Over the last few seasons, the Big 10 East has been the best division in college football. Having Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State in the same division means each team in the Big 10 East is going to have a difficult schedule pretty much every season.
Aside from Rutgers, the bottom of the division hasn’t been too bad, either. Maryland and Indiana have both been competitive in recent years. However, the Big 10 East is a four-team race in 2018, and it will likely come down to the finale week of the season.
Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State have all won the Big 10 East since the division was created in 2014. The Buckeyes are the only two-time winner, and they are the defending Big 10 champion. Urban Meyer’s team is the favorite to win it again, but there are several other teams capable of winning the conference title.
Throughout July, we are giving out our over/under picks for every team in college football. We are also giving out best bets for each division and conference. Here are our over/under picks for each team in the Big 10 East. Also, check out our picks for the Big 10 West.
Note: all win totals are for regular season only. Conference championship games and bowl games do not count towards a team’s over/under projection. All win totals are from BetDSI.com.
Big 10 East Over/Under
Ohio State (10.5)
Urban Meyer is a remarkable 73-8 in six seasons in Columbus, and he’s 47-3 in Big 10 play. One of those three losses occurred last year — a 55-24 beatdown at Iowa — and it ended the Buckeyes’ chances of making the playoffs.
Ohio State lost its normal share of players to the NFL, but Meyer has reloaded and has another contender. Only 12 starters return, but one of those is top draft prospect Nick Bosa. J.K. Dobbins is a Heisman candidate at running back, and the offense has two of the best receivers in the league in Austin Mack and Parris Campbell.
Dwayne Haskins will take over for J.T. Barrett at quarterback. Haskins led Ohio State to victory over Michigan after Barrett was injured. It’s a mostly inexperienced roster, but there’s no denying how much talent will be on the field.
The Buckeyes should coast past Oregon State and Rutgers in the first two weeks, but the week three matchup against TCU in Arlington will be very intriguing. However, Ohio State is catching the Horned Frogs at the right time. OSU should be 4-0 heading into the Sept. 29 showdown at Penn State.
Ohio State hosts Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska and Michigan. They travel in conference play to Purdue, Michigan State and Maryland. Basically, the season total will come down to how they fare versus the Nittany Lions, Spartans and Wolverines. We’re calling for the Buckeyes to slip up in one of those games — Michigan in the regular season finale.
Last year was the first time Meyer lost more than one game in the regular season at Ohio State. We don’t see that happening again.
The Pick: Ohio State OVER 10.5.
Penn State (9.5)
The Nittany Lions were national title contenders the last two seasons, and they just missed out on the playoffs in 2016. James Franklin led Penn State to a Big 10 title in 2016, and they finished second in the Big 10 East a season ago.
Star running back Saquon Barkley will be nearly impossible to replace. The burden will fall on senior quarterback Trace McSorley’s arm to control the offense. McSorley put up nearly identical numbers in the last two seasons. Last year, he threw for 28 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and just under 3,600 yards.
Trace McSorley had great success when kept clean from pressure in the pocket pic.twitter.com/m8COq9rHLs
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 9, 2018
While the offense should be solid, the defense only returns three starters. That’s certainly a concern, but the home schedule is favorable. The Nittany Lions are also 14-0 at home in the last two seasons.
Road games include Pitt, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Rutgers. Penn State will be favored in every game except for the Michigan game. The home slate includes Appalachian State, Kent State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Maryland.
Penn State will be favored in at least nine games and possibly 10. Still, there is cause for concern about the lack of experience on the defensive side. McSorley is primed for a big year, but the offense won’t be the same without Barkley.
The Pick: Penn State UNDER 9.5.
Michigan State (8.5)
With the exception of 2016’s 3-9 season, Mark Dantonio has built one of the most consistent programs in the country in East Lansing. The Spartans bounced back with a 10-3 season in 2017, and they are poised to contend for the Big 10 East title again this fall.
A total of 19 starters return for the Spartans, including 10 on offense. It’s a veteran team that won several close games last year. Running back LJ Scott returns, as well as defensive back Devin Dowell, who led the Big 10 in interceptions a season ago.
Michigan State avoids Wisconsin from the West division, but the schedule is far from easy. After a tune-up game versus Utah State, the Spartans travel to Tempe for a very tricky game against a veteran Arizona State squad. They play additional road games at Indiana, Penn State, Maryland and Nebraska.
The Spartans will host Central Michigan, Northwestern, Michigan, Purdue, Ohio State and Rutgers. Two of the toughest games are at home, but they will have to play Penn State and Michigan in back-to-back weeks, and the Nittany Lions will be coming off of a bye.
There aren’t many coaches in college football better than Dantonio. Betting against him is never fun, but the Big 10 East might be as good as it’s ever been this year.
The Pick: Michigan State UNDER 8.5.
