2020 Big Ten Football Preview: Odds and Predictions
2020 Big Ten Betting Odds
The odds for the 2020 Big Ten Football Season are provided by 888Sport NJ Sportsbook.
2020/2021 Big Ten Winner
In just over four months, the college football season will commence, barring any setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, we can start taking a look at each of the Power Five conferences, and who the betting favorites are to win each league.
Note: Rutgers is excluded from this article, as bets from 888Sport NJ will be void if the Scarlet Knights end up winning the conference or the East Division due to them being a New Jersey-based team.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Every year, the Buckeyes lose a ton of talent to the NFL Draft, yet they always manage to reload thanks to strong recruiting and player development. 2020 should be more of the same in Columbus, with Heisman finalist Justin Fields back under center to show 2019 was not a fluke and showcase himself as the possible top pick in the 2021 draft.
The cupboard will be far from bare for coach Ryan Day, as the offense returns key contributors such as receiver Chris Olave, left tackle Thayer Munford, and linebackers Baron Browning and Pete Werner. Getting Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon at running back will be a huge boost as well.
Ohio State is often criticized for not scheduling tough non-conference opponents, however, those critics should be satisfied by their early-season visit to Oregon, where they will have to play in a raucous Autzen Stadium. As for their Big Ten schedule, an October 24th visit to Happy Valley should be the only serious obstacle for the Buckeyes.
Our Offensive Player of the Year from last season, @lbg_nico7 hauled in 37 catches for 729 yards and 7 touchdowns.
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) March 31, 2020
There is growing unrest at Michigan regarding Jim Harbaugh’s job security and whether he is the answer to the program’s struggles to become an elite program. Another loss to Ohio State as well as a loss to Alabama in the Citrus Bowl has left a sour taste in many Wolverine fans’ mouths.
Harbaugh will have his work cut out for him in 2020 as he must replace four offensive line starters including NFL draft picks Ron Runyan Jr. and Cesar Ruiz. Quarterback Shea Patterson graduated, leaving the signal-caller job in the hands of either Dylan McCaffrey or Joe Milton. On the bright side, key pieces such as receivers Ronnie Bell and Nico Collins, as well as defensive lineman Kwity Paye will help maintain stability.
Having to play Ohio State at The Shoe will be a daunting task as usual, while the opener at Washington could provide a quick look at how the Wolverines could perform in conference play.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Although an 11-2 record is nothing to sneeze at, it still fell short of Penn State’s aspirations of being a playoff team. Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, the majority of their starting offense will return to Happy Valley. The defense is another story, as the likes of Yetur Gross-Matos, Robert Windsor, and John Reid have either left for the pro ranks or graduated. However, that side of the ball will still have key pieces such as defensive end Shaka Toney and linebacker Micah Parsons.
Penn State’s schedule presents some challenges including an October 3rd road trip to The Big House to take on Michigan as well as a visit from Ohio State on the 24th. If Nebraska manages to get their act together, the November 7th game in Lincoln could also be a tough game in a hostile environment.
Last year’s West Division champion appears primed to repeat that feat. Heralded 2019 quarterback recruit Graham Mertz will push incumbent starter Jack Coan for the starting gig. Whoever wins the job will have to work with a group of skill players that no longer includes star running back Jonathan Taylor and leading receiver Quintez Cephus. The usually strong offensive line will also no longer be anchored by former All-American and Rimmington Trophy winner, Tyler Biadasz.
The Badgers will have a handful of CFP resume-building opportunities, with a neutral site matchup against Notre Dame in Green Bay, as well as road games against Michigan and Iowa.
— Scott Frost (@coach_frost) March 10, 2020
The Huskers are two years into the Scott Frost experiment, with very little to show for it after two straight losing seasons. Dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez will be back under center and should once again be a vital part of the offense. Having receivers Wan’Dale Robinson and J.D. Spielman will certainly help in Martinez’s development, as will having the entire offensive line back.
September games against Purdue and Cincinnati will provide an idea for Nebraska fans on whether the program is making progress under Frost or still has a long way to go.
The Hawkeyes were victims of heartbreak in 2019 despite putting together a ten-win season. Iowa suffered losing margins of seven, five, and two points to Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin, respectively. Coach Kirk Ferentz will be working with a new quarterback to replace the graduating Nate Stanley, while also looking for pass rush production after losing A.J. Epenesa to the NFL.
The scheduling gods were not very forgiving to Iowa, as two of their three inter-divisional games have them hitting the road to take on Ohio State and Penn State. On the bright side, they do get to finish off the season at home against Wisconsin, a game that could end up deciding the winner of the West Division.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
2019 was a year to remember for the Gophers, as they enjoyed their best season in over 50 years. Minnesota managed to briefly place themselves in the College Football Playoff conversation before dropping crucial matchups against Iowa and Wisconsin. Outside of running back Rodney Smith and receiver Tyler Johnson, virtually every key offensive piece returns, while the defensive front will see several new starters.
Repeating last season’s success will be difficult, as P.J. Fleck’s team will have to take on Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium and host Michigan in mid-October.
The Hoosiers made progress in 2018, making their first bowl game appearance under coach Tom Allen. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is expected to be the starter after Peyton Ramsey transferred to Northwestern. Penix will have a pair of useful weapons at his side in 1,000-yard receiver Whop Philyor and leading rusher Stevie Scott III. Junior linebacker Micah McFadden will anchor a defense that is largely intact from last season.
Michigan State Spartans
This feeling ? pic.twitter.com/b0xRHhCHJ5
— Elijah Collins (@24foshow) April 14, 2020
Mark Dantonio shocked the college football world this past offseason when he announced his retirement, although two straight seven-win seasons may have been a contributing factor. New coach Mel Tucker will have to break in a new quarterback to replace Brian Lewerke but should benefit from the return of leading rusher Elijah Collins. The former NFL defensive coordinator will also have to rebuild a defense that lost key starters such as Kenny Willekes and Mike Panasiuk.
2019 was a season to forget for Northwestern, as they sputtered to a 3-9 finish, the worst record by a Pat Fitzgerald-led team since he took the job in 2006. The Wildcats struggled to put points on the board, averaging 16.3 points per game, which ranked 126th out of 130 schools. Fitzgerald will hope the transfer market is more forgiving after whiffing on the Hunter Johnson experiment at quarterback, as Peyton Ramsey is the most likely candidate to start under center.
Illinois Fighting Illini
The Fighting Illini will look to build on a promising 2019 campaign where Lovie Smith led his team to a bowl game in his fourth season. Having an experienced offensive line will help their cause with a new quarterback taking over for the graduated Brandon Peters. Illinois does lose a pair of key playmakers on the other side of the ball, however, as a pass rusher, Oluwole Betiku Jr left early for the draft while leading tackler Dele Harding ran out of eligibility.
The Terps have made a habit of notching attention-grabbing wins early in the season before sputtering down the stretch. The first year under former Nick Saban assistant Mike Locksley saw Maryland lay down a 63-20 beating on Syracuse, before going through their usual routine as a Big Ten whipping boy. There is a ton of turnover on defense for the Terrapins, which may be beneficial for a group that gave up 34.7 points per game, which ranked 115th in FBS.
After a promising 2018 campaign where they made a bowl game in coach Jeff Brohm’s first season, Purdue took a step back thanks to an injury-plagued season. Boilermaker fans will hope for a full season from key players like star receiver Rondale Moore, while also establishing a full-time quarterback after going through three passers due to injuries.