College Football is right around the corner and I will look to continue my College Previews with a look at the Big 10 Leaders Division. Here are the current Odds (Courtesy of BetOnline) for the Leaders Division this year: Wisconsin (-225); Illinois (+550); Purdue (+1500); Indiana (+2500). Ohio State is ineligible for the Conference Title and Penn State is about to be ineligible as well so their Odds are off the board, but I have included them in the writeups below.
Wisconsin: The Badgers got three big breaks this year. One is the fact that the leagues returning rusher, Montee Ball, turned down the NFL to stay with the Badgers. Montee will be running behind one of the best OL’s in the country. Two is the fact that they landed their second straight QB transfer from the ACC. Danny O’Brien is no Wilson Russell, but he did have a solid 2010, before a coaching change had him take step back last year. The Defense for this team is once again one of the best in the Big 10 and could allow less than the 19 ppg they allowed last year. Break number three is the fact that with OSU still on probation, Penn State facing big penalties and Illinois still a year away, then Wisconsin is pretty much guaranteed a return trip to the Big 10 Title game. KEY TREND—0-9 ATS as road faves of more than 10 vs a sub .500 opponent.
Ohio State: There is no Post season for the Buckeyes this year, so Urban Meyer’s biggest task may be trying to keep his team focused. Still Urban is in a great situation here as he has 15 starters back and low expectations after last year’s losing season. Behind Denard Robinson (Michigan), Braxton Miller is one of the more exciting QB’s in the league in should thrive in Urban’s high octane offense, but they need a go-to WR to step up as the most receptions anyone had last year was 14. Urban has some great defenses at Florida and with 9 starters back he should be fielding one of the top 3 Units in the Big 10. They may not be bowling at the end of the year, but they will still push the Badgers for the Leaders Title. KEY TREND—10-0 ATS when seeking revenge.
Illinois: The Fighting Illini are still a year or two away from serious contention in the Big 10, but with Penn State reeling from all the distractions and Purdue being down, Illinois should finish solidly in third place. Tim Beckman takes over for the Illini and he does have some talent to work with on offense. Nathan Scheelhaase returns at QB and has a solid running game (172 ypg LY) to back him up, but they must replace a first round WR and have a couple of holes on the OL. Defensively they could match or better last year’s 19.6 ppg they allowed, especially with 7 starters back and 11 of their top 15 Tacklers. OSU and Wisconsin are just too good to move up in the standings, but they still should get back to a bowl game and improve on the 2-6 mark they had in the Big 10 last year. KEY TREND—3-12 ATS off a SU loss and facing an opponent that’s seeking revenge.
Purdue: Last year Purdue was 4-4 in the Big 10 and this year they look to have a stronger team than last year’s edition. 8 Starters return to an offense that ws pretty good last year, putting up 26.9 ppg and 377 ypg. Both Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush return at QB and both are capable but the OL has plenty of holes and could hold this unit back some, especially in the early going. The Skill positions have returning talent with their top 5 ballcarriers back and 4 of their top 5 WR’s back. Defensively they struggled last year, but should be improved this year with 7 starters back, including quite possibly the best DT in the nation in Kawann Short. The Schedule is pretty tough and while they are improved I do not see them matching last years 4-4 mark in the Big 10, but they should find a way to get into a bowl game. KEY TREND—7-1 ATS before playing Illinois.
Penn State: The Lions have a lot of problems and at the time of this writing I am unsure of the penalties that will be handed down against them. Making it harder on this team anyway this year is the fact that they return just 9 starters overall. They do bring back QB Matt McGloin, top RB Silas Redd (1242 yards, 7 TD’s), and 4 of their top 5 WR’s, but just 16 lettermen return overall on offense and just 1 starter returns to their OL. It could be hard for them to top last year’s 19.3 ppg they put up. Defensively the Lions will struggle as they bring back just 3 of their top 10 tacklers and just 4 starters overall. They will not allow just 16.8 ppg that they did last year. PSU will not be eligible for a bowl this year and are in clear rebuilding mode and that has me expecting a 5th place finish for them here. KEY TREND— 7-1 ATS off a spread win of 14 or more.
Indiana: Last year the Hoosiers were 1-11 (0-8 in the Big 10) and they were outgained by a whopping 160.9 ypg in Big 10 play so they have a lot of ground to make up. This year 15 starters and 50 lettermen overall return so this will be an improved team. On defense all three ruturn to the line and their whole secondary returns as well, so look for them to put a big dent in the 37.3 ppg they allowed last year. Offensively they have a solid running game with their top 5 ball carriers back and 3 of 5 OL, plus QB Tre Roberson also returns. They should improve on the 21.4 ppg they put up last year. Their winnable games are on the road in the Big 10, while they Face OSU, Mich State, Wisconsin and Iowa at home, so they could be looking at another 0-8 showing in the big 10. KEY TREND— 2-13 ATS before playing Purdue.
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