Jim Harbaugh is probably the most hated coach in college football, and his detractors reveled in the Wolverines’ 8-5 campaign in 2017. Michigan looked like a contender after dominating Florida in the opening week, but that win didn’t look as impressive once fans saw more of the Gators.
Michigan will be a much better team this year. They’re very talented and well coached, and they also have a very good quarterback in Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. Quarterback play has been the main issue for Harbaugh’s teams at Michigan so far, but Patterson should fix those problems.
The expectations are high surrounding Michigan entering this season. They have one of the 10 most talented rosters, and 17 starters return — including nine on defense. The only reason the Wolverines won’t be mentioned in the same breath as Ohio State and even Wisconsin is due to the difficulty of their schedule.
Michigan will be tested right out of the gate as they travel to South Bend to take on Notre Dame in week one. That will be a pivotal game for both teams for their win totals and for their chances at making the playoffs. Easier home games versus Western Michigan and SMU follow, and they host Nebraska in week four.
The remaining conference home schedule includes Maryland, Wisconsin, Penn State and Indiana. Michigan will likely be favored in all four of those games, though the they will be short favorites against the Badgers and the Nittany Lions. The Wolverines travel to Northwestern, Michigan State, Rutgers and Ohio State.
Michigan will be underdogs in at least three games this year, which is why the total is so low despite how much talent is on the roster. Still, we think Jim Harbaugh has a bounce back year, and Michigan will be a playoff contender entering the regular season finale at Ohio State.
The Pick: Michigan OVER 8.5.
Tom Allen just missed out on getting his Hoosiers to a bowl game last season. Indiana finished 5-7, and four of those losses were by eight points or less.
Seven starters return on what should be an explosive offense. Only three starters return on defense, and Allen will have a tough task rebuilding that side of the ball. But Allen’s background is on defense, and he’s done a solid job with that unit as a head coach and as a coordinator under Kevin Wilson.
The Hoosiers avoid Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska from the West. They also host Iowa, Michigan State and Penn State in conference play. Indiana will be heavy road dogs at Michigan and Ohio State, and they have winnable road games at Rutgers and Minnesota.
It’s rare to see Power 5 teams travel to Group of 5 teams, but the Hoosiers will hit the road to take on Florida International in the opening week. They host Virginia and Ball State in their other two non-conference games. Like last year, the season finale against Purdue could determine whether both teams make a bowl game.
The Pick: Indiana UNDER 5.5.
The Terps shocked everyone when they rang up 51 points in the season opening win at Texas last year. However, they lost three quarterbacks to injury at various points during the season, and they fell to 4-8.
D.J. Durkin has 13 starters returning this fall, including eight on offense. Quarterback Kasim Hill returns, and Maryland now has several quarterbacks with experience on the roster. Durkin will have some work to do with the defense, and they will be tested right from the start as they host Texas week one.
The rest of the non-conference schedule includes a road game at Bowling Green and a home matchup against Temple. Both games should be wins, and they host Minnesota week four. If Maryland can start 3-1 or 4-0, they can make it back to a bowl game.
After a week five bye, the schedule starts to toughen. Maryland will be dogs at Michigan and at Penn State to finish the year, and they will also be underdogs at Iowa. The road game at Indiana is winnable, but they will likely be dogs for that game as well.
The home schedule is more favorable as they host Illinois and Rutgers. They also host Michigan State and Ohio State, though the Terps will still be prohibitive underdogs in those games.
Overall, this should be an improved team. The offense will score, and if Durkin can work some magic with the defense, Maryland can make it back to a bowl game. Durkin has recruited very well, and the talent is there to make some noise this year.
Rutgers is being patient with head coach Chris Ash. The Scarlet Knights play in the toughest division in college football, and it’s a very challenging rebuilding job. Ash is 6-18 through two seasons, but Rutgers did improve by two wins a season ago.
Though Rutgers won four games last year, it wasn’t as if they made some dramatic turnaround. They still lost their last three games to Penn State, Indiana and Michigan State by a combined score of 116-13. But 15 starters are returning, and Ash has done a solid job of building up the talent level on campus.
Getting to five wins will be a tough ask for Ash this year. The most winnable games on the schedule are the season opener versus Texas State, a road game at Kansas and a home game versus Buffalo. The Texas State game will be a win, but the Kansas and Buffalo games are both toss-ups.
Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, the conference schedule is just as hard. In addition to the grueling Big 10 East slate, Rutgers also crosses with Wisconsin on the road and Northwestern. They also travel to Ohio State, Maryland and Michigan State. The home games include Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Penn State.
The path to four or five wins is there, but Rutgers has to be perfect in the games it could/should win. That means wins over Texas State, Kansas, Buffalo, Illinois and Indiana — and they will likely be home dogs against the Hoosiers. If you take the over, there isn’t much margin for error. We’re taking a very slight under here, but a push is probably the most likely outcome.
The Pick: Rutgers UNDER 4.
Big 10 East Best Bets
Penn State UNDER 9.5
Michigan OVER 8.5
Maryland OVER 4.5
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