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 just a few weeks 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 - which you can read here.
Then hit the SEC West - which you can read here.
Last week it was the Big Ten East - which you can read here.
Now it’s time to take a look at the Big Ten West, where it was a wacky year a season ago, with Iowa taking home the crown, Purdue winning nine games (yes, Purdue!), Wisconsin underachieving and Nebraska being, well, Nebraska.
Let’s get to our best and worst over/under bets - with lines provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.
Best Bet: Purdue OVER 7.5 wins (-140)
Full-disclosure, I came into this exercise assuming I’d hate Purdue. They won eight regular season games last year (nine overall), but lost a first round pick on defense (George Karlafitis) and the most underrated skill player in college football in David Bell.
They’d have to take a step back this year, right?
Honestly, I’m not so sure.
First off, the pass game has been consistently awesome (they ranked fifth nationally a year ago) and Aidan O’Connell is back for his third year as a starter. This, after completing 71 percent of his passes last year. Bell (a third round pick of the Cleveland Browns) is gone at receiver, but the Boilermakers still bring back three of their top four receivers overall. They also return three starters on the offensive line. And while the offense gets most of the credit, the defense actually ranked in the Top 40 nationally a season ago.
More than anything though is the schedule, and there’s no other way to put it: It’s wildly advantageous for the Boilers. Yes, they open with Penn State at home (on the opening Thursday of the season), but avoid Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State from the East, with their other cross-division game coming at Maryland and against Indiana at home. Their three out of conference games are Indiana, at Syracuse and Florida Atlantic, and even in division, they get Iowa and Nebraska at home.
Add in a talented offense, underrated defense and one of the easiest schedules in the Big Ten, and this again feels like an eight-win team to me.
Second best bet: Illinois OVER 4.5 (-125)
What’s my second favorite bet in this division?
I’M BEING SERIOUS!
Yes, I believe that Illinois and the Fightin’ Bret Bielema’s are my second favorite bet of the year.
Remember, this is a team that actually won five games in Bielema’s debut season, upsetting Nebraska and winning at Penn State, in a sloppy game that proved once and for all, the new overtime rule is stupid.
Here’s the catch though, on top of those five wins, Illinois also lost four games by a touchdown or less. Included were three Big Ten games (Maryland, Purdue and Rutgers) all decided by six points or fewer.
Heading into 2022 I’m not going to sit here and lie and say it’s all sunshine and rainbows and three touchdown wins. BUT, they had a Top 30 scoring defense last year, that was surprisingly effective late. That defense held their opponents under 20 points in four of their final five games.
In terms of the schedule, it isn’t easy, but with their first four against Wyoming, Chattanooga, Virginia (with a first-year head coach) and at Indiana, there’s a legitimate chance they can start 4-0. From there, they’d literally need to go 1-7 over their final eight to get to five wins.
Again, I’m not claiming they’re the Kansas City Chiefs here. But can Illinois get to five wins this season? I believe they can.
The stay away of all stay aways: Nebraska Over/Under 7.5
If you listen to the Aaron Torres Podcast, you know my affinity for Nebraska. When I first started watching college football, they basically were what Alabama is now. They were an unbeatable juggernaut.
That’s also what has made the last, oh I don’t know, two decades so tough to watch: It’s been nothing but pain and agony.
On a positive note, I really could see this team finally getting back on track this year. Scott Frost has finally given up play-calling duties, and early returns are that the team is picking up new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s offense. And while schools like USC and LSU get credit as “transfer portal winners,” Nebraska did as well as any of anyone, adding starters across the field including likely quarterback Casey Thompson (Texas) and maybe the best defensive player to hit the portal this off-season, TCU’s Ochaun Mathis.
Still, I can’t reasonably tell you to take the over here, and you and I both know why: Nebraska might just be cursed.
Yes, that sounds like an exaggeration, at least until you look back to last year, where they became the first team in college football history to lose nine games by nine points or less. As Garrett Carr joked earlier in the week, they really were a living, breathing meme come to life.
That included a three-point loss to playoff-bound Michigan, a three-point overtime loss at 11-win Michigan State, a seven-point loss to Big Ten West champ Iowa and a seven-point loss at Oklahoma. Oh, and there was a nine-point loss to Ohio State, where the Cornhuskers were driving late in the fourth to take the lead, only to somehow find a way to lose.
The schedule is there (no Ohio State, Michigan State or Penn State this season) and the personnel is there.
Now it’s up to Scott Frost and the Cornhuskers to win some of these games.
