I’m picking every over/under regular season win total for all 130 schools in college football. I’ll try to keep the odds/injuries/suspensions as current as possible, but I’m doing this in pieces, so it is what it is.
1* through 5* based on confidence. I’ll be betting anything 3* and higher.
Last year was pretty successful, to say the least. Results:
3*: 10-2-3 (+24.1*)
4*: 1-1 (+0.0*)
5*: 1-0 (+5.0*)
I’ll give my best bet for the conference champion based on perceived value.
BIG TEN – EAST
Ohio State – over 10.5 (-120) – 1*
There’s a good reason why many are putting the Buckeyes as the top team in the country. They’re loaded everywhere.
The big key for the offense is obviously replacing JT Barrett, but Dwayne Haskins is supremely talented and already beat Michigan once. They might have the best back in the country in JK Dobbins and they return their top six receivers.
The defense has a few more holes to fill, but the Bucks are one of the few teams that it doesn’t seem to matter. They’ll just reload. It helps that Greg Schiano is still the DC.
S&P+ has them favored in every game this year, with a minimum of a 60% chance to win each game. With that said, it’s still the Big Ten East and they have road games at Penn State and Michigan State and Michigan at home. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that they did manage to get their doors blown off by Iowa last year.
Note: This was written before the whole Zach Smith thing. I think Urban will stay and I’m sure they’ll be fine, but, ya know, they might not be if he happens to get fired.
Michigan – over 9 (-115) – 1*
Pretty typical Harbaugh-era Michigan team, although they return more experienced talent than any other. But they’ll be built around what should be a Top 5 defense nationally. And they’ll surely have a very solid running game.
There are a few issues though. For starters, they don’t really have an offensive coordinator. They have three guys who are probably capable of calling the plays, but…no one is really sure which of the three that’s going to be.
Shea Patterson is supposed to finally be the dynamic, playmaking QB that Wolverine fans have been waiting for. He’s capable of doing that and he’s proven he could do it at Ole Miss. However, it seems like they’re running the same archaic system they have been and it’s quite opposite of the more modern offense Patterson was running under Hugh Freeze and Matt Luke in Oxford.
And finally, the schedule is a bear. Road games with OSU, ND, Michigan State, Northwestern and home games with Penn State and Wisconsin. That’s brutal.
With all that said, I still slightly lean over because I think the defense might only give up 12-14 points a game this year.
Penn State – under 9.5 (-115) – 1*
I don’t have a ton of strong feelings on the Nittany Lions. Of these Top 4 teams in the East, they have the least coming back and the most question marks. They only have three starters back on D. They lost Saquon and three of their top four pass catchers. And they lost Joe Moorhead, who turned this offense into what it’s become the past couple of years.
The trump card for them may be Trace McSorley, though. He’s one of the best QBs in the country, if not the best. They’ve also recruited incredibly well recently and could be making the step into the elite program category.
They unfavorably draw Wisconsin and Iowa out of the West, but they do get both of them at home, as well as Michigan State and Ohio State.
Michigan State – over 8.5 (-125) – 3*
19 starters coming back from a 10-3 team is a great place to start. The only super notable loss was C Brian Allen, who was one of the best linemen in the Big Ten for the past three years. Otherwise, you’re pretty much dealing with the same Spartan roster, except they’ve got another year under their belts.
I wouldn’t expect a ton of sizzle from the offense, but Brian Lewerke is capable of actually making plays and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them average 30+ this year. LJ Scott had a down year last year, but is still among the best RBs in the league. Felton Davis might be the best WR in the Big Ten and had the big (and timely) plays to back that up in 2017.
With nine starters back from a defense that only gave up 20 PPG, it’s easy to see how they could return to their form of early in the decade when they were only giving up two touchdowns a game.
The schedule has its ups and downs. Good news: of the above trio, they get Michigan and Ohio State at home. Bad news: they have five road games against teams who will be in the bowl conversation this year.
Maryland – over 5 (-145) – 4*
The Terps went 4-8 last year, but to me, the season ended in the first quarter of their third game. That’s when QB2 Kasim Hill was knocked out for the year, two weeks after QB1 Tyrell Pigrome was knocked out for the year. After that it was all the Max Bortenschlager era and Max Bortenschlager should’ve never been on the roster (his next best offer out of HS was Buffalo).
In the Pigrome/Hill era, the Terps won at Texas, obliterated Towson, and were moving the ball with ease against UCF. Under those two, MD averaged 57.0 PPG. Under Bortenschlager, the Terps averaged 17.5 PPG.
I’m not expecting 57 a game (obviously), but the offense should still improve greatly with an expected healthier season. They do lose stud WR D.J. Moore, but they return their entire offensive line, the two QBs, and a productive RB duo, who will benefit from competent QB play. They will also benefit greatly from new OC Matt Canada. Canada turned Pittsburgh into one of the most explosive offenses in the country a couple of years ago, before he was hired and fired by Ed Orgeron at LSU because Ed Orgeron has no idea how to run a football program. If DJ Durkin just lets Canada do his thing, this offense will flourish in a big way.
The defense only returns five starters, but it can’t get a lot worse after the way they played last year. I do think that the numbers from last year are partially a product of the failures of the offense in more ways than one. They do add a couple of uber-talented transfers in Byron Cowart and Marcus Lewis.
The schedule is pretty difficult overall, but you only need five wins to even get a push. I’m already penciling them in for four wins: @ BGSU, Temple, Rutgers, and Illinois. The next most winnable games: Minnesota and Texas at home. Outside of that they’re capable of beating Michigan State at home and Iowa or Indiana on the road.
Indiana – over 5.5 (-105) – 1*
The Hoosiers don’t have a ton returning from a 5-7 team, but the schedule is easier this year. There’s two games I don’t think they can win, but otherwise they have a lot of opportunity.
They lose QB Richard Lagow, but it’s not a big deal. Lagow was average at best and whoever gets the call between Peyton Ramsey and grad transfer Brandon Dawkins should at the very minimum match his production. The skill guys surrounding the QBs are more of a concern. They lose four of their top six pass catchers last year and they’re going to need Nick Westbrook to be the big play threat he was in ’16, otherwise they don’t really have one. The RBs lacked much production last year. Good news: the O-Line is one of the best in the conference.
The defense is a gigantic question mark. They’ve been much improved as a program after Tom Allen came in initially as the DC, but there’s only three starters coming back and only one is in the front seven. With that said, Nile Sykes and Marcelino Ball are returning from injury and would’ve been starters last year.
Rutgers – over 4 (+120) – 1*
I’m optimistic about the Scarlet Knights this year with 15 starters returning from a 4-8 team. It’s Chris Ash’s third year and three of those wins came in the Big Ten this year.
But I’m not about to bet actual money on this given that I don’t think Rutgers really has a shot in hell at winning a single game in November. The schedule looks like this during the final month: @ Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, @ Michigan State. Fun fact: all four of those programs have shutout the Knights in one of their last two meetings. I like Rutgers so I’m not going to pile on and mention that their Week 2 opponent (Ohio State) has beaten them by a combined score of 114-0 the last two years. It would be uncalled for to mention that.