Thursday, August 22, 2013
Over-unders: Leaders Division
By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg
By now, you've digested our over-under picks for the Legends division. Now it's time to turn our attention to the Leaders.
Here's how this works: Bovada Sportsbook provided baseline totals for regular-season wins only for every Big Ten. We decide (without actually betting money) if we think each team will finish above or below that baseline -- or hit it exactly, in some cases.
Let's get started ...
Over-under: 3.5 wins
Brian's pick: Under. Outside of Southern Illinois and Miami (Ohio), the Illini likely won't be favored in any other game this season. I believe they will be a better team than last season's disaster, but that might only translate into a 3-9 type of year.
Adam's pick: Under. I agree that the Illini should be better -- they can't get much worse than last season -- but the Big Ten schedule isn't forgiving with crossover games against Nebraska, Michigan State and Northwestern. The Illini get their two most winnable league games (Indiana and Purdue) on the road. I also see 3-9.
Over-under: 5.5 wins
Adam's pick: Over. I realize I'm going against recent history here as Indiana has reached six wins just once since the 1994 season. But momentum is building in Bloomington, and the combination of a schedule featuring eight home games, a more experienced roster, and improved recruiting gets Indiana to a bowl game. The Hoosiers stumble once in non-league play, but record an upset in the Big Ten campaign to reach 6-6.
Brian's pick: Over. The schedule worries me, but I like the direction Kevin Wilson's team is trending. If the Hoosiers can go 3-1 in the nonconference portion, I think they can find three more wins (Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue all come to Bloomington) in Big Ten play to reach their first bowl game since 2007.
Over-under: 11 wins
Brian's pick: Push. I'm not quite sure where it will happen, but I believe Ohio State will stub its toe at least once this season. Going undefeated once is extremely difficult; doing it two years in a row is almost unheard of. The Buckeyes still finish 11-1 and go on to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game.
Adam's pick: Push. Ohio State will be favored to run the table again, but as you note, that just doesn't happen very often in college football in any league. This team nearly lost three or four games in 2012, and someone will knock off the Fightin' Urbans. The Buckeyes finish 11-1, but easily win the Leaders division.
Over-under: 8 wins
Adam's pick: Push. Penn State's starting 22 is as strong as anyone's in the Big Ten, even with the quarterback questions. But the Lions have a tough cross-division draw with Michigan and Nebraska, and must visit division heavyweights Ohio State and Wisconsin. Penn State goes 1-3 against the big four, but drops a game it shouldn't to finish 8-4.
Brian's pick: Push. I see the Nittany Lions getting off to a great start, possibly even 6-0. But I think the lack of depth will take its toll down the stretch, and another 8-4 season is in the works for Bill O'Brien's crew.
Over-under: 5.5 wins
Brian's pick: Under. I like what Darrell Hazell is building in West Lafayette. I just really, really don't like the schedule. Seven of the first eight games are extremely difficult, and the Boilers are going to take some lumps early. A 5-7 record would be completely understandable this season.
Adam's pick: Under. It'll be a rough first go-round for Hazell, as the first two months provide few if any reprieves for his transitioning team. Purdue has some great players, but not enough good or experienced ones to navigate this meat grinder of a schedule.
Over-under: 9 wins
Adam's pick: Under. I see the Badgers winning eight or nine games, but I can't be so agreeable with my guy Bennett, so I'm going eight. There are certain weaknesses that concern me with the Badgers -- wide receiver, offensive line depth, the secondary -- and I think they'll show up later in the season in potentially tricky matchups like BYU, Minnesota and Penn State.
Brian's pick: Push. The schedule is mostly favorable for Gary Andersen's team, but I see the Badgers losing on the road at Arizona State and at Ohio State, and then dropping another one along the way (Northwestern, maybe?). They go 9-3 and finish as the Leaders Division runners-up.