Summer is here, and that means football season is upon us. A summer tradition unlike any other — grinding out research for football futures. I’ll have a series of my favorite NCAA Football futures releasing all the way up until the start of the season in late August and early September.
Follow along on Twitter — @julianedlow — for some betting analysis on both NFL and CFB leading up to the season. Here’s a play in the Big Ten West that really jumps out to me on DraftKings Sportsbook.
When it comes to the Big Ten, Ohio State is the perennial powerhouse that we have to watch for. The Buckeyes are favored by double-digits in all 12 games this season, but Wisconsin avoids them in regular season play — we just hope to see them matchup in the Big Ten Championship Game.
With the spotlight on Ohio State, the Badgers seem to be flying under the radar in the other division, and should probably be more than just a pick’em priced favorite against the rest of the field. While the Badgers aren’t heavily favored in every game on the schedule, there’s a chance they are actually favored in all 12 regular season contests.
Judging from the lookahead lines, the Badgers’ toughest test comes on September 25th in the form of a neutral field game against Notre Dame. The game will be played in Chicago, and yet Wisco finds itself a slight favorite (-125 on the moneyline) against the Irish.
Another big test comes right off the bat, as the Badgers are a 4.5-point favorite over Penn State in Week 1, but do have the luxury of playing at home. Penn State is expected to be much improved this season, but Wisconsin is expected to really surprise as well compared to where it finished last year.
Phil Steele has Wisconsin as his No. 2 surprise team in 2021, and while the schedule has a lot to do with it, plenty of talent also factors in. From a schedule standpoint, it’s worth pointing out that there are only four true road games for this team! The Badgers also have 17 returning starters, and bring back all the major pieces to get back to their normal ways as a dominant team running the ball. Maybe most impressively, six of Steele’s nine sets of power rankings have Wisco finishing the regular season 12-0!
Even if we give upsets to Penn State and Notre Dame, this team could still finish 10-2, going over their win total of 9.5. So as Phil Steele told me on the Unreasonable Odds podcast, a play on the win total over is his favorite bet on Wisco in the futures market. I don’t disagree, I just think betting them in the division gives a little more wiggle room.
Maybe there is a third loss on the schedule to a team like Iowa. While I think that’s unlikely, a 9-3 record could still be enough to get it done in this division. Iowa’s win total is set at 8.5, so they Hawkeyes would likely have to win that game over Wisconsin and win nine or 10 games to win this division.
Iowa has a really difficult start to the season, sitting as a three-point favorite in Indiana in the opener, and then a five-point dog at Iowa State in Week 2. Penn State is also on Iowa’s schedule, likely giving Wisco both the talent and schedule advantage.
After Iowa, Minnesota is the third favorite in the Big Ten West at a whopping +900. If you don’t think Iowa can be better than Wisconsin this season, the -115 price on the Badgers in the division feels a little light.
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