This weekend’s Nebraska-Wisconsin is both historic in that its the Huskers first ever Big 10 Conference Game and high stakes in that it pits the two divisional favorites going head to head to begin the league season. Take the over on number of times ‘possible Big 10 Championship Preview’ is said between now and kickoff. But, the game is also a lesson in the value of getting in on a game early and why betting on games of the year in the summertime is wise strategy.
Back in August, when the regular season still seemed like miles away, the Badgers were short, but manageable 3-point chalk in this tilt with the Huskers. A week ago, I noticed the line had been raised to Wisconsin -6. Today? Three days from kickoff and the line has ballooned all the way up to Wisconsin -9, and I’ve seen it as high as 9.5 or 10, depending on which Book you’re visiting. If you are a Badger supporter this weekend, those numbers are sobering. I bet (no, really, I do) you’d love have a Wisconsin -3 ticket in your pocket right now. Your punishment for wanting to take the Badgers in this game and waiting this long to pull the trigger is a price thats mushroomed nearly a full touchdown. And you have to lay an obscene amount of points now, an unprecedented amount of chalk for the Badgers to eat in a game like this. In the last decade, Wisconsin has played a ranked foe 35 times. They’ve been an underdog in 28 of those contests. In the contests they were chalk, they never were laying more than 4 points, and that instance was way back in 2001 when Wisco was -4 against the David Carr led Fresno State team.
Laying nearly double digits to a top-10 foe seems steep for the Badgers, but its indicative of how much the betting public loves this team right now. All their lines from the summer for games yet to be played have seen significant shifts in their favor. Either everybody loves the Badgers. Or hates the rest of the Big 10. Probably a lot of both. Regardless of the true reasons, all the lines on their future games on the betting board have shifted to include at least an extra field goal worth of chalk. Before the season began, the Badgers were 3-point road chalk at Michigan State and Ohio State. Now, they are 7-point favorites in both contests. They were -6 for their November clash with Illinois in Champagne in a game that now looks to be dripping with postseason implications. Today they Badgers are -11 in that game. The biggest line movement was reserved for their season at Camp Randall against Penn State. The Badgers were already hefty 9.5-point favorites against the Nittany Lions per the summer line, but a month into the season that line has moved beyond two full touchdowns to -15.5. Clearly the time to bet the Badgers was August because as October hits the value is gone, the cat is out of the bag and the chalk is heavier. Considering the Badgers have yet to play a legit FBS team, I wonder why people are so 100 percent convinced on this team. Gut feeling? The Badgers cover a lot of those August lines, but not a lot of the current ones. Something to keep in mind.
What about the rest of the Big 10? How have those odds changed. Let’s take a quick look at some of the other future lines. One caveat: I wont be looking at Michigan in this post. I’ll breakdown the future games on the board for the Wolverines for an MGoDiary later today. Well, probably tonight. For sure, by tomorrow, though.
Its been hard to say nice things about the Big 10 this year. Outside of Wisconsin, it seems there is reason to ding just about every other team in the league during this first month. Probably the other other team to acquit itself well, open eyes and make people radically shift their expectations for them are the Illinois Fighting Illini. Everybody took notice of them after they crunched Arizona State in Week 3. They have a physical, fast defense and, as always, seem to dial up playmakers at the tailback position whenever they want. The public loves the Illini, right? Actually, no. They dont. Illinois only had three lines of the summer Games Of The Year board, but despite their strong September and marquee win over a Pac-12 contender, people appear to be lining up on the other side. I mentioned to Wisconsin line growing from 6 to 11, even though the game is in Champagne. With the public and pundit love for Wisconsin these days, thats no surprise. But, the Michigan line going from Illinois to -3 to Michigan -1 seems premature. While their game with Minnesota going from Illinois -9 to Illinois -7 just makes no sense. Who in the world is betting on Minnesota right now?
As for newcomer Nebraska, the odds shifts have not been that great beyond the Wisconsin game. There has some longterm movement, however, on the Ohio State showdown in Lincoln next weekend. The line was -12 for Nebraska over the summer, settled in at -10.5 during most of September, but today is available at -9.5. The Cornhuskers have gone from -3 at Penn State to -4 and from -12 at home vs Iowa to -12.5. The Cornhuskers were -5.5-point chalk against Michigan and that line has seen a significant change. But, that’s for the MGoDiary. OH YEAH, CLIFFHANGER, BABY!!!!
The only other non-Michigan lines were Ohio State going from -4 at home vs Penn State to -5 and the Iowa/Michigan State game. That game was a pick ‘em in the summer and remains as such. Basically, the oddsmakers cant figure out what to do with either of those teams and are sticking with their initial thoughts. Or, maybe its just nobody is even paying attention to that game and its not seeing any action. Probably that.
As for the conference title chase, we’ve had some major shuffling from what the preseason odds were before the season started. Way back when, Wisconsin and Nebraska were veritable co-favorites with the Badgersat +175 to win the league and the Huskers at +150. Technically speaking, this made Nebraska the preseason favorite. Three days before the first conference games are kicked off in anger, Wisconsin has become the legit chalk at -140 (You would need to wager $140 to win $100 on Wisco) and Nebraska has fallen to +250 (A $100 play on the Huskers would net $250). The deck beyond them has changed dramatically. In August the board after thos two read as follows: Penn State +400, Ohio State +500, Michigan State +800, Iowa +1500, Northwestern +1500, Michigan +1600, Illinois +2000 with Purdue, Minnesota and Indiana as long, long shots. Those three schools have become even longer shots. But the pecking order behind Wisconsin and Nebraska now reads: Michigan +800, Ohio State +1000, Michigan State +1200, Illinois +1600, Penn State +1800, Iowa +2000, Northwestern +4000.
One month into the season and the Wolverines have gone 8th most likely to win the league to third most likely to win based on the updated odds. That’s a pretty good spot to leave this post while whetting your appetite on the Michigan-centric breakdown of their new odds for later today.