College football conference odds: Will the Big Ten be won by Michigan or Ohio State?

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Ohio State defensive lineman Ty Hamilton, left, tackles Michigan running back Donovan Edwards during the second half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

We’ll preview every major conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision between now and the start of college football season on Aug. 26 through the lens of sports bettors. Each preview will include a shallow dive into the favorites, long shots and our favorite pick(s).

We will provide the full list of odds for the conference, as well as links to other conferences, toward the end. We’ll start with the non-power five conferences and work our way toward the big fish in the pond, finishing with the Southeastern Conference. When the season begins, you’ll have a comprehensive look at the top divisions in the sport.

We’ll continue today with the Big Ten.

Last season

We’ve reached a point now in the Big Ten where the final week of the regular season decides the conference. Of course, Michigan-Ohio State has always been an intense rivalry, but now that both are back at the apex of the sport, “The Game” is seemingly more important than ever.

The Wolverines have won the past two meetings between the two sides after a 45-23 drubbing in Columbus last season. Michigan would go on to dismantle Purdue 43-22 in the Big Ten Championship to secure a spot in the College Football Playoff.

However, late results elsewhere saw the Big Ten get two teams into the CFP for the first time in the format’s short history. Unfortunately for the conference, the Buckeyes (vs. Georgia) and Wolverines (vs. TCU) would go on to suffer semifinal defeats that ended their respective seasons.

Michigan (13-1) and Ohio State (11-2) were joined by Penn State (11-2) as the only three teams in the Big Ten with 10+ wins in 2022. Other notable finishes included Maryland (8-5) in the East Division and Purdue (8-6), Minnesota (9-4), Illinois (8-5) and Iowa (8-5) in the West Division. Wisconsin (7-6) was the only other team in the Big Ten to finish over .500.

Favorites

Michigan and Ohio State have combined to win the last six Big Ten championships, so is there really a question of who oddsmakers at Caesars Sportsbook believe have the best shot this season? Spoiler alert: It’s the Buckeyes and Wolverines.

Ohio State (+175) has a slight advantage coming into the season, according to sportsbooks — emphasis on the slight. Ryan Day and his squad need to reload at the quarterback position and on the offensive line. TreVeyon Henderson and Marvin Harrison Jr. make any offensive transition a lot smoother, though.

This is especially true considering likely starter Kyle McCord played with Harrison Jr. in high school, so the two already have a strong connection. The Buckeyes added some key recruits and transfers to plug the few holes they do have on both sides of the ball. Overall, Ohio State is looking like one of the best teams in the country again if McCord can play well out of the gate.

Odds will show that Michigan (+180) is on the same level as the Buckeyes, according to Las Vegas. The Wolverines bring back talented quarterback J.J. McCarthy and both running back pieces (Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards). That’s the offense sorted, but what about the other side of the ball? Seven defensive starters come back for Michigan.

Jim Harbaugh-coached teams will always be especially strong in the trenches. This style of football — when executed well — causes issues for any opponent, Ohio State in particular.

There is one other contender for the conference crown that has yet to be mentioned: Penn State (+575). Everyone seems to be sleeping on the Nittany Lions, but that’s only because they’ve got to go through the Buckeyes and Wolverines just to reach the Big Ten title game. Nevertheless, if Drew Allar is as good as advertised under center, the sky is the limit for James Franklin’s team.

Longer shots

Coming in at slightly shorter than 10/1 odds is Wisconsin (+900) under new head coach Luke Fickell. The former Cincinnati frontman brings with him a new quarterback from the transfer portal, Tanner Mordecai, who will help speed up the implementation of his offensive style in Madison. However, the Badgers would be silly to abandon their rushing attack led by Braelon Allen.

Fickell has a lot to worry about in year one. Luckily, the defense does not appear to be one of his concerns. Wisconsin returns eight familiar faces on that side of the ball as it looks to return to the top of the Big Ten’s West Division.

Iowa (+1000) is listed next on odds boards due to its incredibly consistent defense from year-to-year. However, the Hawkeyes need to improve on offense. Fortunately enough for Brian Ferentz’s unit, when you’ve reached rock bottom, the only way to go is up. Cade McNamara is proven on the biggest stage and he’ll look to help Iowa transform its offense.

Minnesota (+1600) might just be the unluckiest team in the country. The Golden Gophers are stuck with Michigan and Ohio State on their division crossover schedule, which will make it awfully tough to compete for a spot in the title, even in the West Division. P.J. Fleck needs to get some new faces up to speed on defense, in addition to replacing some production in the running game.

It’ll be a lot to ask quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis and his receivers to shoulder the load as the rest of the team gets up to Fleck’s standards. Early clashes with Nebraska, North Carolina and Michigan will show how serious the Golden Gophers are about contending in the opening weeks of the season.

Value picks

It’s too close to call right now between Ohio State (+175) and Michigan (+180). It comes down to whether you trust the experience of the Wolverines or you think McCord and the Buckeyes will win their first rivalry game in three years. It’s worth noting that “The Game” will be played in the Big House this year — do with that information what you will.

Both of these powerhouses represent some sort of value heading into the season given the plus juice associated with them.

Wisconsin (+900) is worth at least a flyer as the Badgers have the clearest path to the Big Ten title game. Mordecai and Allen will have Wisconsin scoring at will against a majority of its opponents this season. Fickell is going to have the Badgers back on the big stage a lot quicker than many perhaps realize.

We’re going to highlight one more team that we haven’t mentioned yet: Illinois (+2000). Sure, Bret Bielema has a lot of overhauls to oversee this offseason. However, the former Arkansas coach has the Illini looking like a legitimately good football program as of late.

Former four-star recruit and Ole Miss transfer Luke Altmyer looks to have the keys to Bielema’s offense going forward. Illinois could be a sneaky pick to win the West Division and make a run to the Big Ten title game as a true long shot.

Full Big Ten odds and win totals

(Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook, as of Sunday, August 20)

 Team  Title odds   Win total
 Ohio State  +175  10.5 (u-130)
 Michigan  +180  10.5 (o-135)
 Penn State  +575  9.5 (o-145)
 Wisconsin  +900  8.5 (o-150)
 Iowa  +1000  8.5
 Minnesota  +1600  7 (u-130)
 Illinois  +2000  6.5 (o-140)
 Nebraska  +2200  6.5 (u-150)
 Maryland  +10000  7.5
 Michigan State  +10000  4.5 (o-200)
 Purdue  +12500  5 (u-140)
 Indiana  +20000  4 (u-160)
 Northwestern  +20000  3
 Rutgers  +30000  4 (o-130)

College football conference pieces

July 12: MAC

July 13: Conference USA

July 19: Mountain West

July 26: Sun Belt

Aug. 2: American Athletic

Aug. 9: Pac-12

Aug. 15: Big 12

 

Aug. 16: ACC

Aug. 22: Big Ten

Aug. 23: SEC

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