On Tuesday, I started looking at college football conference odds by opening up with the Big Ten’s East Division. Today I turn the car towards the sunset and head to West Division where it appears there is a two-horse race between Nebraska and Wisconsin. Don’t tell that to a few other teams in the Division because they aren’t going to just step aside in the race to represent the division in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Illinois 33/1 – Illini Head Coach Tim Beckman enters year three with a 6-18 record and his job can only be saved with a bowl bid in my opinion. The non-conference schedule should provide three wins against lesser opponents while a trip to Washington probably won’t go well. The conference schedule features road games at Nebraska, at Wisconsin, at Ohio State and at Northwestern. That leaves Beckman little room for error because those are all losses in my mind. They will not threaten for the division title.
Iowa 5/1 – The Hawkeyes enter 2014 with high hopes under Kirk Ferentz who enters his 19th season in Iowa City. The offense has nice tools to work with in both the running and passing game and the schedule could not set up better. The non-conference slate features rival Iowa State at home and a trip to Pitt with two winnable home games as well. The conference schedule is where the Hawkeyes can make waves. They have both Wisconsin and Nebraska at home in the final two games of the season and they also get Northwestern at home as well. If you are looking for that one team to knock off the Badgers and Huskers then here it is.
Minnesota 10/1 – The Golden Gophers’ biggest question is actually about the guy on the sidelines and that’s Head Coach Jerry Kill. Despite the university giving him a raise, concerns over his health have to be hanging over this team. Twice last season Kill was unable to travel with the team and that’s never good. Throw in the fact their top quarterback Phillip Nelson transferred to Rutgers and you have the makings of a decline in Minnesota this year. The Gophers have a brutal schedule that includes road games at TCU, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraksa. They also have Ohio State at home. I see a step back this season.
Nebraska 3/2 – Bo Pelini was thought to be gone following a blowout loss to Iowa in the season finale last year but the school gave him a contract extension. I do believe that a down season will put him right back on the hot seat in Lincoln and the schedule will be nothing easy to navigate. They have Miami,Fl at home and a trip to Fresno State in non-conference action and conference trips to Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa. Despite the return of running back Ameer Abdullah, receiver Kenny Bell and QB Tommy Armstrong, the defense has only three starters back. I think the Huskers finish third in the West.
Northwestern 20/1 – The Wildcats suffered a disappointing season after a strong start in 2013 and didn’t go to a bowl. They’ll get back to a bowl in 2014 and the schedule should help that. They get Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan at home. If they stay healthy, they could be a sleeper in the West.
Purdue 100/1 – Darrell Hazell went 1-11 in his first year and a repeat of that will cost him his job. The schedule could help that with Wisconsin and Michigan State coming to Ross-Ade Stadium. Still, the talent just isn’t there. Three wins might be a successful season in 2014.
Wisconsin 6/5 – The Badgers open in Houston, Texas against LSU. If they can get past the Tigers then I believe they have the opportunity for a run at the four-team playoff. The tough road trips are at Iowa and at Northwestern. Outside of that, I think the Badgers can make a serious run at national honors. I expect them to play Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game.