We are less than a week away from the official start of the 2023 college football season with Week 0 on tap, and a little over a week away from the Big Ten taking the field for the first time. A number of B1G teams will be facing off against one another in their openers, with Nebraska taking on Minnesota on Thursday, Aug. 31, Ohio State going to Indiana on Saturday, Sept. 2, and finally Northwestern travelling to Rutgers on Sunday, Sept. 3.
Before any of the games are played, however, let’s take a look at what the Vegas oddsmakers think of each Big Ten program this year.
All odds are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Northwestern: o/u 3 wins
After going just 1-11 on the field last season, things have gotten so much inconceivably worse for Northwestern off the field, and it eventually led to the firing of Pat Fitzgerald. Now under an interim head coach and after losing a bunch of players to the transfer portal, it’s impossible to see the Wildcats doing much of anything this year. Cam Porter is a solid back and Bryce Gallagher is a great senior linebacker, but that’s about it here.
Indiana: o/u 3.5 wins
Another team with not a ton to talk about, at least Indiana wasn’t rife with scandal this offseason. However, things have still been trending heavily downwards from what appears to be an outlier season in 2020, winning just two Big Ten contests over the last two seasons combined. Now, Tom Allen’s team returns just seven total starters, but they do bring in quarterback Tayven Jackson from Tennessee and bring back top tackler Aaron Casey. That likely won’t be enough to overcome a brutal schedule that includes trips to Michigan and Penn State as well as home games against Ohio State in the opener and also Wisconsin.
Rutgers: o/u 4.5 wins
Ah, good old Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights went 4-8 last year, but only one of those wins was in B1G play. Still, there is reason to be slightly more optimistic about this year’s group, as the defense returns seven starters and former four-star QB Gavin Wimsatt looks to bounce back from a disappointing sophomore season wherein he started the team’s final five games. On defense, getting leading tackler Deion Jennings and corner Max Melton back will be big. Unfortunately, like Indiana, having to play all four of Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin — in addition to Iowa from the West — really limits their ceiling.
Michigan State: o/u 5.5 wins
Maybe I’m just a hater, but I think 5.5 wins is actually pretty high for Michigan State this season all things considered. Mel Tucker found out the hard way that building a football team entirely through the transfer portal is not a sustainable business model, especially when the Kenneth Walker III’s of the world don’t just grow on trees. The Spartans went 5-7 last season, and both starting QB Payton Thorne and top WR Keon Coleman leaving this spring doesn’t make things any easier. Adding on top of that one of the nation’s worst defensive secondaries two years running, and it’s likely going to be another tough year in East Lansing.
Purdue: o/u 5.5 wins
Purdue surprised many last year when they won the Big Ten West (albeit with just an 8-6 record overall), but the road ahead gets tougher now with head coach Jeff Brohm leaving for Louisville and starting QB Aidan O’Connell off to the NFL. However, former Illinois DC Ryan Walters is a strong hire, and they bring in Texas QB transfer Hudson Card. Card is expected to step in as the starter, but his job will not be easy with both of last year’s leading pass-catchers in WR Charlie Jones and TE Payne Durham both gone. Walters and his 3-4 scheme will likely lead to an improved defense for the Boilermakers, but expect a step back on offense.
Nebraska: o/u 6 wins
The Cornhuskers will be looking to rid themselves of the Scott Frost era as they usher in new head coach Matt Rhule. Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims will take over at QB, and he brings with him some solid dual-threat ability. Wide receiver has some question marks, but there seems to be some decent options there, and they do return top rusher Anthony Grant. The defense returns its top three tacklers, as well as basically all the important players in the secondary, but must replace almost the entirety of its defensive line. Rhule has some work to do here, but Nebraska isn’t quite in full rebuild mode.
Illinois: o/u 6.5 wins
Illinois improved mightily in year two under Bret Bielema, going 8-5 in the school’s first winning season in 11 years. The Illini have lost some big pieces from the 2022 squad — including Walters to Purdue. Star running back Chase Brown is gone, as are starting QB Tommy DeVito and elite defensive back Devon Witherspoon. While the loss of Brown is huge, they do bring back converted QB Isaiah Williams after he hauled in a team-high 82 receptions last year. Most of the other big names on defense aside from Witherspoon are also back, including Jer’Zhan Newton and Keith Randolph Jr. up front. Illinois could be a sleeper to win the West with a favorable schedule that avoids Ohio State and Michigan and gets Penn State and Wisconsin at home.
