2008 Big Ten Preview

by Lenny Del Genio

Our last conference preview focused on the Big East, a conference that has yet to send a team to the BCS Title game but boasts one, possibly two, threats this year.   Our next conference of focus, the Big Ten, could probably tell the Big East to be careful what you wish for considering the previous two BCS Title Game results.  Ohio State, once again the prohibitive favorite to wear the Big Ten crown, has been clobbered by an SEC team both times and its apparent that this conference is certainly now a step below the SEC, Big 12, and possibly even the Pac 10.

That being said, the Buckeyes are loaded this year returning 19 starters from a team that finished the regular season #1 in the polls.  As I mentioned in my Fave Five article, OSUs one and only impediment to a third consecutive national title game is a road date with USC on 9/13.  The Trojans will be favored, but the Bucks have the experience.  Since 1991, OSU is 11-2 vs. the Pac 10, including the bowls.

What about some of the Buckeyes other tests?  A trip to Madison to face the Wisconsin Badgers might be one to circle.  Ohio State hasnt beaten the Badgers in back-to-back years since 95 and 96.  Last year, they were trailing Wisky at home 17-10 before rallying for 28 unanswered.

Purdue is a joke as Ohio State has beaten them 13 of 14 in Columbus, including six straight.  Tressels team is 32-2 vs. Northwestern since 1964.  Illinois is a major revenge game after last years 28-21 loss in Champaign.   Penn State has never won in Columbus since joining the conference nor have they beaten a ranked team on the road since 2002.  Of course, Tressel is 6-1 vs. rival Michigan, including 3 for 3 at home.  They get the Wolverines in Columbus on 11/22. 

So, now that weve established that Ohio State is head and shoulders above the rest of the fray, lets take a look at some other potentially profitable betting situations in the Big Ten.

Last years 38-7 win by Penn State over Wisconsin was the largest margin of victory in the history of the series.  Everyone will likely focus on the revenge angle with this years meeting shifting to Madison and they should as the home team has won four straight in this series.  We are also paying attention to the total though as the average combined score is just 37 PPG in series history.

One team Wisconsin has no trouble with is Indiana.  They are 9-2 L11 vs. Hoosiers, winning by an average of 25 PPG.  They draw IU, in Bloomington, on 11/8.

Home teams have had a lot of success in the Iowa/Michigan State series.  The home team is 8-0 since 1996 when these teams meet with the average win coming by 16 PPG.  The Spartans host the Hawkeyes on 10/4.  That may not bode well for Kirk Ferentzs team, but hosting Purdue in the home finale does.  Home teams are 9-1-1 in this series since 1993 with the average win by 15 PPG. 

Michigan is going to have a down year in Rich Rodriguezs debut campaign.  This may be the year Joe Paterno finally gets by the Wolverines as his nine-game losing streak to the Maize and Blue is a career worst to any team.

Illinois is also coming back to the pack following a successful 2007.  Note they are just 1-13 in Big Ten openers since 1993 with the only win coming against Indiana.  They draw Penn State in this situation this year. 

Trivia time: Indiana (1968) and Minnesota (1961) clearly have the longest Rose Bowl droughts amongst the current conference reps.  Who is #3?  That would be Michigan State who has not played in the big game since 1988.   They wont put an end to that this year, but we do like them against Eastern Michigan on 9/6.  The Spartans have won all seven meetings with the average margin of victory at 30 PPG.  Theyve also won nine straight home openers by an average of 20 PPG.

Northwestern dominates MAC teams as well, having won five straight by an average of 13 PPG.  They draw Ohio on 9/20. 

Purdue isnt likely to be very good, but they can at least rely on Minnesota to beat up on.  Under Joe Tiller, they are 8-1 vs. the Gophers and have never scored less than 27 points in any game.
Speaking of Minnesota, they are 0-11 vs. Michigan in the Metrodome with the average loss coming by 28 PPG.  

Indiana at Penn State on 11/22 looks like a laugher.  The Hoosiers have never beaten the Nittany Lions and have been outscored by 17 PPG.  Also, IU is 1-26 the week prior to the Purdue game. 

Good luck, Lenny