2018 CFB Season Win Totals: Big Ten West

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

BIG TEN – WEST

Wisconsin – over 10 (-115) – 1*

The Badgers return nine starters from the most productive offense they’ve had since Melvin Gordon left Madison. And it seems fairly clear that’s a result of getting another stud RB in Jonathan Taylor, a favorite for the Heisman this year. Phil Steele didn’t rank Wisconsin’s QBs among the Top 55 and that’s outrageous. I’m not the biggest Hornibrook guy, but go find me 55 other guys who could’ve hung 258 yards and 4 TDs (0 INTs) on Miami in the freaking Orange Bowl.

Hornibrook loses TE Troy Fumagalli to the NFL, but I’m pretty sure Wisconsin just grows NFL tight ends in some lab up there. They also return all five starting O-Linemen and they’re all monsters and four of them are potential/likely first rounders next year. It’s honestly disgusting.

The defensive backs need to be rebuilt, but there’s really no reason to worry. The Badgers are good defensively every year and will give up somewhere between 14 and 20 points per game.

The schedule is good and bad. The good news for the Badgers: they’ll be favored to win all of their non-conference games by at least 21 points. The bad news: they have road games at Michigan, Penn State, Northwestern, Iowa, and Purdue. Obviously you don’t count them out of any of those and they’ll probably actually be favorites in those last three.

Iowa – over 7.5 (even) – 3*

There’s definitely some questions that stick out with the Hawkeyes this year. They lose 1,100 yard back Akrum Wadley. They lose AA and Big 10 DPOY Josey Jewell and their other two starting linebackers. They lose Josh Jackson, who had 8 INTs last year. Their offensive line isn’t expected to be very good, a staple position group of Iowa football.

On the other hand, their front and back four on defense are still Top 20-30 in the country. Nathan Stanley is probably the best QB they’ve had since Drew Tate.  Noah Fant is the best TE in the league. And, I might add, K Miguel Recinos is money.

More than anything this play is about track record. The Hawks have some big losses defensively, but history says that they’re still going to be pretty good. History also says that Iowa has one losing regular season since 2000.

The schedule has two elite teams on it (@ PSU, home for UW) and a lot of mediocre. They have four very winnable road games against Minnesota, IU, Purdue, and Illinois. They avoid OSU, MSU, and Michigan out of the East. Their non-con consists of NIU, Iowa State, and Northern Iowa at home.

Northwestern – over 6 (-110) – 2*

Wouldn’t suggest touching this when their still seems to be some uncertainty of how quickly Clayton Thorson will be ready to go. And he needs to be ready to go early. They start at Purdue, followed by home games with Duke and Akron, who won their MAC division last year. With how poorly the Cats have started recently, that’s a concerning stretch. They draw Michigan, @ MSU, @ Rutgers out of the East. And they’re also playing Notre Dame.

They do have a promising defense and Thorson is one of the best QBs in the league and that’s why I’d definitely lean over here. But if Thorson isn’t 100% early, things could get off the rails quickly.

Nebraska – under 6.5 (+110) – 3*

Scott Frost is the savior and he seemed to talk quite a big game at the Big Ten media days, but it’s still just his first year and he’s returning a 4-8 team that has a Top 10 most difficult schedule this year and their wins last year were against Arkansas State, Rutgers, Illinois, and Purdue.

Frost does have quite a duo to work with at WR in his offense with Stanley Morgan and JD Spielman returning. His running backs are decent, but are dependent upon a JUCO (you’ve seen Last Chance U, no?) and Tre Bryant, who was very productive last year, but only lasted two games.

Outside of that…it’s tough. They’re probably going to start a freshman at QB. They’re both very talented, but I wouldn’t have high hopes right away. The defense returns eight starters, but they gave up over 36 points a game last year. Frost and Co. did a lot right at UCF, but I wouldn’t say they built a stellar defense.

Again, the schedule is tough. Maybe it’s dangerous, but I’m just chalking them up to 0-5 on the road this year. Those five road games: Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Iowa. They didn’t play Michigan last year, but they went 0-4 at home against the others and lost by an average of 28 points. Their home schedule: Akron, Colorado, Troy, Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan State. It’s not a murderer’s row, but only maybe Akron and Illinois are a walkover in that group. Do you feel confident a team that went 2-5 at home last year is going to run the table this year?

Minnesota – under 6 (-130) – 1*

I think they’re definitely winning two games and I think they’re definitely losing two games and I have no idea what’s happening with the other eight. Their defense will be solid, Rodney Smith will be good, their QB situation appears to be a bit of a disaster, and PJ Fleck will annoy the hell out of me. Really excited to not watch them play a lot of games that are 17-17 in the fourth.

Purdue – over 6 (+110) – 1*

The fact this total is set at six while Phil Steele has them facing the #2 most difficult schedule in the country is a testament to Jeff Brohm. The roster talent is still largely at a slightly above average Mountain West team level.

I would expect Purdue to make a jump offensively with nine starters returning in Brohm’s system and some dynamic playmakers added to the mix. Everything seems primed for Elijah Sindelar to control the QB job, but having David Blough on standby is a nice luxury.

Defensively they only return four starters. On the surface, that’s very problematic for a team that only gave up 20.5 PPG last year and doesn’t have a bunch of highly touted guys waiting in the wings. However, those same guys that gave up 20.5 also gave up 38.3 the year before Nick Holt got there. While I’m sure the defense won’t be quite as good, Holt’s guidance makes you think they’ll keep it respectable.

Illinois – under 4 (-140) – 3*

They went 2-10 last year. They averaged 15.4 PPG on offense and their starting QB this year couldn’t beat out Jeff George Jr. or Chayce Crouch last season. I don’t know what else to say.

According to Bill Connelly’s S&P+’s projections, the Illini’s highest percent chance at winning a game after Week 2 are 37% against Minnesota at home.

BEST BET TO WIN BIG TEN

Iowa +2700

Wisconsin’s the obvious favorite to come out of the West, but the schedule works well in the Hawkeyes’ favor. Iowa gets the head-to-head at home and they’re at least one team in the West who’s had a modicum of success against the Badgers recently. They also avoid three of the big four from the East, while UW has their five toughest conference opponents all on the road. You can take a stab at somebody out of the East, but there’s four Top 12 teams there and any of them could make the championship. The Badgers are the favorite in the West for a reason, but you can get the Hawkeyes at more than 10x the return.

 

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