College football win totals have been available at 5Dimes for a little while now as bettors have been pushing the juice around with low-limit max wagers. Heritage Sportsbook has a handful of win totals as well, but it was CG Technologies in Las Vegas that set the standard that most sportsbooks will now follow with their college football season win totals.
To date, the five power conferences have had win total numbers released and here at BangTheBook, we’re going to take a look at each team on a conference-by-conference basis with a little bit of schedule analysis, depth chart analysis, and some coaching thoughts.
The third conference to be covered in this 11-conference series that will include the Independent teams is the Big Ten Conference. The Big Ten had a somewhat surprising finish last season as Michigan State topped Ohio State 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship Game to end Ohio State’s 24-0 run of back-to-back perfect regular seasons.
Ohio State’s loss to Clemson coupled with the conference’s usual bad showing in bowl games has left the 14 teams with a big uphill climb to find a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff. How will the teams fare this year? Here’s a look at the Big Ten East Division. (The Big Ten West Division can be found here.)
5Dimes: 10 -185/155
Heritage: 10.5 10.5 -175/155
CG Technologies: 10.5 -150/120
In the third year of Urban Meyer’s tenure, his recruits are front and center on the depth chart as most of the Jim Tressel and Luke Fickell recruits have gone on to graduate or the NFL. As a result, highly-touted sophomores fill key roles on the depth chart. One role not filled by a sophomore is quarterback, where Braxton Miller returns for his senior season. Some big name losses like Carlos Hyde, Ryan Shazier, Bradley Roby, and CJ Barnett are tough blows, as is the loss of safety net Kenny Guiton, who had some big moments in his Ohio State career while being solely a backup quarterback. The defensive line might be the best in the country and the secondary should improve with Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell starting at safety.
Ohio State’s non-conference schedule starts with a test of their linebacking corps with a neutral site game in Baltimore against Navy. After that, they host Virginia Tech, Kent State, and Cincinnati before opening conference play at newcomer Maryland on October 4. Trips to Happy Valley and East Lansing provide the best chances for a loss. The Buckeyes host Michigan on November 29. The Wolverines haven’t won in Columbus since 2000.
Pick: Over 10.5 (-150) (CG Technologies)
Ohio State may get tripped up in one of their two tough Big Ten road games, but probably not both of them. Michigan State is now a revenge game and likely the game that Meyer has had circled all offseason. Style points are necessary for the Buckeyes after falling out of the top 10 based on their postseason performance, so expect blowouts whenever possible. One major concern has to be the health of Braxton Miller because there’s no experience behind him. That’s probably reason enough to stay off of this number, but a pick needed to be posted.
5Dimes: 9 -130/100
Heritage: 9.5 -110/-110
CG Technologies: 9.5 -140/110
The Spartans won the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988 beating a pretty good Stanford team after besting Ohio State to get to Pasadena. After some uncertainty at quarterback early in the season, Connor Cook took the job and ran with it, completing nearly 59 percent of his tosses with a 22/6 TD/INT ratio. Most of the skill players are in tact, but the offensive line loses three starters. The big losses are on defense with Darqueze Dennard, Denicos Allen, Max Bullough, and Isaiah Lewis all leaving the program.
Like Ohio State, Michigan State does not have to face Wisconsin, Iowa, or Northwestern due to realignment and a couple new additions. They do have a non-conference meeting at Oregon, which will be a very difficult matchup. One team the Spartans draw that Ohio State does not it Nebraska, and that opens conference play on October 4. Ohio State and Michigan are at home with a trip to Happy Valley to end the season on November 29.
Pick: Over 9 (-130) (5Dimes)
There are losses, but Mark Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi stayed and they generally have no problem piecing together a quality defense. In the current Big Ten climate, any kind of defense tends to be an upgrade over your opponent, so the Spartans should still be in decent shape there. With a loss to Oregon looking very likely, it’s really hard to see Michigan State dropping three conference games to go under 9.
5Dimes: 7 -150/120
Heritage: 7.5 -155/135
CG Technologies: 8 110/-140
The Wolverines had by far the worst defense of Brady Hoke’s three-year tenure last season as they went just 7-6 and lost to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Perhaps more concerning were close wins over Akron and UConn. Michigan ran for just 3.3 yards per carry last season and allowed 36 sacks. Jeremy Gallon and Taylor Lewan, a first-round pick, are the big losses on offense, while the defense doesn’t lose much of anything.
The Wolverines have one of the toughest conference schedules in the Big Ten with trips to Northwestern, Michigan State, and Ohio State. In non-conference play, the Wolverines go to South Bend in Week 2 and host Appalachian State, Miami of Ohio, and Utah. Penn State looks to be the toughest home test, but the Wolverines should run the table at The Big House.
Pick: Over 7 (-150) (5Dimes)
The Wolverines look like a team that will enter a bowl game at either 7-5 or 8-4. The four very tough road games are going to require a sizable upset to steal one of them and it still forces Michigan to win at Rutgers and run the table at home to manage 8-4. It’s interesting that Michigan has to play at Northwestern for the second straight season. The Wolverines were bit hard by the injury bug last season, so better health with the remaining talent should be a positive.
5Dimes: 7 -155/125
Heritage: 8.5 120/-140
CG Technologies: 8 105/-135
Major changes took place in State College over the offseason as Bill O’Brien went to NFL where he wanted to be all along and James Franklin jumped from Vanderbilt to take his dream job with the Nittany Lions. He inherits a decent cupboard of ingredients despite bowl bans, scholarship reduction, and other sanctions from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Christian Hackenburg will be the second-year starter after starting as a true freshman, but top target Allen Robinson was a second-rounder to Jacksonville. Robinson accounted for 97 of the team’s 241 completions. The second-leading receiver had just 25. Franklin brought his coordinators from Vanderbilt so continuity won’t be an issue, but there’s no Jordan Matthews at Penn State.
