It’s the last day of July, meaning we are one more day until… GAME MONTH!!!!
And with it, now feels like a great time to continue our look at college football’s best (and worst) over/under win totals heading into the 2023 season.
Last week we previewed the SEC West, and before that the SEC East.
Today it’s time to move to the heartland and the Big Ten East.
Like the SEC, the Big Ten is in transition, and 2023 marks the last time we have divisions and 14 teams in this league, with USC and UCLA joining in 2024.
So it’s a year of transition - but also one where the usual suspects remain at the top.
As always, the over/unders are presented by our partners at Betfred Sportsbook, and also make sure to download the “College Football Betting Show” where we’re continuing our preseason look at all the major over/under win totals heading into the season.
Before we get to over/unders, here is a look at odds to win the Big Ten East, presented by Betfred:
Odds to win the Big Ten East (via Betfred Sportsbook):
Ohio State (-105)
Penn State (+500)
Michigan State (+9500)
Favorite Over/Under Win Total Bet: Michigan OVER 10.5 wins
Admittedly, there isn’t one bet that I absolutely love in the Big Ten East, the way I did in the SEC East and West.
At the same time, Michigan makes the most sense to me.
Yes, Jim Harbaugh could be suspended the first four games of the season, and no, I don’t care. The first four - UNLV, East Carolina, Bowling Green and Rutgers all at home - are laughable, and this is a group uniquely built to handle adversity. Remember, when Jim Harbaugh left to interview for the Minnesota Vikings job on National Signing Day, and everyone thought it would tear down the trust between players and coaches?
This group is uniquely built to handle Harbaugh being away on game days.
In terms of everything else, well, Michigan has won 11+ games the last two regular seasons, and this year, basically returns everyone from a team that was elite on both offense and defense a season ago. That isn’t hyperbole - they ranked both in the Top 10 nationally in scoring as well as total defense.
In terms of who’s back, well in no particular order, here’s a short list: JJ McCarthy at quarterback, a pair of running backs - Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards - who combined for over 2,500 yards and three of the top four receivers from a year ago. Oh, and most of the front seven, and a future first rounder at corner in Will Johnson. Michigan also did as well as anyone filling holes in the portal with three starting caliber offensive linemen, an elite tight end (AJ Barner from Indiana) and two of the best defensive players in the portal in former Nebraska linebacker Ernest Hausmann and Coastal Carolina’s Josiah Stewart.
And if all that wasn’t enough, they’ve got a relatively manageable schedule. As mentioned, the out of conference is a cake walk and they don’t go on the road until Week 5. There’s obviously a tough Penn State game on the road, but Jim Harbaugh is 3-1 in Happy Valley as Michigan’s head coach, and no Wisconsin or Iowa on the schedule.
Bottom line, it’s hard to find another loss on the schedule outside of either Ohio State or Penn State, and recent history says they won’t lose both.
Michigan going 11-1 or better feels pretty solid heading into the season.
Second favorite Over/Under Win Total Bet: Penn State OVER 9.5 wins
First off, for all the flack James Franklin gets, here are his win totals since 2016, taking out the 2020 Covid year: 11, 10, 9, 10, 7, 10.
Basically, Franklin has had one pretty “bad” year in the last six full seasons, and in that season, they were Top 5 nationally heading into a game at Iowa where their starting quarterback got hurt. They struggled from there, but again, when the bad season is “ranked in the Top 5 before your star QB gets hurt” it shows how solid this program has been through the years.
Now looking ahead to this year, Clifford is gone, but like Michigan, most everyone else returns. That includes a pair of running backs who combined for nearly 2,000 yards (Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen), four starters on the o-line and seven starters from a Top 10 scoring defense nationally.
Oh, and the one spot of uncertainty might end up as a bright spot. That’s because with Clifford now gone, it makes way for former five-star Drew Allar to step into the starting role. While he is short on experience, it isn’t hyperbole to say that he’s the most talented QB that Franklin has ever coached at Penn State. If things work out the way many expect, it might not even be close by the end of his career.
Finally, there’s the schedule, and for Penn State - which always seems to get the short end of the stick - it is somehow manageable. The out of conference features home games against West Virginia, Delaware and UMass (fun fact: the WVU game will be the first ever “Big Ten on NBC” contest - feel free to drop that at your next family get together) and the Nittany Lions toughest cross-division game appears to be Iowa at home. No Wisconsin on the schedule here.
Admittedly, if the Nittany Lions lose to Michigan and Ohio State, it leaves no wiggle room for any other losses for the over to hit.
But I still like this bet. A lot.
I like them but won’t be betting: Ohio State Over/Under 10.5
Like Michigan, Ohio State’s over/under is 10.5. Meaning, you need them to go at least 11-1 for it to hit. Which, incredibly, would’ve hit in seven of the nine non-Covid seasons since Urban Meyer took over this program.
At the same time, I just can’t bet it, even if it feels like it will probably hit again.
In terms of the positives, well we all know what they are: The most explosive receiver room in college football, with future Top 5 pick Marvin Harrison Jr. (who, incredibly, made 14 touchdown catches last year) leading the way. A healthy Treyveon Henderson, who two years ago, set a bunch of freshman running back records for the Buckeyes. A defense which has as much depth up front as its had in years, headlined by JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Michael Hall and others.
