Big Ten: bt over/unders 2011

On Thursday, we presented you with the over-under win totals for each Legends Division team. So naturally we turn our attention today to the Leaders Division.

A couple of things to keep in mind here. One, we're using the over-unders set by Bodog Sports for every team except Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue. For those teams we made our own lines. Also, these are regular-season win totals only, so potential bowl games don't count.

Let's dive in to the Leaders, shall we?

Illinois Fighting Illini
Over-under wins: 7

Brian Bennett: Over

Oh, that schedule. The first five games at home, a very manageable road slate and no Nebraska or Michigan State. This season is set up for at least eight wins if the Illini are as good or better than they were a year ago.

Adam Rittenberg: Over

I nearly went with a push here, but I also see the Illini maximizing on an extremely favorable schedule. They should be no worse than 5-1 and possibly 6-0 when Ohio State visits Champaign on Oct. 15. Nathan Scheelhaase will be an even more dangerous quarterback, and while the defense has some question marks, Illinois finally strings together two successful seasons.

Indiana Hoosiers
Over-under wins: 4

Brian Bennett: Push.

The Hoosiers won five a year ago, and new head coach Kevin Wilson is impressive. But IU has a brutal road slate (at Ohio State, at Michigan State, at Wisconsin, at Iowa), and their nonconference game against Virginia is a toss-up. I think Wilson does good things in Bloomington but has a humble beginning.

Adam Rittenberg: Push

The schedule concerns me, although Indiana will pull off at least one fairly significant upset in the Big Ten. I just don't think the Hoosiers have enough at quarterback to consistently put up points, and while the defense should be a bit better, the track record on that side of the ball concerns me. This team wins 3-5 games, so I'll go right in the middle.

Ohio State Buckeyes
Over-under wins: 9

Brian Bennett: Under.

Darn you, Vegas! I think a 9-win season is about right for the Buckeyes, but I don't want to keep using the dreaded push bet. So I'm going under, because it seems more likely that Ohio State goes 8-4 than 10-2 given all the changes the program experienced this offseason. I realize this is almost certainly a losing wager, however.

Adam Rittenberg: Over

After watching Ohio State dominate this league for a decade, I think I need to actually see the Buckeyes stumble before believing it. Ohio State might need to win a lot of games 17-13, but the defense once again will be solid and the run game should be, too. The Buckeyes will lose a crossover game, but their home schedule in the division is really beneficial. Will 10 wins be enough for Luke Fickell to remain Buckeyes coach?

Penn State Nittany Lions
Over-under wins: 8

Brian Bennett: Push.

Another stinking push. I don't see Penn State going 7-5 in the regular season again -- the Nittany Lions have to get some better luck with their health, don't they -- but 9-3 or better seems lofty, especially with Alabama on the nonconference slate. So I'll wuss out and say 8-4.

Adam Rittenberg: Under

Penn State fans are going to kill me, but I have some concerns, both from a personnel standpoint and with the schedule. Line play is an issue and there are questions in the offensive backfield. Alabama will be a very tough test, and the closing stretch -- Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Wisconsin -- is absolutely brutal. This will be a better Penn State team, but it could have the same record.

Purdue Boilermakers
Over-under wins: 5

Brian Bennett: Over

Danny Hope and the Boilers really need to get back to a bowl, and I say they do this year. The first three games (Middle Tennessee, Rice, Southeast Missouri State) are extremely winnable, and if Purdue can find a way to knock off Notre Dame at home, it should be on its way to the postseason.

Adam Rittenberg: Over

The opening stretch you mention gives Purdue a chance to build some confidence before the Notre Dame game, which provides a true barometer of the Boilers' potential. While I don't see Purdue challenging for the Leaders division, it will get back to a bowl game for the first time since 2007. A 7-5 mark seems about right.

Wisconsin Badgers
Over-under wins: 9

Brian Bennett: Over

I was reluctant to go over or take the push with Nebraska at 10, but I feel better about Wisconsin's chances. The Badgers won 11 a year ago and should be able to match that if they can go at least 2-1 against the Huskers, Michigan State and Ohio State.

Adam Rittenberg: Over

I feel pretty confident in this pick after watching the Badgers practice earlier this week. They need Russell Wilson to stay healthy, but they'll sweep the nonconference portion and likely won't lose a game at home. Wisconsin probably splits its back-to-back road night games against Michigan State and Ohio State, but the Badgers win 10 or 11 in the regular season.
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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