15000
Illinois +2800 (West) +15000
Indiana +12000 (East) +30000
Northwestern +8000 (West) +40000
Rutgers +20000 (East) +50000

We broke down what it means to bet on the Buckeyes as the conference's big favorite, and their odds have only shortened since. CJ Stroud sits at +220 to win the Heisman, leading a team that's been ranked in the top five of the recruiting rankings for three straight years.

With Michigan's singular hurdle to getting back to the Big Ten Championship game being a road contest at OSU's "Horseshoe," the Buckeyes' rival "team up north" saw its odds shorten. However, the Wolverines need to replace the production of pass-rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo.

Bettors are seeing that all nine of Nebraska's losses last season came by one score. New offensive coordinator Mark Whipple - who called plays for Kenny Pickett at Pittsburgh last year - will take some control away from Scott Frost. At quarterback, the Huskers are looking for Texas transfer Casey Thompson to dole out fewer turnovers than Adrian Martinez while providing similar athleticism.

Win totals

TEAM WIN TOTAL O/U PRICE
Ohio State 10.5 -250/+200
Michigan 9.5 -125/+105
Wisconsin 8.5 -145/+125
Penn State 8.5 +105/-125
Iowa 7.5 -105/-115
Nebraska 7.5 -110/-110
Minnesota 7.5 -125/+105
Michigan St. 7.5 -130/+110
Purdue 7.5 +110/-140
Maryland 6 +100/-120
Illinois 4.5 -125/+105
Indiana 4 -120/+100
Northwestern 4 +100/-120
Rutgers 4 +100/-120

Wisconsin gets credit for dominating teams with its size. The excitement this year over running back Braelon Allen is warranted, but the Badgers will have to face their toughest opponents on the road.

Iowa and Minnesota, which aren't as high variance as Nebraska, should finish close to their median win projections. However, it's best to just bet all three teams game by game as underdogs.

Purdue is a bowl team based on its win total of 7.5, but that number has more to do with the Boilermakers missing Ohio State and Michigan on the schedule. An unorthodox start to the season - with a home conference game against Penn State - could be an early fork in the road for Purdue, which lost its best offensive and defensive playmakers in David Bell and George Karlaftis, respectively.

Maryland's win total of six is doable, but it's set that high due to an unassuming non-conference schedule. It wouldn't be surprising if the Terrapins were upset by Buffalo, Charlotte, or SMU.

Games of the year (projected spread)

Sept. 24: Wisconsin @ Ohio State (-17)

The two favorites for each division meet, which is the only thing notable about a game with this big of a point spread.

Oct. 1: Michigan @ Iowa (+3.5)

This is Michigan's most obvious chance to slip up before its trip to Columbus. Iowa as a home underdog is always an interesting play, assuming Spencer Petras remains healthy.

Oct. 8: Ohio State @ Michigan State (+13.5)

The point spread that left most heads scratched last year was Ohio State -19 over Michigan State - until the Buckeyes went up 49-0 at halftime.

Oct. 15: Penn State @ Michigan (-7.5)

With a more challenging schedule in the lead-up, the Nittany Lions have a chance to shorten the spread for this game by boosting their power rating. Penn State +7.5 is worth a speculative bet.

Oct. 29: Ohio State @ Penn State (+11.5)

This matchup has "White Out Game" in Happy Valley written all over it. I'd bet this line will be lower by game day, creating line value on a bet now.

Nov. 12: Nebraska @ Michigan (-11)

This is the most points Nebraska will get all season if the Cornhuskers reach their potential.

Nov. 26: Michigan @ Ohio State (-14)

Let's compare Ohio State's -320 price to win the East division to a projected moneyline here. If the Buckeyes get upset earlier in their schedule, this game will act as a tiebreaker for the division. But as two-touchdown favorites, Ohio State's moneyline in this contest would be much higher than its division price.

Best bets

West division: Nebraska (+360)

Win totals: Michigan over 9.5 (-125), Purdue under 7.5 (-140), Indiana under 4 (-120), Northwestern over 4 (-120)

Even assuming Michigan falls to the Buckeyes this year, it's hard to find two more losses on the team's schedule. The Wolverines would need to lose at Iowa and at home to either Michigan State, Penn State, or Nebraska.

Indiana's nice run the last few years appears to be coming to an end, as five victories will be hard to come by. On the flip side, after a down year attributable to a lack of experience, we expect Northwestern to again augment its win total with modest upsets.

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

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Big Ten season betting preview: Beasts of the East and the wild West
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