As we inch closer to the beginning of the college football season, we get the usual rites of passages like the release of college football preview magazines, watch lists galore, and preseason betting odds. So who does Vegas like in the Big Ten and in the national title picture? Let's take a look.
First up, Big Ten title odds, courtesy of Bovada.
Big Ten West
That's right: your 2016 Iowa Hawkeyes are officially the favorite to win the Big Ten West. Iowa has never been favored to win a Big Ten division (Legends or West) in the relatively brief existence of divisions in the conference (to the best of my knowledge, at least) and I have no idea when they might have last been the betting favorite to win the Big Ten in a pre-division era. (I'm fairly sure it's never happened in the Kirk Ferentz Era, although they were likely near the top of the favorites lists in 2005, 2006, and 2010 when preseason expectations for Iowa were very bullish.) The Fightin' Tommy Armstrongs have odds just behind Iowa while a mind-numbingly brutal schedule isn't enough to keep Wisconsin from having the third-best odds to win the West. Northwestern or Minnesota might be nice value plays if you believe jNW will find an offense in 2016 and that Minnesota will improve dramatically with a softer schedule this year.
Big Ten East
Meanwhile, in the East Ohio State and Michigan are pretty much neck-and-neck as favorites to win the division. No shock there. Michigan State has the next best odds and then things drop off fairly precipitously for the remaining Big Ten East squads. LOL Rutgers.
While Iowa has the best odds to win the Big Ten West and make it (back) to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis in December, they have only the fourth-best odds in the league to actually win that game, ranking behind Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State from the East. The experts setting Vegas odds clearly don't believe in the "West is Best" maxim. Iowa has the same odds to win the Big Ten as Nebraska, in fact.
As for the big prize, the new national title odds come from the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook and they contain a lot of familiar faces:
Alabama, the betting favorite? What a stunner. Michigan actually has the next best odds -- people are very bullish on the Wolverines this year even though no one is sure who their quarterback will be -- with Clemson, Florida State, and Ohio State trailing just behind them. Meanwhile, Iowa's odds to win the whole shooting match have gone from 100/1 to 60/1 -- maybe Vegas has more CJB-lievers than we realized.
What do you make of the odds? Any plays you particularly like?