Best Bets – Big 10 FuturesLast week it was all about the Big 12 and ACC conferences for the upcoming 2019 CFB season, and this week it's the rest of Power 5 conferences on tap with the Big 10 getting first dibs.
The Big 10 is loaded once again in 2019 with the usual suspects like Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin and Nebraska at the top, but with nine of the 14 teams in the conference lined at season win totals of 7 or more, there are a lot of programs that expect big things from their squads this year. Some of those teams are going to end up falling short because their simply isn't enough wins to go around, and for those that do end up having a chance at the conference crown, the may get there because of scheduling breaks (hosting the best opponents) or on-field breaks (injury avoidance, football bounces etc).
The latter is something we will have to wait and see play out on the field as the season goes on, but dissecting schedules is something we can do now to help with futures prognostications. With that in mind, let's break down the Big 10 conference in the same fashion as the other two, starting with the program that will live up to/exceed expectations this year.
Best Season Win Total Over Bet:
Minnesota Golden Gophers Over 7.5 wins (-110)
PJ Fleck is starting his third season at the helm of this program, and after tremendous success at Western Michigan to get this job, it's time that he starts really producing great years for this program. Minnesota went from 5-7 SU in his first year, to 7-6 SU a season ago, and they should be able to keep those improvements in the win column coming in 2019.
The youth that was served for this program the past two years will start to really pay dividends in 2019, as there is plenty of starting experience littered throughout this roster, and that's always a plus. They've got a dynamic backfield that will be counted on again to carry the workload in Minnesota, and to be able to physically overwhelm bad teams, and keep the offenses of better teams on the sidelines for long periods of time, having a great rushing attack that can produce is a formula for success in this league.
And then we get to the Gophers schedule, which is very beneficial on multiple fronts. The Gophers avoid Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State from the East division, and get to host Penn State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska in what are likely their three toughest conference games on the year. A road trip to Iowa has the potential to be an outright road victory, while road trips to Rutgers, Purdue, and Northwestern should result in at least a 2-1 SU record. Should Minnesota be able to go out west and knock off Fresno State in Week 2, this team could be looking at a 5-0 SU record by the time they host Nebraska on October 12th, and from there, three more wins should be easily attainable.
Once Fleck established a winning program at Western Michigan, they continued to produce winning records each season, and now that he's done the first part of that equation with Minnesota, I believe we see those win totals continue to improve. It's hard to see where five losses will come from for the Gophers, and a win in the season finale home contest against Wisconsin may not even be necessary to cash this wager.
Best Season Win Total Under Bet:
Wisconsin Under 8.5 wins (+110)
Speaking of the Badgers, 2019 has plenty of potential to be a year where they take a step back in this conference, as there is only so much you can rely on RB Jonathan Taylor to do. Finishing with a 8-5 SU record a year ago would have been more then enough to cash an 'under' wager at this number, and the 2019 slate is much tougher from the outset.
Yes, the Badgers have the benefit of plying five straight games at home from early September through early October, but Michigan and Michigan State are two of the opponents coming to town during that stretch, and according to the CFB Games of the Year odds out already, the Badgers are catching 5 points against the Wolverines, and laying just a FG against the Spartans. That could easily be two SU defeats right there, not to mention an Opening Day trip to South Florida which could be a contest that ends up being much harder for the Badgers then the current line (Wisconsin -10.5) suggests.
From there, four of Wisconsin's final six games are on the road, including road trips to Ohio State, Nebraska, and that aforementioned Minnesota game, which are three of the programs projected at that 7 wins or more season win total this year. With home dates against Iowa and Purdue sprinkled in there as well, this schedule is about as tough as they come for a Big 10 West school, and at plus-money odds to see them stumble 4+ times, it's a wager that can't be passed up.
Big 10 Conference Winner Best Bet:
Michigan to win Big 10 (+250)
There are definitely multiple ways to go in terms of Big 10 futures, and after almost settling on/including Michigan State at +1000 odds for this play, it's their hated rivals the Wolverines that should be able to claim their first Big 10 title in 14 years.
HC Jim Harbaugh is continually ripped for his khakis, his coaching methods, and his under-performing teams, but 2019 could be the year he's able to get one over on all his detractors as his team's got a great shot at going the distance in this conference. For one, he keeps his starting QB Shea Patterson for another go-around, and the continuity he's got there is something he's really wished to have for the past few years.
Secondly, thre isn't one of those dastardly rivalry games on the road for Michigan to trip up on this season, as yes, they go to Wisconsin (you already know those thoughts), but they host Iowa, Michigan State, and Ohio State. They've got road dates against Illinois, Maryland, and Indiana, which all could be potential 'flat' spots in terms of ATS wagers – especially that Indiana game sandwiched between Michigan State and Ohio State – but those should still end up in outright victories regardless.
With Harbaugh's club currently laying double digits in those home games against Iowa and Michigan State, and laying -3.5 in their season finale with the Buckeyes, the bounces from the schedule side of things have already gone the Wolverines way. Should they be able to get a little luck on the field for once, and not fall victim to their own hype in a no-show game or two, this football team ends up going to the Big 10 Championship game and blowing the doors off whomever ends up coming out of the West.
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