Stuckey’s Favorite 2019 Big Ten Win Totals, Futures
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke
- Stuckey has already gotten action down on Big Ten futures.
- He highlights his three favorite win totals and explores whether Ohio State or Michigan are worth betting to win the national title.
My colleague Collin Wilson and I recently discussed every Big Ten win total on The Action Network Podcast.
In that episode, I mentioned a number of win totals I already bet and thought I’d share my thoughts for those who missed the episode or are just looking for a recap.
Let’s start with my three favorite win totals before diving into the Michigan or Ohio State argument. I’ll also conclude with my thoughts on each of the other nine Big Ten win totals.
Favorite Big Ten Win Totals
Michigan State Over 8 Wins (-110)
Death, taxes and Mark Dantonio bounce-back seasons.
Michigan State won only seven games last season. That’s happened four previous times under head coach Mark Dantonio. In each of the four following seasons, the Spartans won at least nine games, averaging 10.75 wins.
But be advised: someone’s falling in love early this year…
— The Action Network Podcast (@ActionNetPod) July 29, 2019
Last year, the Spartans went 1-3 in games decided by four points or less. Don’t put any of the blame for those close losses on the defense, which gave up a total of 42 points in those four games, including single digits in two losses.
That defense, which was the best in the country last season against the run, should be outstanding in that department once again. MSU only loses three defensive starters and is loaded at all three levels. This will be one of the best units in college football — and that elite run defense will come in handy against a very run-heavy schedule.
The biggest reason for Michigan State’s struggles last year was the anemic offense. However, there are plenty of reasons for optimism in East Lansing.
First of all, horrible injury luck on the offensive side of the ball definitely played a part. But quarterback Brian Lewerke should be back healthy under center and you have to expect some positive regression in the injury department this year.
Not only did MSU deal with QB health issues, it simply couldn’t move the ball on the ground. The offensive line was horrid but all five starters do return, so that group should improve as a whole.
Connor Hayward will likely begin the season at starting running back, but the rushing attack can become more explosive this season with some of the young blood in the mix with Anthony Williams, La’Darius Jefferson and Brandon Wright.
Lastly, I think the offense will benefit from the offseason staff restructure, primarily the the promotion of Brad Salem to offensive coordinator. Dave Warner and Jim Bollman, who were moved to position coaches, simply weren’t getting the job done as co-coordinators.
Michigan State’s Big Ten schedule is definitely difficult with a trio of road trips to Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin. However, it has a very favorable non-conference slate, which doesn’t feature any trips to the west coast where MSU is 0-13 all-time.
The Spartans should start out 3-0 with a very good shot of 5-0 heading into Columbus — where they will look to avenge a 48-3 loss at the hands of Ohio State last year — the worst of Dantonio’s career.
In Dantonio we trust.
Penn State Under 8.5 Wins (-120)
Bottom line: this just isn’t a nine win team.
Not only did the Nittany Lions lose star quarterback Trace McSorely to the NFL draft, they also lost backup Tommy Stevens, who transferred to Mississippi State.
Speaking of Mississippi State, that’s where former PSU offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead now resides as head coach. Yes, he likely played a major role in getting Stevens to Starkville, but more importantly, the offense in Happy Valley suffered tremendously after Moorhead’s departure.
It’s just not the same efficient and explosive scheme under new OC Ricky Rahne. In 2017, PSU ranked in the top 10 in every single major S&P+ offensive category. That was not the case last year when the Nittany Lions finished 36th in Offensive S&P+, including a finish outside of the top 60 in Passing S&P+.
Look no further than the drop in McSorley’s production in his senior year under Rahne.
The defense should be stellar across the board, especially at linebacker, but the offense could really struggle. A number of offseason transfers also make you wonder if something else is going on with the program.
In regards to the schedule, Penn State has six very winnable home games, so let’s give it six wins. The question then becomes can James Franklin’s bunch go .500 in the other six games to get to nine wins?
- at Maryland
- at Iowa
- vs. Michigan
- at Michigan State
- at Minnesota
- at Ohio State
I’m betting no — and that’s assuming they don’t get upset at home by the likes of Pittsburgh or Purdue.
Remember this team went to overtime at home last year against Appalachian State, probably should’ve lost at home to Iowa and lost back-to-back home games against Ohio State and a decimated Michigan State squad.
This is an eight-win team if things don’t fall apart. Since I make the number 7.7, I bet the under 8.5.
Minnesota Over 7.5 Wins (-130)
I love this Gopher squad and actually think they could win the wide-open, wild West division to get to the Big Ten Championship Game.
Let’s start with the schedule. Minnesota avoids all three big boys in Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. The Gophers also get the two favorites in the wild, wild West (Nebraska and Wisconsin) at home.
