B1G Bets: Best 4 Big Ten Football Bowl Picks: Penn State to Shine


Dec 29, 2023

We’ve started with two wins this bowl season, backing five-win Minnesota and six-win Rutgers. B1GBets are rarely pretty and not for the faint of heart. There are five remaining Big Ten bowl games (not counting the CFP), and we have a play on four.

Have all the intel you need? Free actionable info is one click away! Sign up for our daily newsletter, SportsGrid Daily.

B1G Bets: Big Ten 2023 Season Record

Bowl Record: 2-0 overall (+1.5 unit) | Overall Record: 51-27-1 overall (+26 units)

ATS: 30-14-1 | Team Totals: 16-12 | Game Totals: 5-1

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

B1GGEST Bets (1.5 Units): Season: 6-1 (+7.5 Units)


B1GGER Bets (1 Units): Season: 25-7 (+18 Units) Missouri +5.5 Ohio State (DraftKings)

Money Line: Ohio State -205 | Missouri +170 | Total: 49

Dec. 29: Time: 8:00 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN | Location: AT&T Stadium | Arlington, TX

Ohio State: CFP: 7 | SP+: 3 | PFF: 7

Missouri: CFP: 9 | SP+: 12 | PFF: 12

At full strength, this would be a great matchup. The teams match up very well on both sides of the ball. And at full force, I’d be on Ohio State, but they’re not at full strength. Not even close.

The Buckeyes are expected to be without starting QB Kyle McCord, superstar WR Marvin Harrison, WR3 Julian Fleming, RB2 Chip Trayanum, and RB3 Miyan Williams. As of now, RB1 TreVeyon Henderson is expected to play, but who knows, while tight end Cade Stover will be suiting up at less than 100 percent.

Defensively, it’s believed LB Tommy Eichenberg is opting out, and safety Lathan Ransom is injured. Other players to monitor include DE JT Tuimoloau, DT Michael Hall Jr., and S Josh Proctor.

OSU has quality depth unlike most programs—see freshman WR Carnell Tate—but losses like McCord, Harrison, and the hits to the running back depth can’t be discounted entirely.

Harrison has been touted as the best player in college football. As much as specific criticisms of McCord were legitimate, he beat out Devin Brown for the starting job back in August, and for 12 weeks, Ryan Day believed McCord was the QB who gave him the best chance to win. It’s hard to believe that now, Brown will serve as an upgrade.

Even with McCord and Harrison, the Bucks were held to 24 points or less by the top four defenses they’ve faced this season (Notre Dame, PSU, Wisconsin, Michigan). Missouri might not have the talent of Penn State or Michigan, but it is as stout as Notre Dame and Wisconsin.

Some players who may take the field for the Buckeyes are impressive. Even more opt-outs were predicted. But I can’t help but wonder how much they care about winning the Cotton Bowl. This program is playoff or bust year in and year out, and a win on Friday will do nothing to take away the bad taste from a third-straight loss to rival Michigan.

Missouri, on the other hand, has to be uber-pumped for this matchup. Their ten wins are the most since the Gary Pinkel era. This is their first NY6 Bowl game in ten years, and the Tigers are building something heading into 2024. Two defensive starters are injured, but according to HC Eli Drinkwitz, no players are opting out.

Junior Brady Cook had a breakout season (3,189 yards, 9.1 YPA, 20 TDs), giving Mizzou the edge at QB. They also have some star power of their own in RB Cody Schrader (1,489 yards, 13 TDs, 6.0 TPC) and WR Luther Burden III (83 receptions, 1,197 yards, 8 TDs), who will look to put on a show.

This game feels like a toss-up, so I’ll take the points.

Don’t worry about the steam on the Buckeyes… the steam hasn’t done exceptionally well this bowl season and has been beaten once already (see Minnesota).

Penn State -4.5 Ole Miss (FanDuel)

Money Line: Penn State -188 | Ole Miss +155 | Total: 48.5

Dec. 30: Time: 12:00 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN | Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium | Atlanta, GA

Penn State: CFP: 10 | SP+: 4 | PFF: 9

Ole Miss: CFP: 11 | SP+: 14 | PFF: 17

Both teams are 10-2. Both teams are 10-0 against non-national title contenders. Both teams are 0-2 against national title contenders.

