Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
That’s because the Big Ten kicks off its coronavirus-delayed season. One could argue the Big Ten is the nation’s most popular league – calm down, SEC fans – simply because most of its schools have such huge numbers of alumni (Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin in particular) and are near major cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland/Cincinnati, Pittsburgh/Philadelphia and Baltimore/Washington, D.C. among a few others.
The first conference game of 2020 is Illinois at No. 14 Wisconsin on Friday at 8 p.m. ET with the Badgers the favorites to repeat as West Division champions. However, they begin life without record-setting running back Jonathan Taylor, now a rookie with the Indianapolis Colts. In addition, starting QB Jack Coan had foot surgery two weeks ago and is out indefinitely. Redshirt freshman Graham Mertz is now No. 1 on the depth chart. Wisconsin is -19.5 and the home team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings.
The best player returning in the Big Ten is clearly Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who was third in the 2019 Heisman Trophy voting and among the favorites this year. The No. 5 Buckeyes have appeared in three straight Big Ten championship games and won each of them. They are heavy favorites to do so again as well as 27-point favorites for Saturday’s noon home game against unranked Nebraska. OSU is on a 19-game home winning streak, taking those by an average of 31.8 points.
The top game in the Big Ten appears to be No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota with a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff. The Gophers lost star receiver Rashod Bateman to an opt out, but when the Big Ten backtracked on not playing until 2021, Bateman opted back in. With Bateman and QB Tanner Morgan back, Minnesota will be Wisconsin’s top challenger again in the West Division. The Gophers are +3.5 and 7-2-1 ATS in their past 10 games.
The Big 12’s marquee matchup on Saturday is at 3:30 p.m. ET as No. 6 Oklahoma State hosts No. 17 Iowa State at 3:30 p.m. ET. The Big 12 has largely embarrassed itself in the early going and the only realistic chance the conference has of getting a team in the College Football Playoff is the unbeaten Cowboys. They have arguably the nation’s top running back in Canadian Chuba Hubbard. OSU is -3.5 and 6-1 ATS in its past seven Big 12 games.
From the SEC, No. 2 Alabama visits unranked Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. ET. Bama coach Nick Saban is almost impossibly 22-0 all-time against his former assistant coaches; UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt was Saban’s former defensive coordinator. Bama is -21.5 and 8-1 ATS in its past nine games in Knoxville.