Conference Division Odds

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Along with South Carolina ‘over’ 5.5 wins, Wisconsin to win the Big Ten West were my two favorite preseason picks last year. I got the Badgers early at even money, although that price eventually sailed well north of -150 by early August.

On that note, I’ve been hoping Wisconsin would be -150 or less when conference division odds came out this summer. I had been unable to locate any division odds until this past Friday (7/20/18) when I saw them at [...] (I’m not sure what day they opened - see below).

Well, no such luck with Paul Chryst’s fourth squad in Madison. [...] has Wisconsin at -227 to win its side of the conference (risk $227 to win $100). I don’t eat ‘chalk’ prices that expensive, but I’m confident it’s going to be a winner.

The Badgers only lost a total of 13 lettermen from a team that finished 13-1 straight up and 9-5 against the spread. They bring back nine starters on offense and four on defense. Remember, UW’s only loss was a 27-21 decision vs. Ohio State at the Big Ten Championship Game. Wisconsin won 11 games by double-digit margins and all 13 victories came by at least eight points.

The schedule is more daunting, however. There are five road assignments that won’t be easy – at Iowa, at Michigan, at Northwestern, at Penn State and at Purdue. However, the Badgers will be favored by double digits in all seven home outings.

According to [...], the Hawkeyes are the second-best team in the Big Ten West with +810 odds to win the loop. The next-shortest odds belong to Nebraska (+925), Northwestern (+1250), Purdue (+1475) and Minnesota (+1575), while Illinois is the 110/1 longshot.

The global website currently has Wisconsin favored by 10 at Iowa, by 12 at Northwestern and by 13.5 at Purdue. The Badgers are three-point underdogs at Michigan and 2.5-point ‘dogs at Penn State.

Kirk Ferentz, the longest-tenured active college football head coach, is entering his 20th season at Iowa. The Hawkeyes avoid Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State from the East, but they must go on the road to face PSU. Nevertheless, that draw certainly works compared to its counterparts in the West.

I believe Northwestern is the second-best team in the division, but only if QB Clayton Thorson is healthy. Thorson, who enters his senior campaign ranked second in school history in career passing yards (7,548), tore his ACL in the first quarter of a Music City Bowl win over Kentucky in late December.

Whether he’ll be ready for a Thursday night season opener at Purdue on Aug. 30 remains a mystery. In fact, it’s unclear if Thorson will take the field at all in September. The Wildcats avoid the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions, but they host Michigan and travel to East Lansing in back-to-back weeks.

Ohio State is the +102 favorite to win the Big Ten East. Michigan has +295 odds, followed by PSU (+475) and Michigan State (+525). Urban Meyer’s team returns seven starters on offense and five on defense from a team that went 12-2 SU and 8-6 ATS.

Michigan believes it has found a QB in Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson, who was a 5-star recruit out of Texas who had a 23/12 TD-INT ratio in 10 starts for the Rebels. The Wolverines went 8-5 SU and 5-8 ATS last year, allowing a 19-3 second-half lead over South Carolina to get away in a 26-19 defeat at the Outback Bowl. They bring back eight starters on offense and nine on defense.

Jim Harbaugh’s gets Wisconsin and PSU at home. In fact, Michigan gets two weeks to prep for James Franklin’s club, while PSU takes on Iowa in Happy Valley the previous weekend. The Wolverines face Sparty and OSU on the road.

Clemson is the largest ‘chalk’ to win any division and its conference. Dabo Swinney’s squad is a -335 favorite to win the ACC Atlantic and a -187 ‘chalk’ to win the ACC. Florida State is +625 to win the Atlantic, followed by Louisville and N.C. State, who both have 23/1 odds.

Miami is the +117 favorite to win the ACC Coastal. The Hurricanes have the second-shortest odds (6/1) to win the league’s title game. Va. Tech has +238 odds to win the Coastal, followed by Ga. Tech (+725) and Duke (+935).

Washington is a -163 favorite to win the Pac-12 North, and much of that has to do with getting Stanford at home. The Cardinal is at +360 to win the North, while Oregon has +520 odds. In the Pac-12 South, USC is the +142 ‘chalk.’ The next-shortest odds belong to Utah (+430), Arizona (+435), UCLA (+690), Arizona State (+950) and Colorado (+950).

Alabama is a -227 favorite to win the SEC West. The Crimson Tide gets its two toughest games – vs. Mississippi State and vs. Auburn – at home inside the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium. [...] has Nick Saban’s team as a double-digit ‘chalk’ in each of its games except for the Iron Bowl. The global website has ‘Bama favored by nine points over the Tigers, who beat the Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium in last year’s regular-season finale.

Gus Malzahn’s squad has +540 odds to win the West. The next-shortest odds belong to Mississippi State (+965), LSU (14/1) and Texas A&M (15/1).

Georgia, last year’s runner-up in the College Football Playoff, is the -188 favorite to win the SEC East. Florida has +485 odds, while South Carolina is at 9/1. I’m all for a small play on the Gamecocks here. Missouri has 11/1 odds to get back to Atlanta for a third time since joining the league.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- UCF senior free safety Tre Neal is transferring to Nebraska to rejoin former coach Scott Frost. Neal is expected to finish classes at UCF in the next week and presuming he graduates, he’ll be eligible right away for the Cornhuskers. Neal started all 13 games for the Knights last season, producing 68 tackles, three interceptions, three passes broken up and two tackles for loss.

-- Bowling Green dismissed a pair of linebackers from its program this past weekend. Armani Posey and Dirion Hutchins are no longer Falcons due to their alleged involvement for the unauthorized use of a school-issued credit card. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Posey recorded 52 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one pass broken up. Hutchins produced 19 tackles, one sack, four QB hurries and 0.5 TFL’s.

-- Ohio State has fired WRs coach Zach Smith, who was arrested on criminal trespassing charges back in May. According to veteran college football reporter Brett McMurphy, Smith was also arrested in 2015 on felony counts of domestic violence and assault. Smith, who has been on Urban Meyer’s staff at OSU since his arrival in 2012, was also on Meyer’s staff at Florida in 2009 when he was arrested on aggravated battery charges on a pregnant victim. His wife at the time, Courtney Smith, declined to press charges in Gainesville.

-- Tennessee has dismissed redshirt freshman DE Ryan Thaxton after his arrest on domestic assault charges.

Conference Division Odds - per [...]
Odds Subject to Change

ACC Atlantic Winner
Clemson -335
Florida State +625
Louisville +2300
North Carolina State +2300
Boston College +2450
Wake Forest +2650
Syracuse +4100

ACC Coastal Winner
Miami Florida +117
Virginia Tech +238
Georgia Tech +725
Duke +935
Pittsburgh +1800
North Carolina +2500
Virginia +4300

Big Ten East Winner
Ohio State +102
Michigan +295
Penn State +475
Michigan State +525
Indiana +12500
Maryland +12500
Rutgers +33000

Big Ten West Winner
Wisconsin -227
Iowa +810
Nebraska +925
Northwestern +1250
Purdue +1475
Minnesota +1575
Illinois +11000

Pac-12 North Winner
Washington -163
Stanford +360
Oregon +520
California +2700
Washington State +3500
Oregon State +13000

Pac-12 South Winner
USC +142
Utah +430
Arizona +435
UCLA +690
Arizona State +950
Colorado +950

SEC East Winner
Georgia -188
Florida +485
South Carolina +900
Missouri +1100
Tennessee +1950
Kentucky +4500
Vanderbilt +6800

SEC West Winner
Alabama -227
Auburn +540
Mississippi State +965
LSU +1400
Texas A&M +1500
Arkansas +8700

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.