We are currently in the Sahara desert of the sports calendar, nothing to watch but regular season baseball and 3am Women’s World Cup group stages. But alas, there, off in the distance, is it a mirage? No! It’s college football here to save our thirst for action both on the field and on our bet slips.
This year is shaping up to be the most interesting season in a while. Last years champion, Georgia, returns a ton of pieces from their vaunted defense. However, for the first time since Jesus disappeared from the tomb Stetson Bennett is not under center for the Bulldogs. A new QB and play caller for what was shaping up to be CFBs next Death Star opens up the door for other contenders to potentially capture that golden lip stick tube one last time before we ride off into the sunset towards a 12 team playoff.
That being said, I’m here to break down the contenders, pretenders, sleepers and everything in between for this upcoming season. I will be doing it the only way I know how, through the lens of the futures market. So let’s jump right in.
Ohio State Buckeyes (O 10.5)
Let’s kick things off with my alma mater and last year’s runner up (you read that correctly) The Buckeyes of Ohio State. The buckeyes lose their QB and both their tackles, arguably the most important positions on the field, but return just about everyone else for a chance to bookend the 4 team playoff era with a set of championships. The eyes of many will immediately go to the star power of all Americans Marvin Harrison JR (Marvin Harrison Sr’s boy), Tommy Eichenburg, JT Tuimoloa, Emeka Egbuka, and TreyVeon Henderson; but this team will go as far as its tackles can hold up. Josh Fryer will be taking over at the left side after being a career backup and low rated recruit, while a former San Diego Aztec who came as a late addition in the portal will be manning the strong side. If these pair of monsters can keep the QB clean it won’t matter much who is under center with the the skill talent and defense the buckeyes have. That leads me to believe that the over 10.5 wins is a great place to put a chunk of your paycheck. All the Scarlett and grey crew need to do is split with the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines and you’ll be cashing that ticket at the window.
Penn State (O 9.5)
Moving east on I-80, we come upon the Nittany Lions of Penn State. The second most talented team in the conference for my money, Jim Franklin’s bunch is loaded at defense, particularly corner and edge, once again. However, this years team has a different look to it. Drew Allar a sophomore from Medina, OH has the tools to be the best QB in school history. If he can even meet expectations, let alone exceed them with the backfield they bring back and their Kent State transfer at receiver plus Olu manning the blind side this team has everything you could ask for to win a national title. The question becomes can they get the monkey off their proverbial back and win in Columbus and against Michigan. Whether they can or not, I don’t see them slipping up anywhere else making me feel that over 9.5 wins is a good investment.
Michigan (U 10.5)
The Wolverines, coming off back to back upsets of their rival leading to big ten championships and playoff appearances, will more than likely open the season as the number 2 of not number 1 team in the country. Harbaugh’s bunch returns a ton of talent including their entire backfield, pieces on the o-line and defense. However, I’m starting to dislike what I am hearing out of Ann Arbor (Buckeye fandom aside). The head coach, fresh off trying to skedaddle to the pros for the second straight offseason just got suspended for 4 games. The “star” QB is far less impressive when you look underneath the win/loss record, and they lost just enough on the coaching staff and both lines that I think they are vulnerable for a touch of regression. This is not to say they are a bad team by any means, I just think they could easily lose to the 2 teams that I have already discussed, and for that reason I will be taking their Under 10.5 wins.
Michigan State (U 5.5)
Heading up the mitten to East Lansing, we meet up with Mel Tucker’s crew of Spartans. The first observation from this roster is for Mel Tucker to watch out, they shot Jessie James for stealing far less. All jokes aside Tucker’s contract has been such a heist once Kenneth Walker left town that some in the industry have been referring to it as Ocean’s 14. Aside from the one portabled miracle season, Tucker has failed to field a strong enough roster to sniff even the middle class of the conference and that was before he lost his top 2 receivers and QB. Long story short this is a bottom 2 team in the East that will serve as a punching bag for the top 3, under 5.5 wins for the Mean Green. Keep gettin them checks Mel!
