By Dan Kilbridge | | 10 mins
Big Ten Football Odds & Tips For Unprecedented 2020 Season
A Big Ten season long-considered unlikely to happen at all is about to get underway.
Having originally cancelled the season entirely, the conference regrouped and voted on an eight-game regular season and an additional “champions week” that will serve as the de facto conference title game Dec. 19.
Ohio State is heavily favored to win the conference and looking for a fourth consecutive Big Ten championship. The Buckeyes are a whopping -400 to win the shortened slate and expected to represent the East Division during champions week, in which the two division leaders face off for the title. All teams will play a ninth game that week with the second-ranked East team playing the second-ranked West team and so on.
Here’s a complete look at Big Ten conference championship futures betting odds, key dates, Heisman Trophy odds, conference betting tips and more.
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Big Ten Football Odds 2020
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Current odds: -400
Last season: 13-1, 1st in East Division (9-5 Against the Spread)
This season: Junior quarterback Justin Fields is back to lead an OSU team with serious national title aspirations. The Buckeyes are +300 to win it all behind only Clemson and Alabama in the latest NCAA football title odds.
Current odds: +550
Last season: 11-2, 2nd in East Division (7-6 ATS)
This season: The Nittany Lions lost star linebacker Micah Parsons to the 2020 NFL Draft and may be without starting running back Journey Brown, who reportedly will miss time due to an undisclosed injury. But returning quarterback Sean Clifford was solid last season, and Penn State has the sixth-best national title odds at +3300.
Current odds: +600
Last season: 10-4, 1st in West Division (8-6 ATS)
This season: Quarterback Jack Coan is out indefinitely after undergoing foot surgery. The Badgers’ schedule is very manageable, and if he’s not back for a Nov. 18 game at Michigan, the Badgers are hoping he’ll be in the mix for a Nov. 28 home game against Minnesota. Wisconsin has the ninth-best national title odds at +5000.
Current odds: +2000
Last season: 9-4, 3rd in East Division (7-6 ATS)
This season: Jim Harbaugh’s seat is warming up as the Wolverines look for their first Big Ten title since 2004. Michigan loses four starters on the offensive line but returns plenty of talent at the skill positions. They have a very tough schedule with games at No. 21 Minnesota, home against No. 14 Wisconsin, home against No. 8 Penn State and at No. 5 Ohio State. Michigan has the 10th-best national title odds at +6600.
Current odds: +2800
Last season: 11-2, 2nd in West Division (8-4-1 ATS)
This season: The Gophers are coming off their best season in more than a century and bring back quarterback Tanner Morgan and standout wide receiver Rashod Bateman. Expectations are high, but the Gophers won’t catch anyone by surprise like they did at times going 8-4-1 against the spread last season.
Current odds: +3300
Last season: 10-3, 3rd in West Division (6-7 ATS)
This season: The Hawkeyes still haven’t totally settled on a starting quarterback to replace Nate Stanley. They also have some gaps to fill in the trenches, but there’s solid talent at the skill positions. The schedule is backloaded with games at Minnesota, at Penn State and home against Wisconsin, so be wary of a potential 3-0 start for a team that failed to cover more often than not last season.
Current odds: +6000
Last season: 5-7, 6th in West Division (3-9 ATS)
This season: Scott Frost has high hopes entering Year 3, and starting quarterback Adrian Martinez returns for another season in Lincoln. The Huskers were terrible against the spread and only covered three times last year. Such is life for a big-name program at the bottom of the conference.
Current odds: +10000
Last season: 4-8, 5th in West Division (8-4 ATS)
This season: The Boilermakers were a great betting team last season, covering eight games. Coach Jeff Brohm will miss the opener after testing positive for coronavirus, but Purdue is in great shape at receiver and on the offensive line. It should win its share of games this season, but the odds might not be as juicy as they were throughout 2019.
Current odds: +15000
Last season: 8-5, 4th in East Division (8-5 ATS)
This season: Quarterback Peyton Ramsey transferred to Northwestern this offseason, so the Hoosiers have a gap to fill on offense. They also return three defensive backs and could be slightly improved on defense. At Indiana remains one of the great “trap” games in college football with the Hoosiers going 8-5 against the spread last season.
Current odds: +25000
Last season: 7-6, 5th in East Division (4-9 ATS)
This season: First-year coach Mel Tucker has his work cut out for him. The Spartans lack firepower at the skill positions and don’t have an established, proven quarterback. They also lose a lot of talent on defense. The schedule is tough and there will be growing pains, but lack of expectations may result in value at the betting window after a woeful 4-9 season against the spread in 2019.
