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Picking conference winners straight up is easy: find the most talented teams, as they are usually the ones who will win it all. Finding value, on the other hand, is much more difficult. First, you have to find teams that have a shot to win the title and then identify whether there is any value in their odds. From picking Ohio State to win the East (-450) to Indiana to win the whole Big Ten (+2000), here are some safe investments that will likely pay out, as well as some long shot homeruns that have early retirement written all over them.
The Safe Investment
Ohio State to Win the East
Ohio State (-450) to win the Big Ten East at first glance appears to have limited upside, which is true, but it’s almost a certainty to pay out. Not only has OSU won the last four Big Ten titles, but it also hasn’t even been challenged in the East for a while. With Penn State and Michigan coming off rough seasons, a 22% return seems like a steal when compared to what a US Savings Bond is paying. So be sure to load up to maximize that return.
Conservative with a Little Upside
Wisconsin to Win the West
At -125, Wisconsin winning the Big Ten West doesn’t seem safe enough to fall into the investment category, but with the Badgers winning 4 of the last 7 West division titles, they are as likely to make the Big Ten Championship as anyone outside of Ohio State. Factor in an elite young QB in Graham Mertz, who raised eyebrows in his first start last season, and an investment in Wisconsin to win the West division with a payout of 80% is the conservative wager. Plus, it has a kicker many sports investors are looking for.
Let’s Get Aggressive
Iowa +900 to win the Big Ten
If you like Iowa to win the West Division at +175, winning the conference at +900 seems like the next logical step to take. Iowa hit their stride last season and won their final six games after they lost two early games by a combined total of 7 points. With a load of talent returning and a conference schedule that avoids Ohio State and Michigan as crossovers, Iowa has a great shot to take the West. Factor in that Iowa is one of two Big Ten teams to beat Ohio State in the last four years, and +900 might have a shot at cashing in.
Northwestern +1600 to win the West
Having the fifth longest odds to win the division doesn’t sound like a sound bet, but the Wildcats at +1600 to win the West will raise some eyebrows. If QB Hunter Johnson can display the ability that once made him a 5-star prospect, the Wildcats could have an offense good enough to challenge Wisconsin and Iowa. And with Pat Fitzgerald, one of the best coaches in CFB, walking the sidelines, +1600 gives just enough value to take the Wildcats to win their third West crown in the last four years.
Go for Broke
Indiana +2000 to win Big Ten
Last season, Indiana shocked most of the football world by beating Penn State to open the season. A few weeks later, they handled the Wolverines in Bloomington, then almost completed the trifecta but narrowly lost to Ohio State in Columbus after a huge second half comeback. With a crossover schedule that avoids Wisconsin and a Michigan team that could struggle, Coach Tom Allen has his Hoosiers believing that 2021 is their year. It’s tough to unseat Ohio State in the East, but if QB Michael Penix Jr can stay healthy and return to his 2020 form, +2000 to win the Big Ten seems like a lottery ticket that just might cash in.
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