The Nittany Lions open the season in Dublin, Ireland against UCF. Without Blake Bortles, that game has a much different look. The rest of the non-conference schedule features three MAC teams with Akron and UMass early and Temple in mid-November. Penn State is home for their three toughest conferences games with Ohio State, Northwestern, and Michigan State all in Beaver Stadium. Three of the four road conference games are very winnable, with the toughest at Michigan.
Pick: Over 7 (-155) (5Dimes)
Chalky, but this is a team with a high ceiling. The schedule is very friendly and Franklin flipped a lot of Vanderbilt recruits to follow him. Vanderbilt may not be the class of the SEC, but SEC-caliber recruits infused into the Big Ten will have a major impact. There’s great depth at running back and Franklin wants to be a physical, ball control offense with a stout defense. Those things are certainly possible at Penn State and Franklin got a very mediocre Vanderbilt team to overachieve in the best conference in the country.
5Dimes: 6 105/-135
Heritage: 6.5 105/-125
CG Technologies: 6.5 100/-130
Seventeen starters return for Randy Edsall’s team as they embark on their first season as a member of the Big Ten. Edsall’s team was three wins better last season after enduring severe quarterback losses in 2012 that forced a linebacker to play quarterback. The Terrapins went from 2.8 yards per carry to 4.1 yards per carry and improved by 112 yards per game with a functioning offense. The defense lost only one big name, Dexter McDougle, who was drafted by the Jets, but he only started three games last season anyway. This is a very experienced team that could sneak up on Big Ten competition if they’re not preparing well throughout the week. It’s easy to overlook Maryland, but Maryland certainly won’t overlook anybody as they strive for conference legitimacy.
Big Ten play starts September 27 for Maryland when they head to Indiana for their first conference game. The non-conference schedule has road games at South Florida and Syracuse with home meetings against FCS competitor James Madison, who opted to stay in the Colonial Athletic Conference rather than transition to the Sun Belt. The Terrapins host Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan State, but travel to Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan. It’s a tough conference schedule against arguably the six best teams in the conference.
Pick: Under 6.5 (-125) (Heritage)
Maryland is going to have a tough transition moving into the Big Ten, which is a decidedly different conference than the ACC. The ACC is top-heavy, while the Big Ten has depth throughout, even though the mid-tier Big Ten teams rarely show well come bowl season. Maryland faces probably the six best Big Ten teams. A bowl at 6-6 seems likely, but a 7-5 regular season probably isn’t in the cards.
5Dimes: 5 125/-155
Heritage: 5.5 110/-130
CG Technologies: 5 -115/-115
Nobody can accuse the Hoosiers of being boring last season. Their games averaged final scores of 38-39 and over 900 yards of offense. They’ve also improved in each of the three seasons of Kevin Wilson’s tenure, going from 1-11 to 4-8 to 5-7. Indiana’s looking to reach a bowl for the first time since 2007 and only the second time since 1993. Tre Roberson transferred out of the program so there’s no question that the quarterback will be Nate Sudfeld, who had a 21/9 TD/INT ratio as a sophomore last season. Three of the top four wide receivers are gone, including second-round pick Cody Latimer, but all five starters return on a team that ran for 5.3 yards per carry and allowed just 18 sacks. The defense returns almost everybody and will move to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Brian Knoor, who was at Wake Forest.
The non-conference slate is a little tricky for the Hoosiers this season with road games at Bowling Green and Missouri and home games against Indiana State and North Texas. Indiana avoids Northwestern, but travels to Iowa, Michigan, Rutgers, and Ohio State and hosts Maryland, Michigan State, Penn State, and Purdue to end the season.
Pick: Under 5.5 (-130) (Heritage)
The Hoosiers averaged evened out, but a lot of their games were blowouts one way or another. Consistency is a concern and the defense has to shift from a 4-3 to a 3-4 when they have been recruiting for a 4-3. While Sudfeld is probably the right choice at quarterback, the change of pace lost with Roberson’s transfer may weaken the offense a little bit and with a defense that bad, any offensive regression is going to be magnified. The schedule is rough and the early-season bye does the Hoosiers little good.
5Dimes: 4 -110/-130
Heritage: 4.5 -125/-105
CG Technologies: 4.5 -135/105
Conference newcomer Rutgers appears to be destined for a tough welcome into the Big Ten with a win total of just 4 or 4.5, which would be their lowest win total since 2010. The Scarlet Knights do return 16 starters, but they were carved up by the pass, allowing 312 yards per game. The Big Ten isn’t the power running conference it used to be, so the Rutgers defense appears vulnerable to big plays. Gary Nova completed less than 55 percent of his passes and threw 14 interceptions against 18 touchdowns.
Rutgers begins the season with a long trip northwest to take on Washington State on Thursday night. They also play Howard, Navy, and Tulane in non-conference play. Their first Big Ten game is September 13 against Penn State. They draw Nebraska out of the West Division and go to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Maryland from their division. A three-week stretch of Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin will be physically demanding for a team not used to that kind of style.
Pick: Under 4.5 (-105) (Heritage)
Somebody has to lose in the Big Ten East and Rutgers looks like the most likely candidate. The Scarlet Knights return a lot of players from a team that overachieved at 7-6, in spite of a -12 turnover margin. For the third straight season, there are two new coordinators, so continuity may be a problem and that’s not a good thing taking on a schedule full of unfamiliar teams.
The win total analyses for the Big Ten West Division are posted here.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.