Odds & Picks To Win The Big TenNoah Williams
Can Nittany Lions Go Back-to-Back to get Some Justice?
The Penn State Nittany Lions may have won the Big Ten title a year ago, but they got left o the outside looking in come playoff time as second place Ohio State was selected to compete in the four-team College Football Playoff despite losing to Penn State when they met during the regular season.
Now, the big question heading into 2017 is whether the Nittany Lions can win back-to-back conference crowns while reaching the CFP to get the ‘justice’ they deserve for last year’s slight? Believe it or not, Penn State will open the upcoming campaign as the No. 3 favorite to win the Big Ten, but let’s find out if they can overcome those odds to win their conference title at the very least.
Odds & Picks To Win The 2017 Big Ten Title
The Odds-On Favorite To Win The Big Ten: Ohio State Buckeyes -115
The best thing about the Buckeyes heading into2017 is that they have Heisman Trophy contending quarterback J.T. Barrett on their sideline. However, Ohio State will have a new offensive coordinator this season in Kevin Wilson and that could cause them to get off to a bit of a slow start.
The Buckeyes will have a solid, but not overpowering offensive line, but need to find a backup running back for Mike Weber and need to replace their top three wide receivers from last season. I guess I should mention the fact that the Buckeyes were fortunate (lucky?) to get a pair of overtime wins last season and two other victories that came by a combined five points. Ohio State will have a fantastic defensive line that could be as good as any in the country, but took a huge hit in the secondary as cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore and safety Malik Hooker all bolted to play in the NFL.
The Smart Pick To Win The Big Ten: Penn St. Nittany Lions +475
Maybe it’s me, but I just don’t understand why Penn State isn’t favored to win the Big Ten in 2017 after beating Ohio State during the regular season and taking out an excellent Wisconsin team in the Big Ten Championship game.
No matter, all that does is give Penn State more motivation to possibly run the table this coming season. The Nittany Lions have a pair of legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates in elusive running back Saquon Barkley (1,496 yds, 22 Tds) and quarterback Trace McSorley (3,614 yds, 29 Tds) and should be even better offensively after finishing the 2016 campaign ranked a stellar 21st in scoring (37.6 ppg). The Nittany Lions also have an underrated defense that ranked 37th overall nationally a year ago and may have as much quality depth at all three levels as any team in the country. Despite their status as the No. 3 favorite to win the Big Ten in 2017, I believe James Franklin’s Penn State Nittany Lions are the smart pick to do just that while making a strong run for a berth in the four-team playoff.
The Long Shot Pick: Northwestern Wildcats +2000
I know the Wildcats barely recorded a winning record a year ago, but they’re still my long shot selection to upset everyone to win the Big Ten in 2017 even if they are facing a serious uphill battle to pull off the conference shocker. While Northwestern averaged a modest 26.0 points per game last season to rank 87th in scoring nationally, the Wildcats were also very good defensively in limiting the opposition to just 22.2 points per game to finish 24th in points allowed
More importantly, the Big Ten title hopefuls return a quarterback in Clayton Thorson (3,182 yards) and starting running back in Justin Jackson (1,524 yards) that could as good as any in the nation. Defensively, the Wildcats will be strong up front and even better in the secondary but suffered a string of medical retirements at linebacker. If the Wildcats can get some improved play from an offensive line that gave up 39 sacks and overcome their inexplicable losses at linebacker, they could surprise in a big way for head coach Pat Fitzgerald in 2017.