Thursday, August 23, 2012
Predicting over-unders: Leaders Division
By Brian Bennett
Our preseason predictions are getting into full swing with a look at the over/under win totals for each Big Ten team.
Here's how this works: Bovada Sportsbook provided baseline totals for regular-season wins only for every Big Ten team except Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue. For those teams, we came up with our own reasonable number. Then it's a matter of deciding if we think each team will finish above or below that baseline (or a push, in some cases).
On Wednesday, we gave our picks for the Legends Division. Now it's the Leaders Division's turn, and unlike real life, all teams are eligible here.
Over-under: 6.5 wins
Adam's pick: Under. Illinois has some talent, particularly in the defensive front seven, but too many questions on offense combined with a tricky schedule, especially on the road, lead to another 6-6 season. The Illini drop at least one non-league game and squeak into a bowl at .500.
Brian's pick: Under. Road games at Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Arizona State are no picnic, and it feels like Northwestern is due at home. I'll call all those losses and throw in Purdue at home for 6-6.
Over-under: 2.5 wins
Brian's pick: Over. Barely. It will be a weird year for the Hoosiers, who start out beating Indiana State, Ball State and UMass to go 3-0. Then they will go winless in the conference again and fall to Navy for a nine-game losing streak.
Adam's pick: Over. The Hoosiers won't make too much noise in the Big Ten, but they'll surprise somebody along the way and notch Kevin Wilson's first conference victory. Combined with two non-league wins, IU finishes 3-9.
Over-under: 9 wins
Adam's pick: Push. The Buckeyes will cruise through a soft non-league slate, but reality arrives in the Big Ten opener against Michigan State. Although a 10-win season certainly is within reach, I think Ohio State has a few stumbles in Big Ten play in its first go-around under Urban Meyer.
Brian's pick: Over. If the Buckeyes were eligible to go to Indianapolis, they would. Maybe I'm being too confident in the Meyer effect, but I think Ohio State wins every game except its trips to Michigan State and Wisconsin for a 10-2 finish.
Over-under: 5.5 wins
Brian's pick: Over. People picking the Nittany Lions to be terrible this year because of the sanctions aren't really paying attention. The defense is too good, and this team will be competitive. But the schedule is harder than it seems, and attrition will take its toll late in the year. Penn State goes 6-6.
Adam's pick: Over. A great defense carried Penn State to nine wins in 2011. It certainly can boost the Lions to at least a six-win season this fall. The offense will look very ugly at times, but Bill O'Brien will eventually work his magic and see some results. I have Penn State finishing 7-5.
Over-under: 7.5 wins
Adam's pick: Under. It certainly wouldn't shock me if Purdue won eight or even nine games this season, but the Boilers will need to pull some upsets to do so. Purdue likely will be the underdog against Notre Dame (road), Michigan (home), Wisconsin (home) and Ohio State (road). There also are some toss-up games (Penn State, Illinois, Iowa). I have the Boilers going 7-5.
Brian's pick: Under. I also have Purdue going 7-5. That's at least improvement from last year's 6-6 mark. Notre Dame will be a turning point. If the Boilers can win that one, I think an eight-win season is a real possibility. They need to become a lot more consistent after not posting back-to-back wins all of last season.
Over-under: 9.5 wins
Brian's pick: Under. Wisconsin won't have to be perfect to win the Leaders Division this year, and that's a good thing for the Badgers. They stub their toe three times in league play to finish 9-3 but go to Indianapolis anyway because of Ohio State's probation. That will still put them just one win away from the Rose Bowl.
Adam's pick: Over. A favorable non-league schedule helps the Badgers, as does missing Michigan in Big Ten play and getting recent nemesis Michigan State at home. Wisconsin also hosts Ohio State in late November. While the Badgers won't breeze through the Big Ten, I don't see them losing more than two league games. As a result, they'll record another 10-win season.