Ole Miss lost 24-10 to Alabama (before the Crimson Tide got rolling) and 52-17 to Georgia, while Penn State fell to Ohio State 20-12 and 24-15 to Michigan.

The Rebels are a bit fugazi. At the same time, the Nittany Lions are a legit top-ten team, and they’re underrated because of poor offensive performances against the Big Ten’s best (only PSU games some have paid attention to). The Mississippi defense is nowhere near the level of Michigan or Ohio State.

The most significant difference in defeats is Drew Allar’s play, who was 28 of 64 (43.8%) in those two games, compared to his 65.3 completion percentage against everyone else. Allar had a 23-1 TD-INT ratio during the season, and as the season went on, the Nittany Lions started using his rocket arm more to take shots down the field. Expect more of that in the Peach Bowl.

Running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen had disappointing (not bad) campaigns but finished strong as each put up season highs in their finale, 118 yards for Singleton and 137 for Allen.

Allar, Singleton, and Allen are all true sophomores, so growth leading up to the bowl is to be expected from the potentially dynamic trio. The Rebels finished an abysmal 92nd in defensive rushing success rate, easily the most significant weakness on either side. State will be able to run the ball, taking pressure off Allar and opening up the potential for big plays.

Ole Miss also struggles to get opponents off the field, ranked 81st in third/fourth down success rate on defense.

Penn State studs LT Olumuyiwa Fashanu and TE Theo Johnson are headed to the NFL but have been practicing and are expected to play, while Ole Miss will be without starting edge rusher Cedric Johnson.

For PSU, DE Chop Robinson and CB Johnny Dixon have opted out, but many others are expected to play, including covermen Kalen King and Daequan Hardy.

The Nittany Lions might have the best defense in the country. They’re ranked first in defensive success rate, fourth in points per drive, and fourth in defensive EPA.

Even without Robinson, Adisa Isaac (team-high 7.5 sacks) and Dani Dennis-Sutton form one of the best pass-rushing duos we’ll see this bowl season. The same can be said of the linebacking corps of Abdul Carter (4.5 sacks, 4 PDs), Curtis Jacobs, and Kobe King (team-high 54 tackles).

Ole Miss will have a lot of trouble moving the ball and putting up points against PSU’s top-notch defense.  

In NY6 Bowls, James Franklin is 3-1, having won three straight, and 4-0 ATS. Conversely, Lane Kiffin is 2-4 in bowl games and lost his only NY6 Bowl (21-7 to Baylor in the 2021 Sugar Bowl).

Maryland +6.5 Auburn

Money Line: Auburn -128 | Maryland +106 | Total: 41.5

Dec. 30: Time: 2:15 p.m. ET | TV: ESPN | Location: Yankee Stadium | Bronx, NY

Auburn: CFP: NR | SP+: 37 | PFF: 57

Maryland: CFP: NR | SP+: 33 | PFF: 46

At full strength, Maryland is the better team. Auburn opened as a slight favorite, and the news of QB Taulia Tagovailoa (opt-out) has pushed this line to nearly a touchdown, which is too much for a very mediocre Tigers team.

Auburn is a one-dimensional offense, ranked 112th in passing success rate, 91st in passing EPA, and 107th in third/fourth down success. They may move the ball on the ground, but will they put up enough points to cover the spread?

Maryland’s defense, ranked 20th in SP+, 32nd in points per drive, 44th in EPA, and 52nd in success rate, is an underrated unit, even without starters Jaishawn Barham and Tarheeb Still.

Backup QB Billy Edwards is capable and adds a running dimension to make Maryland more balanced offensively.

Receivers Jeshaun Jones (747 yards-4 TDs), Tai Felton (723 yards-6 TDs), and Kaden Prather (609 yards-5 TDs) will test an Auburn secondary without starting cornerbacks DJ James and Nehemiah Pritchett (opt-outs), and potentially safety Jaylin Simpson, a Senior Bowl invitee recovering from a hamstring injury. Also, keep an eye on freshman TE Preston Howard, a breakout candidate.