Current odds: +35000
Last season: 3-9, 7th in West Division (3-9 ATS)
This season: Ramsey steps up to lead an offense that averaged just 17.3 points per game a year ago. They should do better than 3-9 against the spread in 2020 and play unranked opponents in their first four games.
Current odds: +40000
Last season: 3-9, 6th in East Division (5-7 ATS)
This season: The Terps have a first-year coach and plenty of first-year starters having returned only four of them on defense, none on the defensive line. They will plug and replace with several transfers, but it looks like another long season for Maryland, albeit only nine games.
Current odds: +50000
Last season: 6-7, 4th in West Division (8-5 ATS)
This season: Lovie Smith and the Illini were a winning bet last year at 8-5 against the spread. The defense loses four starters up front but retains some decent talent at linebacker and secondary. Illinois opens at Wisconsin and has tough home games against Minnesota and Ohio State.
Current odds: +50000
Last season: 2-10, 7th in East Division (4-8 ATS)
This season: The Scarlet Knights are still undecided between two quarterbacks coming off another miserable season in Piscataway. They open at Michigan State and have to travel to Ohio State, with late-season home games against Michigan and Penn State. Looks like another rough year on the field and at the betting window.
Heisman Trophy Contenders
Current odds: +800
Betting Outlook: The Ohio State junior quarterback finished third in Heisman voting last season and currently sits third on the board at +800, trailing only Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (-150) and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (+380). If Fields leads the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title and reaches the College Football Playoff, he’ll have a great shot. He just needs to hope Lawrence’s and Jones’ production stalls a bit in the coming weeks.
Current odds: +8000
Betting Outlook: The junior quarterback is expected to start for Michigan in the opener at Minnesota. As a former four-star recruit ranked No. 9 pro style quarterback in the country, it’s finally Milton’s time to lead an offense. We should learn plenty about Milton against a tough Gopher team in the opener.
Current odds: +8000
Betting Outlook: Clifford established himself under center for Penn State last year and threw for 2,849 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also ran for more than 400 yards and five additional scores. Clifford has an early opportunity to show out against Fields in a Week 2 matchup with Ohio State. The race is pretty wide open beyond the top three or four contenders, so one of these Big Ten contenders could soar up the board with a strong early showing. Clifford is as good a longshot bet as any.
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3 Big Ten Football Betting Tips For The Season
Take The Moneyline And Run
It’s been a chaotic start to the season with upsets galore and plenty of uncertainty. Alabama is the last unbeaten team in the SEC after just five games, defending national champion LSU is already out of the race at 1-2 and the Big 12 is a mess with Oklahoma and Texas sitting at two losses apiece.
One major takeaway thus far – moneylines are your friend. Offseason uncertainty and last-minute scratches are having a major impact. And the Big Ten could be impacted even more than other conferences due to stricter COVID-19 protocols. The conference is bunched up in the middle as it is. If you like a Big Ten underdog this season, think long and hard about taking moneyline rather than points. There will be a ton of upsets and thus opportunities for bigger profits.
Trust the Quarterback
Given all the uncertainty, teams with experienced quarterbacks have done well so far this season. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones gained valuable experience filling in for Tua Tagovailoa toward the end of last season and has the Tide 4-0. Same goes for senior Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book and the 4-0 Irish.
Others like Oklahoma have struggled with first-year quarterbacks under center, regardless of expectations and talent level. Ohio State, Penn State and Minnesota certainly fit the bill here. We are inclined to trust proven commodities such as Fields, Clifford and Morgan more than teams like Michigan and Iowa. Keep that in mind when weighing teams with similar records early in the season.
Meet Me In The Middle
Ohio State is clearly the class of the conference. We can always find Rutgers at the bottom. Otherwise you have a host of very good to below-average teams capable of beating each other on any given night.
We saw it last season with some of the best betting value in all of college football found in the middle or lower tier of the Big Ten. Purdue went 8-4 against the spread, Minnesota 8-4-1, Illinois and Indiana 8-5. There were also some bowl season statements with Iowa blowing out USC, Penn State routing Memphis and Minnesota knocking off Auburn.
The Big Ten might not be the strongest conference at the top, but its middle remains far stronger than some give credit for. This year has already seen plenty of parity in the top conferences and the Big Ten should be even more exaggerated with the late start and short schedule.
Embrace the middle of the conference this season and look for opportunities on big point spreads for two teams who might be closer in talent than records indicate.
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