Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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2024 Big Ten championship odds, picks: Ohio State is the favorite but Michigan, newcomer USC provide value

Unlike the Big 12, which CBS Sports’ Shehan Jeyarajah correctly described as “wide open,” the Big Ten has typically been a league dominated by one or two programs at a time. That’s not to say there aren’t multiple good teams in the Big Ten in any given season, but through most of its history you don’t have to scroll past Michigan or Ohio State when trying to figure out who will win it. 

With the league expanding to 18 (eighteen!) schools in 2024, perhaps we’ll see that change in the future. For this season, however, don’t expect much to change. When I wrote about the preseason odds for the Big Ten last season, I told you Michigan, the league favorite, was the best bet on the board. Michigan went on to win the conference and then the national title. Despite this, it’s not the favorite entering 2024 — nor should it be, with all the changes it has undergone.

This year’s favorite — prepare to be shocked — is Ohio State. Newcomer Oregon follows the Buckeyes, then Penn State and, finally, with the fourth-best odds, you’ll find the reigning national champions. Michigan having the fourth-best odds is a testament to how deep the new-look Big Ten is, but you don’t want to scroll too far down the list looking for a good bet.

Here are the Big Ten title odds for all 18 (EIGHT. TEEN.) teams and a few picks to consider.

Team 2024 Odds

Ohio State

+160

Oregon

+210

Penn State

+450

Michigan

+525

USC

+1600

Iowa

+3000

Washington

+4000

Nebraska

+4000

Wisconsin

+6000

Maryland

+8000

Rutgers

+9000

UCLA

+9000

Michigan State

+10000

Northwestern

+10000

Illinois

+15000

Minnesota

+20000

Purdue

+30000

Indiana

+40000

Best Bet — Ohio State (+160): This is a no-brainer to me, and it should be to you if you read the introduction to this piece. Ohio State has failed to win the Big Ten for three straight seasons and just watched Michigan win a national championship. In response, the Buckeyes went all-in this year. The defense was already outstanding, having kept many key pieces from heading to the NFL and it plucked all-world safety Caleb Downs from Alabama. The offense added Quinshon Judkins from Ole Miss to a running back room that was already stacked. Quarterback Will Howard came from Kansas State, and while he’s the likely starter, the Buckeyes have so many good options that he hasn’t been named the starter as of yet.

The QB situation is the only thing giving me even the faintest pause. Still, even if I don’t have total trust in the talent available yet, coach Ryan Day and the offensive staff have built up enough credit over the years that there’s a reasonable assumption of what we’ll get. Honestly, the only other team I considered as a best bet was Oregon, but I didn’t consider the Ducks for long. That’s not to say they can’t win the Big Ten in their first season, because they can. They have an experienced quarterback and are strong along the lines of scrimmage, but they’re also at a disadvantage because they have to learn an entire new league.

Worst Wager — Penn State (+450): There are reasons to like the Nittany Lions, and labeling them as the “Worst Wager” doesn’t mean I don’t think they can win the league. I just don’t like the price on them. The argument for Penn State is that it has a talented defense and in a league without a clear-cut alpha QB, Drew Allar could emerge as that guy. New offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki did wonderful things at Kansas and Buffalo, but he’s new and the Nittany Lions are replacing a few cornerstone players from last year’s team. There are also serious questions about the talent at receiver and it’s hard to win at an elite level in the sport these days without a nightmare-inducing stud out wide. 

Value Pick — Michigan (+525): It’s rare we get the chance to bet the reigning three-time conference title winner and national champion at a price like this, so let’s take advantage while we can. To be clear, I don’t expect Michigan to win the Big Ten this season, but at +525, we only have to believe there’s a 16% chance of it happening. That isn’t too far-fetched. A lot has been said about what Michigan has lost, but the Wolverines have plenty coming back and will still field one of the best defenses in the country. The QB spot is a giant shrug emoji at the moment, but while I feel J.J. McCarthy was extremely underrated (NFL teams seemed to agree with me), the truth is Michigan’s offense can get by without a top-tier QB. It’s not insane to think this team can win the league by allowing only 13 points per game.

Long shot — USC (+1600): Over the years, the formula for finding the Big Ten’s betting long shot was simple: choose the Big Ten West team you believed could get to the Big Ten Championship Game and maybe something crazy would happen. Last year, I said take Iowa at +800, and the Hawkeyes made it to Indianapolis before it was customarily disposed of by Michigan. This year, there is no more Big Ten West, but there are new Big Ten teams from out west. 

There is no such thing as a long shot in this league, but if forced to pick one, USC is the best option.The Trojans are coming off a horrible season in which they failed to capitalize with Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 NFL Draft pick, Caleb Williams. He isn’t easy to replace, but coach Lincoln Riley deserves some benefit of the doubt when putting together an offense. The question is what will the defense look like? It was atrocious last season, but Riley overhauled his entire defensive staff. It’s highly unlikely the Trojans defense morphs into an elite unit in one season, but if the offense can score points at the same rate Riley teams typically do, the defense doesn’t have to be elite to make this team dangerous. 

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