I like them…. BUT: Wisconsin - Over/Under 8.5
For those who can’t remember back to last season, it was really a tale of two seasons for Wisconsin. And it was really a tale of two seasons for their quarterback Graham Mertz.
In the Badgers’ first four games of the season Mertz was absolutely terrible, throwing two touchdowns and six interceptions. Admittedly, it was against three very good teams (Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State), but the Badgers went just 1-3 in that stretch.
Then, in the least surprising news ever, as Mertz got better, so too did the Badgers. Over the final nine games of the season, Mertz wasn’t great, but better, throwing eight touchdowns, compared to just five interceptions, and again, not surprisingly, Wisconsin was better too. They won eight of their final nine, to finish 9-4 overall.
So what can we expect from the Badgers this season? Well, it really depends on what Mertz we get.
The run game will once again be great with Braelon Allen (who rushed for over 1,200 yards last season). And while the defense probably won’t be quite as elite as a season ago (the Badgers, not Georgia, actually finished No. 1 in total defense) they will still be really good.
Still, the combination of Mertz’s turnover problems and a brutal schedule which includes games at Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Nebraska has me staying away from this one.
This feels like an 8-9 win team, which is just enough to get me to stay away.
Total wildcard: Iowa - Over/Under 7.5
At first blush, this over/under seems absurd, doesn’t it? Whatever you think of how Iowa plays (and trust me, we all think the same thing) they are coming off a 10-win season and return 16 combined starters on both sides of the ball.
Because of it, this number feels weirdly low, right?
Still, while it sounds crazy, rather than looking at Iowa’s 10 regular season wins, go ahead and look at how they got them: They got them by forcing an absurd number of turnovers, and with virtually no offense.
Seriously, you think I’m kidding? Let’s dive in.
First, on the offensive side of the ball, would you believe that they finished 121st in total offense a season ago. ONE HUNDRED TWENTY FIRST!!!! And still ended up winning 10 games? What? How?
Well, it was with defense, specifically forcing turnovers. The Hawkeyes forced 31 total turnovers last year, which was third in college football, including a staggering 25 interceptions. That was four more than anyone else in college football. Turnovers of course lead to short fields and easy points, a big reason why the offense was non-existent.
Still, if you listened to the College Football Betting Pod last year, I told you: If teams just stopped turning over the ball against Iowa they would beat them, and that’s exactly what happened. In their four losses a year ago, the Hawkeyes forced a total of four turnovers. In those games, they scored seven, seven, three and 17 points respectively. I’m not great at math, but it also means they forced 27 turnovers in their other 10 games.
Again, I’m a big “regression to the mean” guy, and while I do think some credit goes to coaching and scheme, I also think it’s basically impossible to expect a team to force an average of close to three turnovers per game.
Add that in with the schedule, which includes games at Ohio State, with Wisconsin and Michigan at home, I just can’t bet this team.
Quickly, let’s wrap with the two obvious stay aways (at least in mind) in this division.
Minnesota - Over/Under 7.5
I love PJ Fleck and actually think he’s wildly underrated. In the last two non-Covid seasons in college football, he has won nine and 11 games. If he retired tomorrow, that should be enough to build the man a statue in the Twin Cities.
BUT, while I think this team is actually pretty good coming into the year, a few things concern me. One, the way they play - which is basically, take the air out of the ball, win the time of possession game and win ugly, low-scoring games - puts them in a lot of close games, where a play or two can decide things.
Two, the schedule is just absurd, where they play Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan State and Penn State all on the road.
An argument could be made that four of their five toughest games are away from the Twin Cities. It’s enough to get me to completely stay away.
Northwestern - Over/Under 4 games
A legit argument could be made that Northwestern has the wildest ebbs and flows in college football. In the last four years, they’ve won two Big Ten West titles in 2018 and 2020, and finished 3-9 in 2019 and 2021.
History tells us they’ll be much improved this year, and they have a schedule (which includes Duke, Southern Illinois and Miami (OH) out of conference) to get there.
At the same time, this team wasn’t good on offense (116th nationally) or defense (101st nationally) last year and lost to the likes of Minnesota by 27 and Illinois by 33.
If you’re willing to put down your hard-earned money on a quirky historical trend (Northwestern being good every other year) be my guest. I’ll gladly pass though.
For our SEC East preview - click here
For our SEC West preview - click here
For our Big Ten East preview - click here
Visit DraftKings Sportsbook for all over/under win totals for 2022
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