Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Predicting over-unders: Legends Division
By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg
As we get closer to the start of the season, it's time to begin rolling out some predictions. A fun way to kick things off is by picking the over/under for win totals for each team.
Here's how this works: Bovada Sportsbook provided baseline totals for regular-season wins only for every Big Ten team except Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue. For those teams, we came up with our own reasonable number. Then it's a matter of deciding if we think each team will finish above or below that baseline (or a push, in some cases).
We tried this last year and didn't fare too well. I went 6-6, while Adam was 4-8. But we are improvement-driven. Let's start this off with the Legends Division.
Over-under: 7.5 wins
Adam's pick: Over. Just barely. The favorable schedule pays off for the Hawkeyes, who drop a game they shouldn't, maybe in non-league play, but also win one they shouldn't in Big Ten play. Iowa finishes 8-4.
Brian's pick: Over. We are on the same page, as I've also got Iowa at 8-4. Don't necessarily love the composition of this team right now, but I love that schedule. I see a 5-0 start and then just enough in the final seven games to get it done.
Over-under: 9 wins
Brian's pick: Under. This will be an unpopular opinion in Wolverine Nation, but I'm picking Michigan to go 8-4. Tough, tough games against Alabama, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Ohio State -- the last of those three on the road -- make me think the Wolverines take a step back this year.
Adam's pick: Push. While I'd love to answer this question after Week 1, we're doing it now, and I'm sticking with my belief that Michigan will be a better team than in 2011 with a worse record. The schedule simply is too treacherous, although a win against Alabama changes everything.
Over-under: 8.5 wins
Adam's pick: Over. The Spartans have been perfect at home the past two seasons, and I don't see them slowing down in 2011. They have a treacherous midseason stretch in Big Ten play and some early challenges, but they'll get to nine wins at least.
Brian's pick: Over. If I didn't think sports gambling was a great way to lose money, I would have thrown down a bunch of cash on the Spartans' ridiculous over-under of 7 wins last year. I feel nearly the same about this one. This is a nine-win team or better.
Over-under: 8.5 wins
Brian's pick: Over. The Huskers have won at least nine games in each of the past four seasons, and I think they get to that number before the regular season ends. Taylor Martinez and the defense should both be improved over last year's 9-4 squad.
Adam's pick: Over. While there are some potential challenges in non-league play, Nebraska should get through unscathed and win at least five Big Ten games again. A more experienced team plus greater familiarity with the Big Ten translates into a season at least as good as last year's.
Over-under: 6.5 wins
Adam's pick: Under. I'm torn between 6-6 or 7-5 for the Wildcats, and a strong start certainly raises the ceiling on the season. Ultimately, Northwestern drops at least one non-league game and has some ups and downs in Big Ten play, finishing 6-6 in the regular season yet again.
Brian's pick: Over. I like a 7-5 season for Northwestern, which has to get a little bit better on defense and has a strong cadre of receivers for Kain Colter. Wildcats lose a game they shouldn't but continue their tradition of at least one big upset.
Over-under: 4.5 wins
Brian's pick: Over. I could see the Gophers winning all four of their nonconference games and making a run at a bowl game. In reality, that's probably a bit ahead of schedule. But if MarQueis Gray has the kind of year I think he will and the defense improves, Minnesota will be much more competitive and should get to five wins.
Adam's pick: Over. Minnesota will be a better team in Year 2 of the Jerry Kill era. Will it be enough to get back to a bowl? Not so sure. The schedule doesn't give Minnesota many breaks, but I see the Gophers going 3-1 in non-league play and winning two Big Ten contests to finish 5-7.