College Football Odds: 'Capping the Big Ten

By: Adam Markowitz | Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor is 4/1 to win the Heisman Trophy.

Though it wasn't always the sexiest college football conference to watch take the field in 2009, the Big Ten was one of the most competitive leagues in the land. The Ohio State Buckeyes reigned supreme in the Big Ten once again and went to the Rose Bowl, where they knocked off Pac-10 champions Oregon.

The Buckeyes are back again to try to win the BCS Championship, and head coach Jim Tressel has to like what his side will be faced with this year. The two games to really keep an eye out for are against Iowa and Wisconsin on the road.

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However, with a good chunk of a defense coming back that ranked fifth in the country in total defense at 262.3 yards per game and fifth in scoring at 12.5 points per game, Ohio State has a lot to look forward to.

Keep a close eye on junior QB Terrelle Pryor as well. Even though we don't necessarily buy that Pryor is a Heisman Trophy candidate, the oddsmakers have him as the second choice on the college football board at +400 to win the honors. Pryor led the team in rushing at 779 yards; his passing numbers still aren't quite what is expected from a top-notch signal caller at this level.

Pryor only completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 2,094 yards and 18 TDs and 11 picks in '09. He led the 103rd-ranked passing attack in America at 173.1 yards per game. Tressel is clearly holding his superstar back from his abilities, and until Pryor gets a better chance to run an offense that looks more like what the Florida Gators ran with QB Tim Tebow calling the shots, we aren't buying the Buckeyes as legitimate National Championship contenders.

With those two big road games, laying minus 250 odds on Ohio State to win the Big Ten just doesn't seem like a fantastic idea.

Instead, there are some fantastic prices elsewhere. Yes, the Wisconsin Badgers really don't have much of a clue what their passing attack will look like, but it isn't often that the team does rely heavily on its quarterback. Running back John Clay has rushed for over 2,300 yards and 27 TDs over the last two seasons, and in this, his senior year, he is going to be expected to carry the load even more so for a team that ranked 15th in the nation with 203.8 yards per game on the ground.

The Badgers have a very manageable schedule, and their first test will come the first week of October in East Lansing. Aside from that, Ohio State comes to Camp Randall, while only a trip to Iowa will be incredibly difficult. Penn State is dodged. Grabbing the plus 350 odds could be a great idea.

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The same exact odds can be had on an Iowa team that made an improbable run towards perfection until QB Ricky Stanzi was injured. Whereas last season the Hawkeyes had to travel both to Madison and Columbus, both of those games will be played in the corn fields this year. The defense was simply awesome for head coach Kirk Ferentz last season, as Iowa ranked 10th overall in the nation at 276.5 yards per game.

Though there might not be many more dark horses to watch in terms of winning the Big Ten itself, keep a watch on the Michigan Wolverines to be much improved in the third year of the Rich Rodriguez experiment. Quarterback Tate Forcier came on strong last year as a freshman, and he is the first man with the Big Blue that really has the skill set to run Rodriguez' spread-option attack.

A ton of new quarterbacks are going to be in this conference, which could make for some sloppy play in 2010. No one is expecting the Indiana Hoosiers (+3000), Minnesota Golden Gophers (+3000), Purdue Boilermakers (+2000) or Northwestern Wildcats (+2000) to make any sort of a run in the Big Ten, and none of the four are planning on going bowling this year either.

Only five teams finished at .500 or better in the conference a year ago, with Ohio State (11-2), Iowa (11-2), Penn State (11-2), Wisconsin (10-3) and Northwestern (8-5) being those squads.

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