The Terps have been inconsistent running the ball, but with Edwards (team-high six rushing TDs), Roman Hemby (4.9 YPC), and Colby McDonald (6.0 YPC), there’s no shortage of talent in the backfield. They should be able to find running room against an Auburn rush defense ranked 81st in success rate.

Maryland, who has won two straight bowl games under Mike Locksley, is a live dog who will keep this game close, if not win outright.

B1G Bets (1/2 Unit): 20-19-1 (+ 0.5 Units) Tennessee UNDER 20.5 (FanDuel)

Jan. 1: Time: 1:00 p.m. ET | TV: ABC | Location: Raymond James Stadium | Tampa, FL

Tennessee: CFP: 21 | SP+: 19 | PFF: 23

Iowa: CFP: 17 | SP+: 36 | PFF: 22

Was there any doubt I’d be on the Iowa defense (aka opposing team’s total UNDER)?

The Hawkeyes are without CB Cooper DeJean, who was injured in Week 11, but the defense is otherwise intact.

The defense is as good as any in college football, ranked No. 1 in points per drive, No. 2 in SP+, No. 5 in success rate, and No. 14 in EPA.

For those new to B1GBets, the Hawkeyes are sound on every level. They have six defensive linemen with over 30 tackles, led by Logan Lee and Ethan Hurkett, who have 52 stops each. EDGE Joe Evans leads them with 5.5 sacks, while DT Yahya Black might be their most disruptive player. Jay Higgins has a whopping 155 tackles on the next level, followed by Nick Jackson’s 99. They’re as reliable a dup as you’ll find.

The secondary features Sebastian Castro (8 PDs, 3 INTs), a Swiss army knife-type playmaker who excels near the line of scrimmage. CB Jermari Harris (8 PDs) is their top coverman with DeJean out, and former five-star safety Xavier Nwankpa plays centerfield with the athleticism to cover a lot of ground.

With elite punter Tory Taylor, the Hawkeyes excel at pinning opposing teams in the shadow of their end zone.

It’s a tall task to go up against this bunch for a true freshman, no matter how highly touted Nico Iamaleava is. Phil Parker’s defense mostly plays zone, allowing their back seven to face the QB, and they rarely blitz. Playing mistake-free football against this scheme is challenging for even the most experienced passer.

Not only are the Vols without Joe Milton III, but RB1 Jaylen Wright (1,013 yards, 7.4 YPC), RB2 Jabari Small, and their right guard on offense.

In 11 games against non-top ten teams (with top 5 defenses that lead to points), the Hawkeyes haven’t allowed more than 16 points. That streak continues in 2024.

Iowa +6.5 Tennessee (FanDuel)

Money Line: Tennessee -235 | Iowa +195 | Total: 35.5

Iowa is a live dog, and there’s no reason they can’t upset Tennessee.

We don’t talk much about Iowa’s offense (for a good reason), but they have a pair of solid backs in Leshon Williams and Kaleb Johnson, who can break off a long run if the defense is overaggressive.

Sophomore tight end Addison Ostrenga has made 21 (of 29) catches in the past four games, and former OSU top-100 WR Kaleb Brown has 18 of his 19 receptions over the same stretch, adding 43 rushing yards on six carries. Deacon Hill also played his best ball in November, completing 58.3 percent of his passes (49.4 on the season).

None of this is to say they’re good or average, but they did improve and could make another leap heading into the bowl.

The opt-out for the Vols also carries over to the other side of the ball. Defensively, Tennessee will be without EDGE Tyler Baron (6 sacks) and three starting defensive backs.

The Big Ten West has represented themselves well in bowl season of late, including a pair of wins by Northwestern (upset Utah) and Minnesota this year. That also includes Iowa, who has won four of their past five bowl games, including two against SEC foes.

Stay ahead of the game and elevate your sports betting experience with SportsGrid.

Thumbnail photo via Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

Picked For You