Big Ten: Week 1 Preview

Saturday sees Ohio State begins its bid for the Big Ten title and a national championship.

Saturday sees Ohio State begins its bid for the Big Ten title and a national championship.

With College Football back on the weekend schedule, the Big Ten promises to be one of the more interesting conferences on tap.

The Wisconsin Badgers will look to win a fourth consecutive Big Ten title but the general consensus doesn’t see the side from Madison, Wis., getting anywhere close to the championship game this season, not with the Ohio State Buckeyes – the conference’s runaway favorites – eligible for the postseason once more. Meanwhile, the likes of the Michigan Wolverines, Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats will look to upset the odds and earn a title.

To catch-up with all the offseason developments in the Big Ten, read our division previews: [Leaders Division Preview] [Legends Division Preview].

Early Action Recap

Big Ten action got underway Thursday with the Indiana Hoosiers (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) handing the FCS’ Indiana State Sycamores (0-1, 0-0 MVC) a lopsided defeat. The 73-35 final saw the Hoosiers cover the spread, with the total going over.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) also got in on the action, beating the UNLV Rebels (0-1, 0-0 MWC) at TCF Bank Stadium. The 51-23 final saw Minnesota cover the spread, while the Gophers’ output alone essentially ensured the total would go over.

Action continued Friday as the Michigan State Spartans (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) hosted the Western Michigan Broncos (0-1, 0-0 MAC). Despite an offense that struggled to tally just 12 points, the Spartans’ defense picked up the slack, with Kurtis Drummond returning an interception and Shilique Calhoun taking a fumble recovery over the goal line for a 26-13 victory. The ship doesn’t look all that steady in East Lansing, Mich.

Now, let’s look ahead to Saturday’s games.

Buffalo Bulls at No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH, 12:00 p.m. ET

Braxton Miller and Urban Meyer will look to lead the Buckeyes to victory.

Miller and Meyer will look to lead the Buckeyes to victory.

While nobody expects this to be a competitive game, it does offer our first chance to see No. 2 Ohio State in action. Urban Meyer’s side will look to build on the momentum of last year’s undefeated season, one that was marred only by postseason ineligibility. Week 1 objectives will include ironing out any last minute creases on both offense and defense, particularly finding some extra support for Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller. Of course, the Buckeyes will also be looking to avoid a costly slip-up.

The Buffalo Bulls meanwhile will be looking to play spoiler in their first ever showdown with the Buckeyes. The Bulls finished 4-8 overall last season with a 3-5 record in the Mid-American Conference. The school will be looking to improve its standing this season. It’ll also look to prove itself better than the seventh-place it has been assigned in the MAC by bookmakers.

Ohio Stadium, where the Buckeyes have not lost a season opener since 1978, will be rocking Saturday lunchtime as OSU looks to improve its opening day winning streak to 14 games; the last team to beat the Buckeyes in Week 1 was the 1999 Miami Hurricanes, who did so at the old Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The Buckeyes are understandably favored heading into this one. The spread opened at 33 ½ and has subsequently shifted as high as 35. The Buckeyes have won their last three season openers by an average of 42 points, including two in a row against MAC competition.

The over/under opened at 63 but has dropped as low as 55 with some sportsbooks. The Buckeyes have seen the total finish above 63 just once in the last 10 season openers, which was last season’s curtain-raiser against Miami (OH). The under may well be the smart bet here.

Syracuse Orange vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, 3:30 p.m. ET

Penn State begins another season.

Penn State begins another season.

After defying the critics and the (proverbial not literal) odds a year ago, Bill O’Brien will look to lead the Penn State Nittany Lions to another successful, albeit Bowl-less, season in 2013. PSU begins its campaign at MetLife Stadium taking on ACC newcomers the Syracuse Orange.

PSU lost its first two games of 2012, including its first season-opener in 11 years, before winning eight of the last 10 to finish a more than respectable 8-4 overall, and 6-2 in the Big Ten. In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal, and the NCAA sanctions that followed, those numbers remain impressive. But can the school do it again, or will an emotional letdown thwart the team’s attempts?

Syracuse will begin its first season in the ACC ranked 10th by bookmakers, a sure sign that little is expected of Scott Shafer’s first year in charge of the team. A high-profile game to start the season could change those interpretations though. Beating PSU will be tough though.

PSU owns a 42-23-5 record in the all-time head-to-head. The Nittany Lions have won the last four meetings, as well as 19 of the last 22. The last time the two sides met was September 12, 2009; a game PSU took 28-7. Syracuse’s last win over Penn State was on October 15, 1988.

Penn State opened as the favorite with the spread sitting at 5. At time of publication, that number had risen to 9 with Bovada.

The over/under opened at 51 and has remained consistent. That being said, the likes of BetOnline and TopBet have added an extra half-point to their line.

Around the Conference

Northwestern begins the new campaign out west.

Northwestern begins the new campaign out west.

Considered the second best team in the conference, No. 17 Michigan will begin its 2013 campaign hosting the MAC’s Central Michigan. The Wolverines are historically 2-0 against the Chippewas, with the last meeting between the sides coming in 2006. The spread opened at 26 with Michigan as the favorite and now stands at 31½. The over/under opened at 55 but has dropped to 52.

No. 18 Nebraska will start the season with a visit from Wyoming of the Mountain West Conference. The Cornhuskers are a perfect 6-0 against the Cowboys, winning each by an average of 26.3 points. The home team opened favored by 21 ½ points but oddsmakers have bumped the spread to 30 at time of publication. The over/under has gone from 61 at opening to 67.

A surprising entry into the preseason AP Top 25, No. 22 Northwestern will begin the season with a trip to Berkley, Calif., for a showdown with California. The only previous meeting between the two sides came in the 1949 Rose Bowl, a game the Wildcats won 20-14. At 20/1 to win the Pac-12, the Golden Bears aren’t expected to contend this season, one of the reasons Northwestern opens as a road favorite. The spread opened at 8 ½ but has subsequently dropped to 6, while the over/under has risen from 55 to 60½.

The Big Ten’s remaining ranked side, No. 23 Wisconsin will start the season by welcoming Massachusetts to Camp Randall Stadium. This will mark the first time the Badgers and Minutemen have met on the field. The defending Big Ten champions opened as a 45-point favorite, with the over/under at 53. Both lines remain mostly unchanged.

Elsewhere in the conference, Purdue opens as an underdog on the road against Cincinnati; Illinois is favored at home over Southern Illinois of the FCS; and Iowa is a marginal favorite against last year’s BCS busters, Northern Illinois.

For links to BettingSports.com’s matchup pages for each of Saturday’s Big Ten games, check the schedule below.

BIG TEN RESULTS

Thursday

Indiana State 35, Indiana 73

UNLV 23, Minnesota 51

Friday

Western Michigan 13, Michigan State 26

BIG TEN SCHEDULE

Saturday (All times ET)

12:00 Buffalo at No. 2 Ohio State (matchup)

12:00 Massachusetts at No. 23 Wisconsin (matchup)

12:00 Southern Illinois at Illinois (matchup)

12:00 Purdue at Cincinnati (matchup)

3:30 Central Michigan at No. 17 Michigan (matchup)

3:30 Penn State vs. Syracuse (matchup)

3:30 Northern Illinois at Iowa (matchup)

8:00 Wyoming at No. 18 Nebraska (matchup)

10:30 No. 22 Northwestern at California (matchup)

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