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2008-2009 BIG 10 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW
Michigan - Ohio State - Predictions - Odds
The Big 10 ranks right up there with my favorite conferences in College Football both from a fan standpoint and from a betting standpoint and certainly contains two of the more storied programs in all of sports, Michigan and Ohio State. No whacky passing attacks, or offensive schemes. Just hard nosed grind it out pure football the way the game was meant to be played. That style of play also tends to be more predictive. When you get into those crazy WAC games with no running game and teams airing it our on every play, anything can happen and usually does. Not so with Big 10 football. By and large, the teams that can run the ball, the teams that can stop the run, win. The biggest problem with the Big 10 lately, is that's it's better teams, such as Ohio State, have been criticized for their schedule strength. Michigan stepped up to the plate last year and silenced some of those critics by upending Florida, but Ohio State wasn't able to do the same, again, in the Title game against LSU.
From a betting standpoint, more specifically, a futures betting standpoint, as in, betting on who will win the big 10 football title, you can't get involved with a favorite like Ohio State, at 1/2 Odds. Remember, we're not necessarily making predictions on who we think will win it. Rather, we are looking at the odds, and trying to find the team or teams that present us with the best betting value. A team, that perhaps has longer odds than they should. With that in mind, 3 teams jump out. Michigan at 6-1, Penn State at 5-1 and Iowa at 10-1. Michigan, perhaps, stands out the most. New coach, not a bunch of returning starters, it doesn't matter. Michigan is a threat to win the title every year. 6-1 Odds is not too shabby on the Wolverines.
Odds to win the Big 10 Brought to you by Sportsbook.com
Ohio State Odds 1/2 - A fine year once again last year playing in the title game for the 2nd time in a row, and, unfortunately, losing. You can understand the criticism for playing a cupcake schedule. They didn't play a team in the top 20 all of last year. They attained a number one ranking 7 games into the season with the toughest game to that point being Purdue. They padded their record with teams like Youngstown, Akron, Northwestern and Minnesota. Things should be a little different this year but perhaps, not much. They still have 3 automatic W's in their first 4 games before getting to their Big 10 dance card, but even then, it's the usual suspects. (that's not their fault). They get their two toughest Big 10 opponents, Michigan and Penn State at home, and with 10 returning starters on offense and 9 on defense, this teams is loaded and ready for another run, not only at the Big 10 title but maybe even a chance to play in their 3rd straight National Title game. One GLARING difference between this season and seasons past takes place just 3 games into their season when they travel to the West Coast to take on mighty USC. Circle this date on your schedules - September 13th. The Buckeyes can shut up alot of critics, including yours truly, if they can go on the road and knock off the Trojans just 3 games into the season. The last time they had such a big test early in the year was 2005 when they hosted # 2 Texas and fell just short losing 25-22 as a -1.5 favorite. Gotta love college football. National Title implications just 3 games into the season.
Michigan Odds 6/1 - We mention returning starters quite a bit. Sometimes, it's meaningful. Other times, it's not. For example, if you look at the upper echelon teams in the Big 10 that had good years and are returning all key players, that's a positive. Ohio State and Penn State come to mind. They are proven winners. The team has played together, as a team and has been through the ups and downs of a season together. They have been to battle together. That's always a positive. But it's important to stress that not returning many starters, is not ALWAYS a negative. If a team that is not usually good, is coming off a rare good year, and they are losing most of their key starters from a year ago, well, that's significant. However, when the team/school in question is a team like Michigan, it means very little. I read some article recently that suggested Michigan was in a rebuilding year. Huh? Try telling that to the alumni. Michigan doesn't rebuild! This is Michigan folks. One of the most storied College Football teams ever. This is a program that wins 9, 10 or 11 games just about every year. In plenty of those years, they had very few returning starters. Doesn't matter. Heck, I could become a recruiter for Michigan and easily land some of the best high school players in the nation. The name Michigan recruits all by itself. A look at their schedule and they really just have two major tests all year, both on the road, one at Penn State and the other at Ohio State. With a 12 game schedule, even losing those two and maybe getting upset in another game during the year still gives them 9 wins. One other thing you can count on as well. After last years opening day loss to App State followed by another home game where they didn't show up, getting blown out by Oregon, expect Michigan to come out of the gate red hot and focused this year. You can be sure that Utah will get a 110% effort from the Wolverines when they come to town to kick off the 2008-2009 season on August 30th. Look out Utah!
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Penn State Odds 5/1 - I hope Joe Paterno coaches until he is 100 years old. It should be very inspiring to just about everyone in all walks of life to watch Joe Pa pacing those sidelines week after week and RUNNING off and on the field. It's a life lesson as well. Do something you enjoy, and do it as long as you can. There are plenty of guys Joes age sitting in rocking chairs and playing Pinnacle outside on the sidewalk at the Italian American clubs across the nation. Not Joe. He's entering his 43rd year as head coach of the Nittany Lions. Gotta love it. They were calling for Joes head after back to back 2 and 4 win seasons but since then he's rattled off 11, 9 and 9 win seasons to shut the critics up. This year he gets 9 starters on offense and defense back, and should once again contend in the Big 10. Penn St has a couple of tough games with Michigan and Ohio State, as well as trips to Iowa and Wisconsin, but there's a few cupcakes thrown in for goo good measure as well. Such as Coastal Carolina and Temple. Perhaps Syracuse as well. Should be interesting, but no reason to think Joe and the Lions can't get at least 9 wins once again this year.
