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PONKING THE BIG TEN: A GAMBLER’S GUIDE TO THE CONFERENCE

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Rule 1: You’re allowed to bet against your favorite team

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Well, hello there.

As this year’s resident investor degenerate of this here blog, Black Heart Gold Pants, it’s my job to lay out, in excruciating detail, the proper bets to make ahead of, and throughout, the Big Ten conference season.

The ponks are still confused, and still weekly, so there will be more to come and maybe a future bet or two to be had in that column as it pertains to the Big Ten Conference. What follows is merely a guide to keep your wallet healthy, your spouse/quarantine partner happy, and your glass full.*

*Individual results may vary

Step 0: avoid the sportsbook as much as possible

It goes without saying, but we are still living with a pandemic. If you live in Iowa and are in the #blessed position to go to Prairie Meadows or Lakeside or Riverside or Oceanside, just don’t go.

Now, to open up even a mobile account, you do have to go ever so briefly but spend as little time there swapping cigarette smoke and potential COVID-19 particles. You’ll have more fun at your home anyways, despite enough free fountain soda to bathe in at the casino.

Step 1: don’t be afraid to bet against your favorite team

This is also known as “hedging your happiness,” and let me tell you, it is an absolute joy. There is literally nothing more exciting than laying a couple bucks against Iowa and knowing that if they do, by some grace of god, cover, that win was worth the money spent.

Or you’ll just end up angry the Hawkeyes won almost literally the ugliest way possible and be a couple dollars richer. It happens.

Step 2: do the due diligence of predicting the season

It doesn’t matter if it takes you five minutes or five days, but it’s silly to take your cold hard cash to any phone application to place a future bet and not pretend to guess which games each team in the conference would win and lose.

For posterity’s sake, here’s where I settled:

West
T-1: Wisconsin Badgers (6-2)
T-1: Purdue Boilermakers (6-2)
T-1: Iowa Hawkeyes (6-2)
4: Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-4)
5: Northwestern Wildcats (3-5)
T-6: Illinois Fighting Illini (2-6)
T-6: Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-6)

East
1: Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0)
T-2: Penn State Nittany Lions (6-2)
T-2: Michigan Wolverines (6-2)
4: Maryland Terrapins (4-4)
5: Indiana Hoosiers (2-6)
6: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-7)
7: Michigan State Spartans (0-8)

I won’t regret making that little exercise public!

Step 3: don’t be afraid of the obvious bets

Here are the numbers hot off the press for each team according to sportsbetting.ag & betmgm.com:

Illinois: O/U 3 (-125/-105) / +3,000 to win division / +8,000 to win the conference
Indiana: O/U 4.5 (-115/-115) / +3,500 / +5,000
Iowa: O/U 4.5 (-170/+140) / +225 / +2,500
Maryland: O/U 2 (-155/+125) / +6,500 / +8,000
Michigan: O/U 6.5 (-175/+145) / +300 / +550
Michigan State: O/U 3 (-115/-115) / +2,500 / +4,000
Minnesota: O/U 6 (-130/+100) / +550 / +2,500
Nebraska: O/U 4 (-130/+100) / +300 / +2,000
Northwestern: O/U 3.5 (-145/+115) / +4,000 / +5,000
Ohio State: O/U 8.5 (-130/+100) / -304 / -250
Penn State: O/U 7 (-125/-105) / +600 / +900
Purdue: O/U 3.5 (-160/+130) / +2000 / +5,000
Rutgers: O/U 1.5 (-125/-105)
Wisconsin: O/U 6.5 (-140/+110) / +150 / +900

Even not accounting for the “plus-one” games, the above estimations put us comfortably at:

Over: Iowa, Maryland, Purdue
Under: Minnesota, Nebraska, Indiana, Michigan State

Of those, Iowa feels like the lockiest of locks. As JP said, “what five games is Iowa going to lose?”

(famous last words)

As for division and conference odds, Ohio State is the runaway favorite in the East and probably worth the wager if you’re willing to pay the vig. It seems silly for Wisconsin not to have the same respect out West, as the division remains theirs for the taking.

Can I short Nebraska +300?

As for long shots, I’ve got Purdue tying to win the division so taking a flyer on them may be worth it. On the eastern side of the division, Penn State +900 seems the most reasonable.

Step 4: when in doubt, bet the over

I could sit here, as a keyboard cowboy, and whine about how everyone forgot how to tackle with the extended offseason. But the math is the math and as of this writing, there have been 140 games with consensus over/under lines according to college football data (dot) com.

75 (53.6%) have hit the over. That’s a winning number.

Plus, it’s more fun.

Step 5: don’t bet outside your means

I joke that my ponks are my child’s 529 and I would absolutely love to win so much moolah, I could afford to pay college in 18-22 years off of them. But that is not the case. He has a real savings plan which doesn’t involve gambling on sports.

So be smart! Set a budget!

And let’s win.