It’s August… and you know what that means: College football is basically here, people!
That’s right, with Week 0 right around the corner - and right around one month until kick-off, it’s time to ramp up our coverage of college football here at AT Online. And it’s time to make some bets.
In addition to our “College Football Betting Pod” which you can subscribe to below, we have been whipping around college football with our best and worst over/under bets this season.
We started with the SEC East a few weeks ago.
You can read the SEC West here.
Now it’s time to take a look at the Big Ten East, where Ohio State is the favorite, Michigan is the defending champ, and there is plenty of intrigue around Michigan State, Penn State and others.
Let’s get to our best and worst over/under bets - with lines provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.
Best Bet: Michigan OVER 9.5 wins (-125)
So while I have Michigan labeled as my “best bet” in the division, let’s make one thing clear: This isn’t a “Michigan beat Ohio State and made the playoff - they’re SO BACK!” kind of deals. If anything, there really isn’t one best bet that I love in this division.
But if I had to pick one, it’s probably the Wolverines by default.
First off, for all the flack that Jim Harbaugh gets, here are his regular season win totals in non-Covid seasons: Nine, 10, nine, eight, 10, 12. The guy is basically an automatic nine wins in the regular season.
Beyond that, he has a schedule that absolutely plays to his advantage. In total, Michigan plays eight home games. Their out of conference schedule is a breeze (Colorado State, Hawaii, UConn, all at home) and most of their toughest in-conference games (Penn State, Michigan State, Nebraska) are all at home as well. They do travel to Iowa and Ohio State, but their other two road games are at Indiana and at Rutgers. Not exactly a murderer’s row.
In the end, I’m not saying this team repeats as the Big Ten champ, and I’m certainly not saying they beat Ohio State for a second straight year.
But, in a division where I don’t really love anyone, this schedule is built for the Wolverines to go 10-2.
Second best bet: Ohio State OVER 10.5 wins (-250)
I could’ve easily plugged in Ohio State at over 10.5 wins as the “best bet” in the league and felt good about it. With the most explosive offense in college football, I do think that Ohio State will go either 12-0 or 11-1 in the regular season and hit this over total.
But the combination of the defense and a brutal schedule gave me enough fear, where I can’t say it’s a definitively better bet than Michigan.
Why? Well first, let’s talk about that defense. Again, we know the offense is great, but that defense really has had two sub-par years by Ohio State standards, ranking 59th nationally in total defense each of the last two seasons. Yes, I know that Jim Knowles was brought in to clean things up, and I think he will. But this group has a *lot* of work to do, to get back to championship level.
Then, there is the schedule. And while Michigan seemingly got all the breaks schedule-wise, Ohio State’s is absolutely brutal. They open with Notre Dame, and get Iowa and Wisconsin at home in cross division games. They also play Michigan State and Penn State on the road, before closing with Michigan at home.
So yeah, there’s a legitimate chance that they not only get the normal Michigan/Michigan State/Penn State gauntlet, but also get the two best teams out of the West (Iowa and Wisconsin) and a Top 10 preseason team (Notre Dame) as well.
Again, if you gave me $100 and I had to walk to the window - I’d still take the over. But I don’t think it’s a lock.
Most OVERVALUED team in the division: Michigan State Over/Under 7.5
So when I call Michigan State “overvalued,” it’s not to say that I don’t think they can hit the over on this bet. I certainly think it’s possible. I just think that there is the biggest gap between the national perception of Michigan State, versus what *could* happen for the Spartans this season is the largest in the division.
That’s because if you asked the average college football fan, it feels like everyone would say that Michigan State is an ascending rocket ship. They might not be Ohio State, but they just finished a 10-win regular season, won the Peach Bowl to go 11-2 overall and have beaten Michigan two straight seasons. Oh, and Mel Tucker is one of the buzziest head coaches in college football recruiting.
As the kids say, “Tuck Comin!”
And I can’t lie, I personally love every second of it.
At the same time, there are some concerns about Michigan State.
One, they were on the right side of an awfully lot of close games last season. They beat Nebraska by three in overtime, had a four-point win over Michigan (in a game where they trailed by 16 late into the third) and beat Penn State by three. All three of those games were at home, and there was also a five-point victory over two-win Indiana last year.
Point being, I’ve watched a lot of college football through the years. And usually when a bunch of breaks go your way one year, the bounces even out the following year.
Which brings me to this year’s team - which I like, but don’t love as much as some others. Quarterback Payton Thorne was good, but not elite last year, completing just 60 percent of his passes, and the defense still has holes - after finishing dead last in pass defense a season ago.
Finally, the schedule isn’t exactly easy, with road games at Michigan and Penn State this year (as opposed to home contests last year) and Ohio State and Wisconsin in East Lansing. Not to mention a trip all the way out to Washington in Week 3.
In the end, I do think Michigan State can hit the over on this total. But it’s going to be a grind to get there.
