How I'd bet on the B1G spreads in Week 1
The start of the 2020 college football season is a little less than two months away. We still have no idea whether or not the campaign starts on time or if there’s a delay. And we’re not even sure if nonconference games will continue as planned.
But, in Vegas, the show must go on. At least until more information is available. So, we’ll do the same at Saturday Tradition.
Circa Sports recently released the spreads for several Week 1 games across college football. Of course, we’re most interested in 11 games featuring B1G teams. However, because Illinois, Iowa, Maryland and Rutgers are all scheduled to play FCS opponents on the opening weekend, only seven games in the B1G were listed with spreads.
There were some interesting spreads for those Week 1 matchups, which got me thinking, “How would I bet on these games?” So, with two months (hopefully) until the B1G kicks things off, I’m providing you with some (not-so) great insight on how I’d bet on those seven games.
Editor’s note: Bet at your own risk
Florida Atlantic vs. Minnesota (-18)
My pick: Florida Atlantic
Here’s the thing — Minnesota outscored its three nonconference opponents last year by a grand total of 13 points. I’m sorry, but I think 18 points is a little too much, even for a team returning as much talent as the Gophers.
With a new offensive coordinator, the loss of defensive studs Carter Coughlin and Antoine Winfield Jr., I think there will be some bumps in the road early for P.J. Fleck and company. I don’t necessarily believe this will be a tightly contested game, but I just don’t trust the Gophers to win the season opener by 18 points, even against a Group of Five program with a new head coach (Willie Taggart). Give me FAU in this one.
Indiana vs. Wisconsin (-17)
My pick: Indiana
This isn’t your father’s, grandfather’s, great-grandfather’s or great-great-grandfather’s Indiana football team. The Hoosiers return a ton of production on offense and should be able to score some points in the season opener against Wisconsin. And when you consider the fact that the Badgers lost Jonathan Taylor, Quintez Cephus, a slew of star defensive players, this might be the right opportunity for IU to knock off a big boy in the B1G.
Does Indiana have the talent and resilience to beat a perennial power like Wisconsin on the road in the first game of the season? I’m not sure. But I don’t expect this to be a runaway like we’ve seen in the past. If this was a 10-point spread, I might feel comfortable taking the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium, but I think the Hoosiers keep this closer than three scores.
Northwestern (-1) vs. Michigan State
My pick: Northwestern
Yes, I’m aware how abysmal Northwestern was last season. However, most of the Wildcats’ staff is still intact, with the exception of the addition of new offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. Plus, Northwestern went out and addressed its quarterback issue through the transfer portal, adding former Indiana star Peyton Ramsey. Those two additions should help offensively.
More than anything, though, is the fact that Mel Tucker arrived to Michigan State late and has had limited face time (not the iPhone app) with his new team. Yes, some of the assistants from Mark Dantonio’s staff are still in East Lansing, but the numerous changes within the program will be problematic for the Spartans. Since this is essentially a “pick ’em” I’ll take my chances with Pat Fitzgerald.
Bowling Green vs. Ohio State (-52)
My pick: Ohio State
Remember last season when Ohio State covered a massive spread with a 76-5 win over Miami (OH). Or when it shutout a pretty good Cincinnati team 42-0? Or how about the fact that the Buckeyes won all 13 games by double figures and had an average margin of victory in those 13 wins of 36.2?
The spread for this game could be 60-plus and I still might consider picking Ohio State to cover. The only hope Bowling Green has, in my opinion, is to open the second-string starts playing late in the first half.
Kent State vs. Penn State (-35)
My pick: Kent State
I might regret this, but I’m going to factor in history with this pick. Penn State and Kent State have played six times, and while the Nittany Lions have won all six contest, the Nittany Lions have only defeated the Golden Flashes by 35 points or more once — the 2018 game in Happy Valley that ended 63-10.
Penn State has the best defensive player in college football in Micah Parsons, a second-year quarterback in Sean Clifford and a loaded running back room with Journey Brown, Noah Cain, Devyn Ford and more. With Kirk Ciarrocca taking over as offensive coordinator, this team has the potential to score a lot of points. Still, I’ll take my chances with that five-touchdown spread based on history. But again, I won’t be surprised if I regret that in a month.
Michigan (-1) vs. Washington
My pick: Washington
If this was scheduled to be a home game for Michigan, I might feel different. Then again, maybe I wouldn’t. The Wolverines probably have a talent advantage over Washington, but the problem is that Jim Harbaugh and his staff have to replace so much, especially offensively. This is a team that lost its starting quarterback, it’s entire offensive line and a few really talented receivers.
Not having the spring season really hurts Michigan heading into the 2020 season, especially with such a big Week 1 matchup on the slate. Washington is going through a coaching change, transitioning from Chris Petersen to Jimmy Lake. That levels the playing field a touch. And the Huskies are also replacing their starting quarterback. But since this game is in Seattle, I’ll go with Washington.
Purdue vs. Nebraska (-4)
My pick: Purdue
This might be the most intriguing B1G contest of the opening weekend. Both Jeff Brohm and Scott Frost are coming off underwhelming seasons and are looking to make a splash with a huge Week 1 victory. And Purdue and Nebraska have similar offensive approaches and should be able to put up a lot of points.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this game comes defensively. Former Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is now calling the shots for the Boilermakers. There’s a little extra incentive to have his side of the ball ready for a showdown with his former team. Still, I expect this to be a high-scoring affair and I think Purdue’s slight edge in experience (although still young) pays off, even on the road.