Illinois Odds 4/1 - Illinois was a blast to root for last year. After consecutive 2 win seasons Ron Zook and company won 9 games, knocking off Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State along the way before being blown out in the Rose Bowl by USC, an unfortunate way to end the year. The illini return 7 on offense and 6 on defense. Unfortunately on the offensive side of things, they lose a major contributor to their success last year, Rashard Mendenhall. They still have Juice Williams at QB to keep opposing defenses on their heels, but the loss of Mendenhall will hurt. Their defense was another key to their success last year. They had a defensive yards per point number of over 17, which is solid. They lose some key players from that unit however, including their 2 best tacklers. They have to play at Penn State, At Michigan and at Wisconsin and certainly won't be sneaking up on anyone this year. I have them winning 7 games this year and that's if they catch one or two breaks along the way. Illini fans figure to be disappointed after last years success but those kinds of years are few and far in between for Illinois Football.
Wisconsin Odds 3/1 - Another team that seems to find a way to win 9+ games year after year and end up playing in a January Bowl game. Bret Bielema is 21-5 entering his 3rd year as coach of the Badgers and the team hasn't lost a home game in that span. 14-0 at home. Now that's an advantage huh? In looking at this year schedule, it's hard not to see them winning at least 9 games once again. I give them 8 wins without beating Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State. But they get 2 of those 3 at home, so who knows. Could be 9 or 10 wins and even contending for the Big 10 title again. Why not? They start off easy, and end easy, with the meat of their schedule being in the middle and all in a row. They return most of their key players on both sides of the ball which includes their running game which is in tact from a year ago. Mark Wisky down as a contender.
Iowa Odds 10/1 - Iowa could be a team to watch. They had a stretch back in the early past of this decade where they won 10 and 11 games 3 years in a row, but since then, it's been 6 and 7 win seasons, including last year where they went 6-6. The problem for Iowa has been an offense that doesn't exactly light up the scoreboard. They had an offensive yards per point number of 17 which isn't too good. But their defense held up their end of the bargain with a very good yards per point number of almost 19. If this team can improve offensively this year they can make things very interesting. This is because they have a very cooperative schedule. Their two toughest games look to be against Penn State and Wisconsin and they get both of them at home. When you throw in Maine and Florida International along with some of the lower rung Big 10 teams, it's not hard to get Iowa to 10 wins. Keep an eye on the Hawkeyes. At the very least it looks like a Bowl game this year, and maybe even a late December or, dare to dream, a January Bowl.
Michigan State Odds 12/1 - This is a squad that was extremely competitive last season. Nobody cleaned their clock and they took on everyone. They finished 7-6 and played Boston College in a Bowl, losing by a field goal. Along the way they lost to Wisky by 3, Ohio State by a TD, Iowa in double OT, Michigan by 4 and they beat Penn State. With 7 returning on offense and 6 on defense and coach Dantonio entering his 2nd year this is a confident bunch. The problem is that the schedule gets a bit rough. They open up against Cal, no easy opener for sure. The schedule then gets a little easier for the next half dozen games or so, so ending up around 5-2 not out of the question after 7. But then it gets a little tricky as they face Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue and Penn State to close out the year. So, if they get to 5-2 or even 6-1, they'll have to do some big time damage against some big time opponents down that final 5 game stretch if they're going to have a "special year". Not likely. It's very difficult to line up all the big boys and play them one after another. It takes it's toll. But 7 or 8 wins not out of the question here which could land them in a respectable Bowl game again this year.
Purdue Odds 12/1 - I've always enjoyed rooting for Purdue. They always seem to win between 6 and 9 games. Never the best. Never the worst, and on any given day, they can surprise anyone. Although, there were no surprise last year. They managed to win 8 games but did so with no major upsets. They lost to all the big boys and did all their damage against teams like themselves in the middle to lower tier of the big 10. They got it done as they usually do, with offense, with a very nice yards per point number of about 13, their best in years. One motivational note. It will be coach Joe Tillers final year at the helm. If there's a game on the schedule that perhaps we can point to as a "going out with a bang game" it might be their last significant home game against a Big 10 power, Michigan on November 1st. Otherwise, when looking at the Boilermakers schedule, you can make a case for 6-8 wins per usual, perhaps 9 if they pull off a major upset, which they might. Count on Tiller's last game being a Bowl game.
Northwestern Odds 20/1 - The Wildcats are one of those middle of the road Big 10 teams that has the occasional decent year but otherwise finishes at or below .500 and with a losing record in Big 10 play. Last year was a 6-6 year and there's a chance they can improve on that mark as the schedule looks like it's going to cooperate this year. There's at least 4 games they should win. They play Ohio State and Michigan, but if they can muster 3 wins against Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue or Illinois, then they can reach 7 wins and a Bowl (they had 6 wins last year but no Bowl)
Indiana Odds 30-1 - Same scenario as Northwestern. The Hoosiers finished with 7 wins last year and went to a Bowl game for the first time since 1993. Is it possible that Indiana goes to Bowl games two consecutive years? They return 7 on offense and 6 on defense and they don't have that tough of a schedule. They face Penn St and Wisky. No Ohio State or Michigan with about 9 "winnable" games, or games that could go either way, on their schedule.
Minnesota Odds 50/1 - We're not going out on a limb suggesting that Minnesota will be improved this year. After all, they were 1-11 a year ago. This yea, they bring back 8 on offense and 7 on defense and have another year under their belts with Head Coach Brewster at the wheel. The Gophers have a ways to go though, but 4 or 5 wins is possible.
To Sum up, the cream of the crop in the Big 10 will always be Ohio State, Michigan and occasionally a Penn State or Wisky, with teams like Illinois, Purdue and the rest having the occasional big year. The talent is always going to go to the Big 10 power houses. If you're a kid playing ball in that part of the country, where would you want to go? Northwestern? Or Ohio State?
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