And as Ohio State proved by playing Georgia tougher than anyone last season, they have the talent to flat out beat anyone.
The negatives are there though.
One, we don’t know who the quarterback is, which admittedly isn’t as big of a worry at Ohio State as it is at a lot of other places. Still, whoever starts under center will do so with virtually no college experience to speak of. If it ends up being Devin Brown, it will come after he got no reps in the spring because of injury.
Two, while it’s probably unfair to say this program to say this program is falling apart, it is fair to say that it seemingly hasn’t quite felt the same the last few years. Two seasons ago there was a pair of losses where they got beat up at the line of scrimmage by Oregon and Michigan. And while last year there was only one regular season loss, remember, there were close calls against Northwestern and Maryland (the Terps had the ball with under a minute to go and a chance to win the game). Oh, and another loss to Michigan.
Speaking of which, there is the schedule, which unlike Michigan and Penn State is no cakewalk.
The Buckeyes play at Notre Dame in Week 3, and while both Penn State and Michigan avoid Wisconsin, the Buckeyes have to go to Camp Randall. At night. Overall, five of their first eight are on the road, and of course the final road game is at Michigan.
This feels like a total stay away to me, but to be blunt if I had to take a pick, I’d actually take the UNDER.
Lean: Ohio State Under 10.5 wins
Since everyone else in this division is almost certainly playing for fourth place, and I won’t personally be betting any of them, let’s rip through everyone else:
Maryland Over/Under 7.5 wins
To its credit Maryland is coming off an 8-4 regular season, and Taulia Tagovailoa is back for one final season as the program’s quarterback. They also return their top rusher, top two receivers and their defense was actually better than people realize. You know they allowed just 22 points per game a year ago, 41st nationally?
Here’s the part that makes them tough to bet though: They played a lot of close games, in both wins and losses. As mentioned, they had the ball with under a minute to go and a chance to beat Ohio State (a strip and score sealed a Buckeye win) and lost to Michigan by one score. On the reverse of that, they beat Indiana by five and Northwestern by seven, struggling against clearly inferior teams.
Basically the Terps seem to very much play up and down to their competition, which is why I won’t be betting. There could be good situational spots in the regular season.
But I’ll be staying away on the season win total.
Lean: Maryland Under 7.5 wins
Michigan State Over/Under 5.5 wins
By now you know that Michigan State was one of the most disappointing teams in college football last year, falling from 11-2 in 2021 to just 5-7 a year ago. Even worse, was the inconsistency. It’s one thing to lose to Michigan or Ohio State. It’s another to lose to Indiana and get blown out at home by Minnesota.
In terms of 2023, well on the one hand, the over/under of 5.5 isn’t much to ask for, but on the other, the schedule is thankless. The Spartans get an 11-win Washington team in the out of conference (at least its in East Lansing) and challenging games at Iowa and at Minnesota in the cross-divisional Big Ten games. Oh, and Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State as usual.
Not to mention, what do we make of starting QB Payton Thorne and top receiver Keon Coleman leaving after spring ball? Some reports are that Noah Kim had actually earned the starting QB job, so I guess that’s a saving grace? But even if it's true, what does it say that Coleman left too?
My guess is a few bounces go Michigan State’s way and they get back to six wins and bowl eligibility. But I’ll be damned if I’m betting on it.
Lean: Michigan State OVER 5.5 wins
Rutgers Over/Under 3.5 wins
Let’s be honest: I’m not even sure Rutgers fans want an in-depth look at Rutgers football.
But here’s the cliff notes version: The Scarlets Knights weren’t just one of the worst offenses in the Big Ten last year. Outside of Iowa, they were indisputably the worst in major college football. This was a group that finished 123rd in scoring and, how about this, averaged 11.7 points a game in Big Ten play. Yes, 11.7. They broke the 20-point barrier just twice in Big Ten play, with 21 against Michigan State and riveting 24-point performance in a win over Indiana.
And really, that’s the disappointing part: The offense was so bad that impacted an otherwise good defense, which wore down late in several games.
Coming off a four-win season and with four of their first five at home, I’d lean over.
But to bet it, it means I’d have to watch this God forsaken offense, and I really have no interest at all in that.
Lean: Rutgers OVER 3.5 wins
Indiana Over/Under 3.5 wins
To understand how bad Indiana was last year, let’s first go back up to Rutgers for a second.
In the case of the Scarlet Knights, at least they were decent on one side of the ball, even if they were abysmal on the other. Indiana was somehow bad at both, ranking 109th nationally in total offense and 118th nationally in scoring defense, averaging just 23 points per game while giving up 34. Oh, and they picked up a grand total of one win after the third week of the season.
On a positive note, the offense should be a bit better with Tayven Jackson (younger brother of Trayce Jackson-Davis) in at quarterback, but that’s kind of where the positives end. The team’s best defender (linebacker Dasan McCollough) transferred and outside of Indiana State and Akron in the out of conference, there are no obvious wins on the schedule.
Maybe you feel good betting Indiana here, but I sure don’t. Total stay away.
Lean: Indiana UNDER 3.5 wins
For all of your college football betting needs visit the Betfred Sportsbook
Subscribe to the College Football Betting Podcast
Subscribe to the College Football Betting YouTube Channel