The Gophers also get Penn State and two other winnable conference games against Illinois and Maryland all at TCF Bank Stadium. That leaves a road conference schedule of Rutgers, Iowa, Northwestern and Purdue. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Minnesota is loaded with talent at the skill positions on offense. The quarterback play was inconsistent last year but that was expected with two true freshmen. If one of Zack Annexstad or Tanner Morgan steps up this year and the left tackle spot is solidified, this offense has unlimited potential.
The defense was horrid most of last year until a late season defensive coordinator change did wonders in fixing the problems Minny had with allowing explosive ways. Expect that momentum to continue this year. The secondary in particular could be special with Antoine Winfield Jr. back healthy.
I do worry about field goal kicking after the departure of Emitt Carpenter, but that won’t stop me from rowing the boat and rolling with PJ Fleck here.
Michigan or Ohio State?
Depending on where you look, either one of these two college football powerhouses could be the betting favorite to win the Big Ten.
Ohio State has dominated this rivalry in recent years, beating its rival Michigan every year since 2011.
I know the Buckeyes have won at least 11 games for seven straight seasons, but the loss of head coach Urban Meyer looms large. I also think this is a very tricky schedule with a new quarterback under center and a new defensive system.
Yes, nine starters return on the defense but it’s still a unit that was one of the worst in the nation at stopping explosiveness last season.
I love this Michigan team — maybe a little too much. But I think this is the year the Wolverines finally beat Ohio State and appear in their first ever Big Ten Championship Game. (Seriously, Michigan has never been to one!)
The Wolverines lost a lot of production on defense but I have no worries about them reloading on that side of the ball. And I think this is the year they could potentially have an offense that can complement the defense.
The hiring of Josh Gattis as offensive coordinator could end up being the most impactful hire of the offseason. Transitioning to a no-huddle, pro-style spread offense should suit quarterback Shea Patterson perfectly.
Lack of offensive innovation has really held back Jim Harbaugh at Michigan but he now has the right guy in place to turn that opportunity area into a strength.
The Michigan schedule is tough but its three toughest games (Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State) will all be in Ann Arbor. If the Wolverines can pass an early season test against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium, look out!
If I had to choose, I’d roll with Michigan Over 10.5 (+150) win and Ohio State Under 10 wins. However, neither are too far off of my projections. I actually prefer the upside of Michigan futures — both to win the Big Ten (+160) and national championship (14-1).
Other Big Ten Win Total Betting Thoughts
I want no part of either Purdue (Over 7 +100) or Indiana (Over 6.5 +110) — as I think both will likely come down to the final game of the season when these two teams meet. Circle that as a major revenge spot for Indiana after Purdue won that finale in each of the past two years to prevent the Hoosiers from gaining bowl eligibility.
Purdue should have an explosive passing attack but there are major questions at running back, along the offensive line and on defense.
I thought I’d definitely be betting the Nebraska Under 8.5 — but it actually looks fair considering the favorable schedule and expected improvements in the second year under head coach Scott Frost and new schemes on both sides of the ball. That said, my sentiment could change if the Husker love drives this to 9 before the season.
The Wisconsin (Over 8 -130) win total looks spot-on to me. The Badgers have an absurd crossover Big Ten schedule with Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Road trips to South Florida, Nebraska and Northwestern could also prove tricky.
Even with all of the offensive line departures, the Badgers offense could surprise if the quarterback position works out to go along with stud running back Jonathan Taylor. However, there are still potential gaps on the other side of the ball.
After mulling over the Rutgers (Under 3 +100) win total, I think the under probably hits. I only see three realistic home wins on the schedule against UMass, Maryland and Liberty. Although, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Scarlet Knights lost any or even each of those three. But since my numbers make the win total exactly three, I’ll pass.
You have to chuckle at the Northwestern win total of just 6, considering the Wildcats are 15-1 over their past 16 regular season Big Ten games. The defense should be solid and keep them in most games, but you’d think regression in those close games looms. Ultimately, this number looks about right, but I’d bet the under if you forced me to choose.
There is a lot of change in College Park, from the roster to the staff, which makes Maryland Over 3.5 (-140) one of the tougher Big Ten teams to handicap in the preseason. I want no part of this win total, as I’ll be watching this team very closely early on to figure out where exactly the Terps stand.
Iowa (Over 7.5 -130) is not a play — unless I can find a flat 8 — in which case I’d bet the under. The defense and trenches should be solid but the road schedule is vicious with trips to Iowa State, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Even if the Hawkeyes avoid any upsets, they’d have to win three of those five to get to nine wins.
Believe it or not, Illinois (Over 4.5 +100) is a tad low compared to my numbers but not enough to warrant a play. The Illini really should start out 3-0 and get a fourth win against Rutgers at home. So, the question then becomes can they get another conference win? It may come down to the finale against Northwestern in Champaign.