A lot is up in the air about the 2020 college football season -- will it happen? if it does, when will it happen? where will it happen? -- but that's not stopping Vegas from setting odds for the fall. SuperBookUSA released odds for the Big Ten title race, so let's take a peek.
Ohio State is, to no one's surprise, a massive favorite. Ohio State romped through the regular season last year at 12-0 and won the Big Ten Championship Game over Wisconsin before falling to Clemson in the College Football Playoff. They're set to return several key players from that team, including QB Justin Fields and much of the offense. Given their recent track record, it's no shock that they're prohibitive favorites.
Penn State and Wisconsin have the next-best odds, at 7/1, followed by Michigan and Minnesota at 16/1. Penn State and Michigan have the unenviable task of getting by Ohio State in order to win the Big Ten East (as well as beating each other). Wisconsin has won the Big Ten West in four of the last six seasons; winning the division is obviously pretty crucial to winning a conference title. Minnesota's 16/1 odds are probably the most surprising among those top five contenders, but the Gophers did go 11-2 last season and return a star QB (Tanner Morgan) and one of his favorite targets (WR Rashod Bateman). Wisconsin is the old reliable team in the West, while Minnesota is the buzzy new sensation.
Michigan's 16/1 odds also seem a bit eyebrow-raising, given that they have to replace a lot of players from last year's team and they have some tricky games on their schedule -- in addition to their regular divisional games against the likes of Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State, they have crossover games against the two favorites in the Big Ten West (Wisconsin and Minnesota), and they're currently set to open the season with a non-conference road game at Washington. Their 16/1 odds feel like a reflection of the Michigan brand name more than anything else.
Speaking of brand names... hello, Nebraska at 30/1! As we know, Vegas is more than happy to help Nebraska fans part with their money. Nebraska hasn't won more than five games since 2016, they drew Ohio State and Penn State as crossover opponents, and their schedule is viciously back-loaded (their final five games: at OSU, PSU, at Iowa, at Wisconsin, Minnesota) -- but, sure, give them the third-best odds to win the Big Ten West.
As far as Iowa goes, 50/1 seems pretty reasonable. Iowa is going to have to replace multiple key players from the 2019 team (such as Nate Stanley, Tristan Wirfs, AJ Epenesa, Geno Stone, and Michael Ojemudia) and they're going to be doing so without the benefit of spring practices. Not ideal for a program that relies so heavily on training and development. They also got a pretty rough draw in terms of crossover opponents, with three straight games against Big Ten East foes in October: a home game with Michigan State on 10/3, followed by back-to-back road trips to Ohio State and Penn State on 10/10 and 10/17. Iowa hasn't won the Big Ten West since 2015 and, frankly, if Kirk Ferentz is able to pull it off in 2020, it will probably go down as one of his finest coaching efforts at Iowa.
Speaking of crossover opponents, here's how they break down for the Big Ten West teams:
|TEAM||GM 1||GM 2||GM 3|
|Iowa||Michigan State (10/3)||at Ohio State (10/10)||at Penn State (10/17)|
|Wisconsin||Indiana (9/4)||at Michigan (9/26)||at Maryland (10/24)|
|Minnesota||at Maryland (10/3)||Michigan (10/17)||at Michigan State (10/31)|
|Nebraska||at Rutgers (10/24)||at Ohio State (10/31)||Penn State (11/7)|
|Purdue||Rutgers (10/10)||at Michigan (10/24)||at Indiana (11/28)|
|Northwestern||at Michigan State (9/5)||at Penn State (9/26)||Maryland (10/17)|
|Illinois||at Rutgers (10/3)||at Indiana (11/14)||Ohio State (11/21)|
Because of the way the Big Ten's schedule rotation works, this is a year where all Big Ten West teams play two road games against Big Ten East opponents (next year they'll all host two games against East foes). No one drew the Maryland-Rutgers two-fer, but Wisconsin got a pretty friendly Indiana-Maryland double dip and avoided Ohio State and Penn State, which is pretty fortuitous. Minnesota doesn't get Indiana or Rutgers, but they also miss both Penn State and Ohio State, which is a huge benefit. Both Iowa and Nebraska play Ohio State and Penn State, which is probably a big reason for their weaker B1G title odds. Iowa is the only West team that doesn't play Indiana, Rutgers, or Maryland.
Any thoughts on the odds? Who's look too high? Too low? Too good to be true?