Minnesota: o/u 7 wins
After playing for Minnesota for the last decade, the Golden Gophers mainstays of Tanner Morgan, Mohamed Ibrahim and a trio of longtime offensive line starters are now gone. For really the first time under P.J. Fleck, this team will have a different look in 2023, lead by former four-star QB Athan Kaliakmanis and a receiver core that gets Chris Autman-Bell back from injury. They also feature a 6-foot-7 preseason All-American at tight end in Brevyn Spann-Ford. Defensively, they lose a lot in the secondary, as well as leading tackler Mariano Sori-Marin at linebacker. This is a hard team to get a pulse on, as their season will rely on how well the new starters on the offensive line perform and if the defense can match last year’s production.
Maryland: o/u 7.5 wins
Mike Locksley is coming off his best season at Maryland thus far with an 8-5 finish, and return’s one of the conference’s best QBs in Taulia Tagovailoa. However, he and productive running back Roman Hemby are mostly all that return, as four of last years starting offensive linemen and three of the team’s top six pass-catchers are gone in addition to returning only five starters on defense. Jeshaun Johnson at receiver and tight end Corey Dyches will have to shoulder the load through the air, while linebacker Jaishawn Barham will anchor a defensive unit that basically replaces its entire front and secondary outside of corner Tarheeb Still. They did bring in some transfers to plug the holes and added names like Kevin Sumlin and Josh Gattis to the coaching staff, so maybe they can build off of last year’s successes.
Iowa: o/u 8 wins
Nepotism has been the main theme holding Iowa back these last few years, and that remains the same in 2023 with offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz returning to work under his dad. Even without LB Jack Campbell and CB Riley Moss, the Hawkeyes will likely be one of the nation’s premiere defenses yet again, but Kirk Ferentz’s son is one of the sport’s worst coordinators on the other side. Iowa brought in some big additions on offense in QB Cade McNamara and TE Erick All from Michigan as well as WR Kaleb Brown from Ohio State, but with Brian Ferentz calling plays, this program will continue to come up short against the upper-tier opponents on their schedule.
Wisconsin: o/u 8.5 wins
Perhaps the biggest hire in all of college football, Wisconsin made some huge waves with the hiring of head coach Luke Fickell. In addition to Fickell, the Badgers brought in Phil Longo to call the offense, which should help bring an improved passing attack — with help from SMU transfer QB Tanner Mordecai — to a program that has been far too run dependent. That being said, they do bring back one of the country’s top running backs in Braelon Allen. Gone is Jim Leonard to coach the defense, but Mike Tressel gets the team’s returning top tackler Maema Njongmeta back as well as hybrid safety/linebacker Hunter Wohler. The coaching staff is good, the roster looks pretty strong, and if all goes according to plan, Fickell could very well win the Big Ten West in year one in Madison.
Penn State: o/u 9.5 wins
Penn State has finally rid themselves of 20-year starter Sean Clifford, and replaces him with one of the nation’s best QB prospects in the 2022 class in Drew Allar. The offense also incorporates two strong running backs in Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, and the return of left tackle Olu Fashanu is a big boost to the offensive line. The linebacker core is strong, led by Abdul Carter and Curtis Jacobs, and corner Kalen Kings returns after leading the B1G with 21 PBUs last season. The Nittany Lions do have some weaknesses, mainly a questionable wide receiver group and a defensive line that lacks depth. This may be one of Franklin’s best Penn State teams, but they still are likely a tier below Ohio State and Michigan.
Michigan: o/u 10.5 wins
Expectations are high at Michigan after defeating Ohio State each of the last two seasons and making the College Football Playoff in 2022. Jim Harbaugh gets back his starting QB in JJ McCarthy, as well as the best RB room in the FBS with both Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards toting the rock behind what is expected to be yet another strong offensive line. Jesse Minter gets six starters back on a defense that ranked near the top in the country last year, led by all-Big Ten LB Junior Colson and corner Will Johnson. On top of all the talent, the Wolverines have an incredibly easy schedule and get to play Ohio State at home. It’s tough to see this team winning less than 11 games.
Ohio State: o/u 10.5 wins
You guys know the story here. Whoever wins the starting QB battle between Kyle McCord and Devin Brown will be throwing to the country’s best WR core headed by Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, with a strong stable of talented running backs behind them. Defensively, Jim Knowles group will be looking to take a step forward as they return the entire front six in addition to some talented additions in the secondary in Ja’Had Carter and Davison Igbinosun. While it’ll be tough to match the play of C.J. Stroud, there is no reason this team shouldn’t be better than last year’s Buckeye squad. They have tough road matchups against Notre Dame and Wisconsin as well, but the entire season will come down to Nov. 25 in Ann Arbor.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.