B1G Bets for Week 5! Time to Buy Low!

by

September 30

This game will humble you even when you’re conscious of not getting overconfident. That’s what a 2-5 week (-3.5 units) will do to you. Humble is good, but you can’t be scared because…

Scared money, don’t make money. Let’s eat!

Overall Record: 13-10 overall (+2.5 units) | ATS: 7-5 | Team Totals: 6-5

B1GGEST Bets (2 Units):

Last Week: 0-1; Season: 1-2 (-2 Units)

Illinois UNDER 18.5

Money Line: Wisconsin -880 | Illinois +580 | Total: 64.5
Time: Noon ET; TV: BTN | Location: Camp Randall Stadium | Madison, WI
Illinois: AP Top 25: NR | Coaches Poll:  NR | SP+: 47 | PFF: 34
Wisconsin: AP Top 25: NR | Coaches Poll: NR | SP+: 29 | PFF: 26

Are the Illini better this year? Probably. But how much better? Because the offense still stinks. They’re ranked 73rd in EPA on offense (70th rushing, 80th passing).

Only Northwestern and Iowa are worse in the Big Ten in scoring offense, and they’re tenth in yards per play in the conference. And that’s come against the 112th strength of schedule. The best defense they’ve played so far is Indiana’s, ranked No. 72 in defensive SP+, compared to Wisconsin, which checks in at No. 16.

Sure, some of the Badgers’ defensive numbers aren’t great, but that’s what happens when you allow 52 points to the best offense in football. Before that, they gave up a total of 24 points through three games, and the 17 they allowed to Washington State was a bit fluky, as they held the Cougars to 253 yards (out-gained WSU by 148 yards, 22 first downs to ten).

B1GGER Bets (1 Unit):

Last Week: 2-3; Season: 12-7 (+5 Units)

WISCONSIN -7 Illinois

Coming off a shellacking against Ohio State, the Badgers’ perceived value is as low as its been in years, which is reflected in this line.

Over the past season-plus, Wisconsin has played an inferior opponent following a loss three times. After losing to Washington State in Week 2, they beat up on New Mexico State 66-7. After falling to Penn State last year, they took care of Eastern Michigan 34-7. Those are Group of 5 teams, you say. OK, after they were thumped by Michigan nearly a year ago, they responded with a 24-0 win over Illinois.

This prideful program is licking its wounds after an embarrassing effort in Columbus, and the Illini will have their full attention this week.

As for Illinois, who exactly have they beaten this season? They’ve played four games, and the highest ranked team on SP+ is No. 81 Virginia.

I get people being down on Wisconsin, but they are a tier or two above Illinois.

IOWA UNDER 15.5

Money Line: Michigan -880 | Iowa +580 | Total: 64.5
Time: Noon ET; TV: FOX | Location: Michigan Stadium | Ann Arbor, MI
Iowa: AP Top 25: NR | Coaches Poll:  NR | SP+: 27 | PFF: 12
Michigan: AP Top 25: 4 | Coaches Poll: 4 | SP+: 4 | PFF: 4

The only more significant mismatch on Saturday might be Northwestern’s offense against Penn State’s defense (see more below).

Despite having trouble generating a consistent pass rush with the front four against Maryland, the Wolverines’ defense held up pretty well against an explosive offensive unit. The Mazie and Blue come into Kinnick first in the country in defensive EPA, fourth against the run with the fourth-best success rate on defense.

The Terps have one of the best offensive lines in the Big Ten (believe it!), and Spencer Petras isn’t nearly as elusive as Taulia Tagovailoa. Nothing about Iowa’s offense is similar to Maryland’s.
The Hawkeyes average just 3.0 yards per play (128th nationally) and are 125th in EPA on offense. They will have trouble gaining yards on the ground and through the air. Iowa managed seven points against South Dakota State, seven points against Iowa State, and while they scored 27 last week versus Rutgers, 14 came via interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Unless the Wolverines turn the ball over (only two all season), I don’t see how the Hawkeyes score more than 14 points.

NEBRASKA -4.5 Indiana

Money Line: Nebraska -144 | Indiana +118 | Total: 50.5
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET; TV: BTN | Location: Memorial Stadium | Lincoln, NE
Indiana: AP Top 25: NR | Coaches Poll: NR | SP+: 83 | PFF: 83
Nebraska: AP Top 25: NR | Coaches Poll: NR | SP+: 69 | PFF: 79

Betting is about finding value in the market, which we have with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Their stock is as low as it’s ever been. Many were expecting a post-Scott Frost bump two weeks ago against Oklahoma. But that was the wrong opponent at the wrong time. It was too fresh.

Now they’ve had more distance to separate themselves from the Frost era. With an extra week for players to step away and the coaches to prepare the team, if there’s a moment for the Huskers to turn the page, it’s this Saturday. And Indiana is the right opponent.

I still don’t love Nebraska’s defense, but if there’s an offense to get healthy against, IU is it.  

The Hoosiers are second to last in the Big Ten in yards per play, equally ineffective rushing (3.4 YPC) and passing (5.8 YPA). Their success rate is 113th in the country, and they rank 90th in EPA on offense. More so than offense, defense is about desire and effort. The Huskers used the off week to hit the reset button and get a fresh start for the season’s final eight games.

After the OU debacle, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander was fired. The new DC, Bill Busch, has now simplified the play-calling to speed things up and better handle up-tempo offenses like Indiana’s. Moreover, there have been some changes to the depth chart. Expect their best defensive effort of the year on Saturday.

Big Bets (1/2 Unit):

 Last Week: 0-1; Season: 0-1 (-0.5 Units)

NEBRASKA OVER 33.5

The Nebraska offense hasn’t been the problem. They are 22nd in EPA on offense with the 13th ranked success rate in the country. Quarterback Casey Thompson has completed 65% of his passes for a solid 8.5 YPA, while Anthony Grant is on his way to putting up nearly 1,400 yards at his current pace. They can move the football and put up points. 

Moving the football and scoring hasn’t been a problem for Indiana opponents. Their 11 passing touchdowns and 7.8 yards per pass are the worst in the Big Ten.

Note I: We’ve tweaked the names of the categories (but the unit measure remains unchanged).

Note II: Two things to monitor this week, if the Michigan line dips back below 9.5, we may get on the Wolverines and the health of Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell. If he suits up, the Boilermakers plus the points could be in play. Check back to see if we update the column, or follow me on Twitter for updates.

Thumbnail photo via Dan Powers / USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK

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