It will almost be November by the time the Big Ten kicks off its football season, but we’ve finally made it.
Let’s look at the odds to win the conference at a few of Illinois’ best online sportsbooks, followed by a general preview.
Big Ten football conference winner odds
Reminder: You can’t bet on Illinois teams in Illinois
In case you weren’t aware, Illinois regulations say that it is illegal to bet on in-state teams.
While Northwestern and Illinois aren’t exactly powerhouses this year, that’s why you don’t see them above. The Fighting Illini are projected to be one of the worst teams in the Big Ten anyway, but the Wildcats are expected to finish middle of the pack.
At William Hill New Jersey, for instance, Illinois is +10,000 to win the Big Ten. Northwestern is +7,500.
Therefore, Illinois sports bettors can’t bet on those teams’ games all season, either.
This could be especially annoying once basketball season rolls around, as the Fighting Illini are considered a national title contender.
Ohio State a clear favorite
Ohio State finds itself in a familiar place atop the odds boards, but its competition isn’t as stiff as usual.
The conversation starts with junior quarterback Justin Fields, perhaps the best QB in college football not named Trevor Lawrence.
Fields threw for 3,273 yards, 41 touchdowns and three interceptions in 2019. And Ohio State was a bounce away from reaching the national championship game.
The Buckeyes lost running back J.K. Dobbins to the Baltimore Ravens, but Master Teague and Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon should fill in just fine.
Ohio State also has a top-tier offensive line, led by projected first-round pick Wyatt Davis. The offense is loaded, as usual.
There are more questions on defense, as the Buckeyes lost Chase Young, Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette to the NFL. But stud cornerback Shaun Wade is back after previously opting out of the season, and Ohio State recruits as well as anyone.
There’s not a ton of offensive firepower around the Big Ten this season, so OSU should have ample time to figure things out on that side while the offense (presumably) is a juggernaut.
Penn State, Wisconsin occupy next tier
Penn State and Wisconsin both look solid on paper going into the season. And there’s a big drop off after the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions and Badgers.
Penn State All-American linebacker Micah Parsons opted out due to COVID-19, but there’s a lot to like about James Franklin’s squad.
The Nittany Lions return eight starters on offense, including quarterback Sean Clifford. PSU was expected to take a step back last year after losing Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders, but it went 11-2 instead.
Penn State lost star receiver K.J. Hamler to the NFL. But in a normal year, this team could win double-digit games.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, is fresh off a 10-win season and a Rose Bowl appearance.
The Badgers had to reload in the offseason, though. So the faith in Wisconsin is largely based on its recent track record of consistency and success.
The formula is the same as usual: run the ball, play good defense, limit mistakes. Wisconsin lost three starting offensive linemen to the NFL, so its depth will be tested there.
Jonathan Taylor is also now an Indianapolis Colt. While it’s easy to picture Wisconsin mashing opponents on the ground in November and beyond, there will be plenty of new faces playing key roles in Madison.
After the top three, it’s a crapshoot. Michigan looks low at first glance, but it’s in a transition year. Minnesota will look to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke, while Iowa is always a candidate to outperform preseason expectations.
Minnesota and Iowa each won double-digit games last season.
Week 1 Big Ten lines
Here are the game lines Illinoisans can bet on, so Northwestern and Illinois aren’t listed.
Lines are from DraftKings Sportsbook:
- Nebraska at Ohio State (-27.5, 66.5)
- Rutgers at Michigan State (-12.5, 46.5)
- Penn State (-6.5, 58.5) at Indiana
- Iowa (-3.5, 51.5) at Purdue
- Michigan (-3.5, 54.5) at Minnesota