Over-unders: Legends Division

August, 18, 2011
We don't deal much with point spreads or odds here, and we don't encourage gambling on something so random as college football (and if you've seen our prediction records, you know why). But one Vegas bet always piques our interest: the over-unders for wins.

It's always fascinating to see what the oddsmakers think a team's benchmark for wins is. These guys don't make money by being stupid, after all. So we thought we'd present some over-unders and give our picks for each team, by division. The website Bodog Sports set over-unders for seven Big Ten teams, so we're going to use those. For the ones that weren't included by the site -- Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue -- we'll set our own reasonable over-unders. Remember that these are for regular-season win totals, so any potential bowl games do not factor in.

Let's start with the Legends Division:

Iowa Hawkeyes
Over-under wins: 8

Brian Bennett: Push

Hate to go with Tony Kornheiser's least favorite copout right out of the gate, but this seems on the nose. The Hawkeyes have four winnable games to start the season and will be favored against Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue, though the latter two are on the road. Can they beat Northwestern at home finally? Can they topple Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska or Penn State? An 8-4 record seems about right.

Adam Rittenberg: Over

The schedule sets up extremely well for Iowa, and while there are question marks on both sides of the ball, this team typically does well when outside expectations are a little lower. I see the Hawkeyes ending their home slide against Northwestern, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see Iowa sweep its home schedule. Eight or nine wins are the likeliest outcomes here, but Iowa finds a way to get to nine.

Michigan Wolverines
Over-under wins: 7

Brian Bennett: Over

Michigan has a chance to be 5-0 heading into the road game at Northwestern if it can take care of business against Notre Dame and Minnesota. Finding three more wins won't be easy, but I think the Brady Hoke effect helps them get it done.

Adam Rittenberg: Push

Another quick start is definitely possible, but I think Michigan drops a nonconference game (most likely Notre Dame in Week 2). The back end of the schedule contains few guaranteed wins, and a sustained win streak will be tough. Michigan definitely gets back to a bowl and could win eight or nine, but seven seems like the best bet.

Michigan State Spartans
Over-under wins: 7

Brian Bennett: Over

At first glance, that's a shockingly low number for a team that won 11 games last year. Obviously, the sharps are worried about the tough schedule, and rightfully so. Still, I think the Spartans are too talented to be 7-5. Just don't ask me which of those road games they're going to win yet.

Adam Rittenberg: Over

Michigan State won't win 11 again and might be a better team with a worse record than 2010 because of the brutal road slate. But the Spartans will record at least one signature road win this year and possibly two or three. Quarterback Kirk Cousins' veteran leadership should be huge for Michigan State, which will eclipse seven wins and possibly get to nine or 10.

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Over-under wins: 5

Brian Bennett: Push

Over would mean a bowl game for Jerry Kill's first Gophers team. I think they fall just short. After the opener against USC, they have three games they should win at home (though Miami (Ohio) is no guarantee). From there, I think they can match last year's two-win Big Ten campaign. But not much more.

Adam Rittenberg: Under

Kill will get things going in Minneapolis soon enough, but some growing pains can be expected in Year 1. The nonconference schedule is tough with the opener at USC and a home game against defending MAC champ Miami (Ohio). Minnesota will record at least one upset in Big Ten play, but I see the Gophers finishing 4-8 this year.

Nebraska Cornhuskers
Over-under wins: 10

Brian Bennett: Under

And there's our first big number. Look, I've got Nebraska as the favorite to win the division, but 10 is a lot to ask with the Huskers' schedule in their first time through the league. I'll take the conservative route here. I think a 9-3 mark is still good enough to get Nebraska to Indianapolis.

Adam Rittenberg: Push

I agree 10 wins is a lot to ask for a team entering a new league, but Nebraska can get it done. The Huskers' home schedule sets up well, as Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Northwestern all must visit Lincoln, a very tough place to win. Nebraska will sweep its nonconference schedule, and while I see at least one road loss, the Huskers will end up at 10-2.

Northwestern Wildcats
Over-under wins: 7

Brian Bennett: Over

Seven is right where Northwestern finished last year in the regular season. I'm picking the Wildcats to win all of their nonconference games, including the tricky opener at Boston College, and then go 4-4 in the Big Ten. All bets are off if Dan Persa gets hurt again, though.

Adam Rittenberg: Push

I agree with the Big Ten record, but Northwestern drops a nonconference game, either at Boston College or at Army. The BC opener will be tricky as it's Persa's first game back from the long injury rehab. I could see Northwestern starting off slowly in league play but finishing strong, and the Wildcats are always good for at least one Big Ten upset.



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