Biggest STAY AWAY in the division: Penn State Over/Under 8.5 wins
No lie, before I began writing this article, I spent quite a bit of time trying to talk myself into the over here as the best bet in the Big Ten East. But I just couldn’t get there.
Why did I like it so much?
Well, first off, yes Penn State is coming off a 7-5 regular season. That however, included some brutal losses, including:
A 23-20 loss at Iowa, where the Nittany Lions were up 17-3 before their starting quarterback Sean Clifford got hurt
A nine-OT loss (yes, NINE OT’s!) to Illinois with Clifford no where near 100 percent two weeks later. It’s inexcusable to lose to Illinois. But if he was fully healthy, they probably go 2-0 in those games
A 21-17 loss to Michigan, where they had the lead with four minutes to go.
A three-point loss at Michigan State
Basically, the Nittany Lions are kind of the opposite of the Spartans above: One or two bounces their way, and they’re probably 9-3 instead of 7-5. That’s right in line with who James Franklin has been historically, as if you take out the 2020 Covid year, his previous four seasons, Penn State won 10, nine, 10 and 10 regular season games from 2016-2019.
Still, I just couldn’t put my hard earned money on Penn State for two reasons: One, I still don’t fully trust Clifford at quarterback, and two, the schedule. The first month has me flustered, with an opener at Purdue on Thursday night in front of the entire country, and a trip to Auburn two weeks later. Plus, there are the usual games against Michigan (on the road), with Ohio State and Michigan State at home.
In the end, if Penn State goes 2-0 in those September road games, they hit this total. If they go 0-2, which is certainly possible) they go at best 8-4.
I just can’t get myself excited about either side of this bet.
Other stay aways:
Let’s rip through the bottom three of the Big Ten East, three teams that I definitely can’t get myself excited to bet.
Maryland (Over/Under 6 wins)
The Terrapins are coming off a 6-6 regular season (7-6 with a bowl game win over Virginia Tech), and pretty much project to be who they were last year: Awesome on offense and terrible on defense. That’s especially the case since three of their top recruits in the 2021 class, all on defense, transferred out of the program this off-season. They were all four or five-star prospects.
Beyond that, even with improved recruiting from Mike Locksley, it does feel like the Terrapins are still miles away from the top of this league. Maryland lost to Ohio State by 49 last year, lost to Michigan by 41, lost to Iowa by 37, lost to Penn State by 17 and Michigan State by 16. This year, they obviously have all four of those teams on the schedule, plus a road game at Wisconsin in a cross-division game.
So if we assume Maryland goes 0-5 in those games, what you’re basically asking yourself is can they go 7-0 in their remaining games to hit the over? It seems unlikely, and this realistically feels like a six-win team.
Ultimately, I’d rather just bet the over in a bunch of Maryland games, rather than take either side here. If I had to take a side, it’d be the UNDER.
Lean: Under 6 wins (+100)
Indiana (Over/Under 4 wins)
Indiana is the perfect example of what I discussed above: They seemingly caught every break during the Covid season, finishing 6-1 in the regular season with wins over Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin, only to end up on the other side of every break last year, going 2-10.
It feels like things even themselves out a bit more this year, and there should certainly be improved quarterback play with Missouri transfer Conor Bazelak expected to step in and be named the starter.
Still, the schedule says it all, and in addition to the Big Ten East’s big four (Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State), the Hoosiers also have road trips to Cincinnati and Nebraska before the end of September.
Add in a matchup with ascending rival Purdue, and there is just no way - at least in my eyes - to confidently bet this number.
Lean: Indiana finishes with four wins and this bet pushes
Rutgers - no number on the board
Right now there is no number on the board for Rutgers, and that’s probably for the best.
The Scarlet Knights actually weren’t that bad on defense last year, the problem was an offense that incredibly, scored under 20 points in eight of their last nine games. In the process, they had nine different players throw a pass at quarterback (some were skill position guys on trick plays) , a number that is basically, well, staggering.
While I did love that Rutgers basically showed up for a bowl game on one week’s notice (when Texas A&M had to pull out because of Covid), I just don’t love this team, especially with a schedule that includes cross-division games against Nebraska and Iowa.
If I were handicapping, the number that would make me stay away would be 4.5. Any higher, I’d take the under, any lower, I’d hit the over.
For our SEC East preview - click here
For our SEC West preview - click here
Visit DraftKings Sportsbook for all over/under win totals for 2022
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL).
Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (MI/NJ/PA/WV/WY), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (CO), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), 1-888-532-3500 (VA), 1-800-NEXT STEP (AZ) or call/text TN REDLINE 1-800-889-9789 (TN).
*21+ (18+ WY). AZ/CO/IL/IN/IA/MI/NJ/PA/TN/VA/WV/WY only. Min $5 deposit. Min $5 wager. Eligibility restrictions apply.
See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.