Hartman: Looking for value bets this Big Ten football season

How many games will Ohio State win this season?

Las Vegas sportsbook Bovada is out with its first over/under win totals for the college football season, and the Buckeyes top the Big Ten at 10.5.

(Note: This is regular season wins.)

This is an interesting number because while Urban Meyer’s team figures to be wildly talented as usual, there are several potential landmines on the 2017 schedule.

They play host to Oklahoma in week two and Penn State to end October, plus there are games at Nebraska, Iowa and Michigan.

None of the latter trio might end up being world-beaters this fall, but none of them are easy to handle on the road.

Did we mention Michigan State? Yeah, hard to say how good the Spartans will be, but they always bring it for the Buckeyes under coach Mark Dantonio.

The safe bet just might be the under here given Ohio State only has a one-game margin for error.

What about the rest of the Big Ten?

It’s tough to find a safe bet.

Wisconsin, 9.5 

The Defending Big Ten West champs play at BYU and at Nebraska while getting Michigan and Iowa at home.

They won 10 games in the regular season before choking away the Big Ten championship game to Penn State. Take the under.

Penn State, 9.5

The Nittany Lions are an interesting case.

The defending Big Ten champions lost their top receiver (whose big-play ability was crucial to the offense taking off) but bring back quarterback Trace McSorley and the best player in the Big Ten, Saquon Barkley.

PSU plays at Ohio State, where the Nittany Lions generally get demolished, and at Northwestern, where things frequently get weird. They get Pittsburgh, Michigan and Nebraska at home. That’s no easy slate.

They have seven starters back on defense, but James Franklin is still their coach. Take the under.

Nebraska, 7.5

He needed two seasons, but Mike Riley finally restored the 9-4 tradition at Nebraska in 2016.

That makes this is easy money, right?

Well the Cornhuskers lost a lot, but the schedule looks soft assuming Oregon is still down.

Take the over. 

Northwestern (7) and Iowa (6.5)

The Wildcats have 17 starters back from a team that went 7-6 last season (including a bowl win over Pitt), so that seven-game over/under is just taunting you, isn’t it?

Just stay away from this one, especially since they might have to run the table the last three weeks to get there.


Meanwhile, Iowa looks like a .500 team, so they are bound to overachieve and surpass 6.5 wins easily. Take the over. 

Michigan State, 6.5

The Spartans went a stunning 3-9 last season, and they held spring practice under a cloud of suspicion regarding potential off-field trouble.

Surely Mark Dantonio’s team won’t be as bad this season, but the Spartans go to Michigan and Ohio State with Penn State, Iowa and a probably-improved Notre Dame on the home slate.

Take the over... if you can see MSU being due a few positive breaks after last season.

Michigan, 9

Jim Harbaugh’s first two Wolverines teams both won 10 games, but this one was decimated by graduation.

They play Florida to start the year and must play at Penn State and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes come to Ann Arbor a week after that clash with the Badgers, who will bruise you even if they don’t beat you.

This might be Harbaugh’s most talented Wolverine team, but Trotwood-Madison grad Mike McCray II is the only starter back on defense.


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