Earlier in the week, we broke down the win total props for Big 10 teams Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan. The online sportsbook 5Dimes has already released win totals for 31 college football teams, including five from the Big 10. We grouped the aformentioned Big 10 teams in a post together because the odds for the likely conventional wisdom play had been jacked up with some serious juice. For example, the Over 8.5 on Wisconsin comes at a -260 cost, the third most expensive price on the board, and bets on the public play for all three rank in the top-10 as far as heavy juice is concerned. It was a good post. You should go back and read it. Do it now. We’ll wait.
Are you finished? Great. Alright, carrying on…..
If you want to bet a Big 10 team’s win total, but arent interested in heavy juice or long odds on a contrarian play, there are a couple plays. Both Michigan State and Nebraska have win totals set at Over/Under 8.5. And each side pretty much carries standard juice, maybe a little extra on the chalk side, but not enough that would make me back off the play if I was interested in it. So, lets wrap up our look at the conference win totals available and take a look at the Spartans and Cornhuskers.
Michigan State, Over/Under 8.5 wins. Over, -130; Under +110
Here’s the thing with Michigan State’s projected football season. I would, on the last day of May, put money on both MSU winning their final three games of the season as well as entering the Michigan grudge match with an unblemished 7-0 record. I wouldn’t need much prodding on the former, but maybe there’s a little hyperbole on the latter. I would need some nice payout odds, but hardly longshot ones, to pull the trigger on any hypothetical MSU will enter the Michigan game undefeated bet. But I think its close to a 50/50 proposition. And the fact that I think strong MSU runs to start and end the season are plausible makes taking the Over 8.5 regular season wins for the Spartans a possible play.
Its not a creampuff first half of the season. There are all sorts of red letter events. Boise State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and, until last year, a recent Spartan program bugaboo, Iowa. But all those games are at home, in Spartan Stadium, where MSU ran the tables last year, own a 14-game winning and are 29-6 under Mark Dantonio. With Boise St totally rebuilding on both sides of the ball, Notre Dame seemingly average and Iowa appearing to be on a downslide, you have the like the Spartans’ chances at going at least 3-1 in those games. This isnt to say they cant beat Ohio State. Hardly. But when assessing win total props, sometimes its prudent to not give the team a win in every swing game in order to measure just how difficult the oddsmaker’s bar will be to clear. We will go ahead and greenlight wins at Central Michigan and at home vs Eastern Michigan and Indiana during this first half stretch. They’re already favored by 7 points in the Boise opener. They very well could be chalk in all of their first seven games.
Lets give MSU a 6-1 mark after seven games. Then, the slate turns nasty with back-to-back roadies against Michigan and Wisconsin. Let’s paint a worst case scenario and hang losses on the Spartans in both contests. This is where that juicy closing three-game stretch comes into play. As stated above, I really dig MSU’s chances at closing 3-0 with home games against Nebraska and Northwestern and a trip to Minnesota in the finale. They get those home games as expected, then the Over/Under 8.5 wins comes down to a match against Minnesota, projected to be one of the worst teams in the league in 2012. Now it wont be a walkover for the Spartans. The MSU/Minnesota contests have been quite fun the last two years. The Gophers ambushed them in a high scoring affair in 2010 and a year ago, in another game played into the 30s by both sides, the Gophers nearly sprung another upset trying to derail MSU’s division hopes. So who knows, maybe this will be another entertaining game? But I do feel any way you play out their season, MSU has an excellent shot at being at least 8-3 heading into that Minnesota finale with the win total prop being decided by that outcome.
Nebraska, Over/Under 8.5 wins. Over -130; Under +110
Like a lot of Big 10 fans, I am still feeling my way around the Nebraska football program. And, I dont know really what to expect out of them in Year 2 of their Big 10 experience. I know that I wasnt very impressed with Year 1. They pretty much got worked over in almost every important game they played last year. Michigan and Wisconsin each hammered them by at least four touchdowns. South Carolina crushed them in the bowl game. They lost to Northwestern at home. And Nebraska was down big against Ohio State until Braxton Miller got hurt and the Buckeyes were forced to go with Joe Bauserman at QB the whole second half. The only time Nebraska graced us with 60 minutes of vintage Cornhusker football was their impressive 24-3 win over Michigan State. But I can explain that away. MSU was coming off back-to-back emotionally charged home wins over Michigan and Wisconsin. It didnt matter what stadium the Spartans were visiting that day, they were in letdown mode. They couldnt have played worse, and Nebraska took advantage. In the end, it says something that your best win of the season comes about because the other team laid their stinkiest egg of the season more than anything else.
I just dont have a lot of good feelings right now towards Nebraska. Tyler Martinez throws like a JV high school quarterback, might be the worst returning QB in the league and generally drives his own fanbase up the wall with his wobbly, moonball throws. Rex Burkhead might be the most overrated productive back in the league. Give me Fitz Toussaint or Levon Bell every time. And while the defense had its share of star power a year ago, I dont think they really played all that well. Lavonte David was a tackle machine, but he sure was easy to block out of the way, be it against Fresno or Michigan. And now a lot of those Blackshirt stars from a year ago are gone. Has any Big 10 team lost as much star power from its stop troops as Nebraska has the last three seasons? We didnt see vintage Nebraska D a year ago, and I dont know how much of it we’re going to see this fall.
Speaking of this fall, lets get down to the schedule. The non conference slate isnt totally cushy, nor is it a bear. They’ll walk all over Idaho St in Week 4, but the three games leading up to it, Southern Miss, at UCLA and Arkansas State, are kind of tricky. But lets grant Nebraska wins in all of those. Going to the Rose Bowl might be a trap, but if any team can produce worse QB play than Martinez, I have faith its the Bruins. So if you give Nebraska a 4-0 record out of the game, they just need a winning Big 10 mark to hit this over. They went 5-3 in the league a year ago, and matching that record nabs this over. But can they? Even though I am not sold on this team, I also dont think they’ll implode to .500 or worse in league play. But on the other hand, other than their home game with Minnesota, I dont really feel super comfortable granting them any automatic wins in the Big 10. Yes, they get Wisconsin and Michigan at home, but after losing by a combined 61 points a year ago to the Badgers and Wolverines, we cant just give them wins here, despite home field. They’re going to have big problems in Columbus and East Lansing. And, again, they lost to Northwestern at home a year ago, so even penciling a W in Evanston seems sketchy. For all we know, the Huskers are the new Iowa and Northwestern will continue to have success in this series. Despite all that, they could end up in the same scenario as MSU above. They could cobble enough wins to maybe be 8-3 heading into the finale, which, for Nebraska, is at Iowa this year. Here’s the deal. I dont think Nebraska will go over this total before that game. So, if you’re thinking of biting on the Over 8.5, you’re going to need a win in the finale. So ask yourself, on the last day of May, do you trust Nebraska walking into Iowa City–where the Hawks annually are a tough out–and coming out with a win. Maybe my mind will change through continued summer analysis, but right now, I’m not interested in buying that.