Indiana (U 3.5)
Gone are the days of the 2020 covid season for Tom Allen’s bunch in Hoosier town. Michael Pennix finally played a healthy season and made some serious Heisman noise, unfortunately for the Crimson and Cream it was in the PNW. There days TJDs brother is taking snaps in memorial stadium and let’s just say he’s a little less talented than his brother was on the hardwood. There isn’t much to say about the Hoosiers this season so I’ll keep this short. They will be the doormat of the division and conference as a whole and we will not see them claiming more than 3 W’s.
Rutgers (O 4)
Speaking of the bottom of the proverbial barrel in the big ten east, the boys in the Garden State should not be down there this season. Schiano’s team has some intriguing young talent and a scrappy toughness about them that makes me confident they can clean up in the non-con and then catch Indiana and Michigan State come the fall. They are by no means a great team but don’t be surprised if the Knights go bowling this season. Over 4 wins.
Purdue (O 5.5)
Heading out west, the Boilermakers of West Lafayette have quite a bit of changes in the building, new coach, new QB, new play caller. What they lack in continuity however, they make up for in talent. Hudson Card is a former top 100 recruit who almost beat Alabama on one leg last season. That upgrade in talent under center plus the shift to a defensive mentality in the head coaches offense could give a weak Big Ten West fits this season. This group will go bowling at 6-6 at the very least.
Iowa (O 8)
The Hawkeyes have ridden quite the emotional roller coaster these past two years. From appearing at number 2 in the rankings and playing for the title in Indy to being a laughing stock punt fest the next year. Now here we are, if the offense doesn’t score over 325 points the OC, son of head coach Kirk Ferentz, loses his job. This isn’t last years Hawkeye offense however, they bring in some fire power at WR with OSU transfer Caleb Brown, as well as a steadying presence under center in Michigan transfer Cade McNamara. I think that along with a strong o-line and talented defense will be enough to get the Hawkeyes to the top 2 of the West. Over 8 wins.
Illinois (U 7.5)
The Illini were the darling of the West for much of last year until they fell apart near the end. Unfortunately for Brett Bielama and the crowd at Kams, I think the first half was more of a flash in the pan. Losing a top 5 pick at corner, and other prices from a talented secondary as well as their entire backfield is not a great foot to get off on. There is still plenty of talent in the front 7, but I just think far too much turnover for this team to repeat last years success especially with teams like Iowa and Wisconsin returning to form. Next year should be a better one in Champaign but I have a bad feeling the buzz on campus will be coming from the State-farm center and the State-farm center only come October, under 7.5 wins.
Minnesota (U 7.5)
From one ground and pound western team losing their entire backfield to another. PJ Fleck’s team feels like it missed a win down with the Morgan and Ibraheim era coming to an end at the culmination of the 2022 season. Now Fleck has to row his Gophers back to square one and potentially take some lumps. Not everyone can go under in this division but I would consider Minnesota one of the better bets too with all the growing pains they will have on offense. Under 7.5 wins.
Wisconsin (O 8.5)
The Badgers have plenty of new faces both between the hash marks and on the sidelines this season. After a mostly successful run under alumni Paul Chryst the powers that be in Madison felt it was time for a change. In comes Luke Fickell, the former Buckeye Interim head coach and linebacker is hoping to breathe new life into a program that feels as if it’s been stuck in the 90s for quite some time now. As his first order of business Fickell brought in Phil Longo from Chapel Hill to open up the offense. He then paired him with former Oklahoma and SMU gun slinger Taylor Mordachi to compliment their staple of backs and beefy o-line. This is promising news for the Badgers as they look to put last year behind them and take back control of the West. I think these changes along with Fickell’s knowledge of the way defense is played in the Midwest will give the boys in the capital city enough to win at least 9 games.
Northwestern (U 3.5)
Last and certainly least is the Northwestern Wildcats. A team who struggled to win games in the continental US somehow got even worse this year with the loss of their head coach and many of their better players off last years team. Bottom line here is that this team is not prepared to compete in the big ten and it will show, hopefully they can win a non-con or 2 you never wanna see someone go winless, under 3.5 wins.
There you have it, the big ten preview explained through the futures market, I like the Buckeyes to win the conference at +155 but I think Penn State and Michigan are not far behind and could easily win. Any team not mentioned I passed on due to seeing no value in their number.