B1G Media Days are still two weeks away, but you know what you can do today? Bet on your team to win the B1G Championship.
On Sunday, the latest B1G title odds were released (via Westgate SuperBook):
Odds to win Big Ten via @LVSuperBook:
Ohio State 10/11
Penn State 5/1
Michigan State 12/1
Iowa, Nebraska 40/1
Northwestern, Purdue 80/1
Indiana, Maryland 300/1
Illinois, Rutgers 1,000/1
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) July 8, 2018
It came as no surprise that Ohio State was the clear favorite and that Wisconsin wasn’t too far behind. That’s what you would expect from last year’s division champs, who could both begin the season ranked in the top seven.
And you would also expect Michigan to be one of the betting favorites to win the B1G, even though they have yet to even reach Indianapolis. That’s just how it usually works for the Wolverines.
However, none of those three teams are the best bets. For obvious reasons, you aren’t going to get a big return on your money betting on an Ohio State team that has surprisingly only won the B1G twice in the Urban Meyer era. Putting $20 to get $50 for a Wisconsin win doesn’t sound great, either, though I’m higher on the Badgers than the Buckeyes heading into 2018.
So who are the best bets? I broke down three:
1. Michigan State: 12/1
I can’t quite figure this number out. Michigan State returns the highest percentage of its production in all of college football from a 10-win team. I mean, ESPN has MSU as the preseason No. 9 team in America. The Spartans won two B1G titles in the last five years, too.
The only reason I can think of that MSU is 12/1 is because of how poorly it played against Ohio State in Columbus last year. It was ugly. Maybe the oddsmakers think there’s no possible way that the Spartans will flip a 48-3 score and get past the Buckeyes (could they be ignoring the fact that Mark Dantonio is the only coach with multiple wins vs. Meyer since he arrived at Ohio State?).
But I’d counter that argument with the fact that MSU was coming off an emotional victory in the rain against Penn State. Coming into the Ohio State game, Spartans had actually played in six straight one-score games, including a triple overtime heartbreaker at Northwestern. I think playing Ohio State in East Lansing coming off a game at Maryland, the Spartans will be in a different spot.
That’s the other thing. MSU gets Ohio State and Michigan at home this year, and Penn State is the only B1G road opponent who went to a bowl game last year. The schedule is about as favorable as it can be. Certainly the Spartans have overcome bigger preseason obstacles to reach a conference crown.
I’m a Michigan believer this year, but there’s no way that MSU should be considered three times less likely to win the conference than Michigan. Put some green on green.
2. Iowa: 40/1
OK, I know it’s a long shot. I’m not saying Iowa is winning the B1G or even the division, but hear me out.
If the Hawkeyes are going to have one of those years like they did in 2015, they need the schedule to line up well. It does, and I’m not just saying that because it’s the B1G West. They get Wisconsin at home and they miss Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Even if Iowa loses to Penn State and they drop one at Purdue, a 7-2 mark with a Wisconsin win could still be enough to get to Indianapolis.
I like the chances of Iowa being more consistent in the passing game, and that loaded defensive line shouldn’t have problems stopping the run (I think people forget Iowa only allowed 10 rushing scores all year).
It’s also worth noting that Iowa easily could’ve been a double-digit win team last year. Four of Iowa’s five losses were by single digits, and three of them were one-score games against teams that won double-digit games. It wasn’t like the Hawkeyes were completely overmatched against superior competition. I mean, they did destroy the B1G champs, too.
I told myself I was going to get through this without bringing up 55-24. I failed miserably.
3. Northwestern: 80/1
It’s not quite Kevin Malone-John Mellencamp territory, but 80/1 odds are hard to ignore (shoutout to you if you got that reference). I don’t think there are too many 10-win teams with 80/1 odds to win a conference title the following year.
Northwestern did go 7-2 in B1G play last year and it lost to Wisconsin by single digits in Madison. If you’re a believer in season-to-season momentum — there’s no such thing — you probably believe in Northwestern’s 8-game winning streak heading into 2018.
Yes, Justin Jackson is gone, as is 39 percent of Northwestern’s returning defensive production from a top-20 unit. There are also questions about Clayton Thorson’s knee coming off ACL surgery, but if the fourth-year starter comes back and lives up to his growing preseason buzz, Northwestern is an intriguing long shot to hit.
The Wildcats’ toughest road game is against a Michigan State squad that Thorson lit up each of the last 2 years. Plus, Michigan and Wisconsin come to Evanston. Could there be a scenario in which Northwestern, like I mentioned with Iowa, goes 7-2 in conference play and beats Wisconsin at home? Certainly.
Quietly, Northwestern is 27-12 and 18-9 in B1G play the last three years. In other words, putting $10 on the Cats to win the B1G isn’t just throwing money away.
Putting $10 on Illinois? Now that’s throwing money away.