Vegas favors NU in three home games

As teased earlier this week, the Golden Nugget promised point spreads for more than 200 college football games today.

The Golden Nugget has delivered, which always provides an interesting early look at the perceived strength of teams.

Spreads for five Nebraska games were released today with the Huskers favored in three of them, all home games. The point spreads and my quick reaction to them below:

9/14 UCLA @ Nebraska (-6): Based on where these teams are falling in the preseason polls thus far, this feels about right when you factor in the home field advantage. On a neutral field, the Huskers are probably a very slight favorite but this game comes at an interesting time for Nebraska. The Bruins have six starters back from the offense that sliced and diced an experienced Nebraska defense last year in Pasadena. This is a big test in week three for the Huskers rebuilt defense.

11/9 Nebraska @ Michigan (-4): In what many are circling as a must-win for Nebraska in conference play, the Huskers are nearly even with Michigan when you consider the home field factor. (In 2012, Phil Steele gave Michigan a 4.75-point home field edge.) When No. 17 Nebraska played No. 20 Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2011, the Huskers were a 3.5-point underdog. For an opening line, this feels about right.

11/16 Michigan State @ Nebraska (-6): Personally, this is the game I have circled on the Huskers’ 2013 schedule at the moment. The last time these two teams met in Lincoln it was No. 13 Nebraska versus No. 9 Michigan State and the Huskers were favored by four. The Spartans, who are 0-7 against Nebraska all-time, should be pretty geared up for this one considering the last two games in the series — a man-handling in 2011 followed by a heartbreaking (and controversial in some circles) loss in 2012.

11/23 Nebraska @ Penn State (PK): This one threw me for a minute. I’m of the mind that Penn State’s limited depth will catch up to it a bit in 2013, especially by Nov. 23. According to Steele, the Nittany Lions enjoyed the second-largest home field edge (5.25-points) behind Wisconsin headed into the 2012 season. Even if that’s still true in 2013, a pick ’em game, in my mind, undervalues Nebraska slightly.

11/29 Iowa @ Nebraska (-14): This is the last game of the season, so who knows where this thing will end up? The last time Iowa visited Lincoln, the Hawkeyes entered as 9.5-point underdogs. A similar line by the time the end of the season rolls around wouldn’t totally surprise me here.

Some overall thoughts on the spreads as they relate to the Big Ten:

–Vegas, or at least the Golden Nugget, likes Penn State way more than I do. The Nittany Lions are favored over Syracuse (neutral), Illinois (home), Minnesota (away), and Purdue (home) by a whopping 13.5-points. And Nebraska is pick ’em on the road against the Lions while Michigan is -2.5 in the same scenario. Hmmm.

–Overall, there’s little to differentiate the top four teams in the Legends Division. Here’s just one chain of notable divisional games: Northwestern is favored at home over Michigan (-3) and Michigan State (-3), Michigan is favored at home over Nebraska (-4), Nebraska is favored at home over Michigan State (-6), and Michigan State is favored at home over Michigan (-3). That says two things: 1) It’s June and which team is at home is the surest bit of information the linemakers have at this point, and 2) This should be a pretty fun October and November in the Big Ten.

–Ohio State is favored in all of the games the Golden Nugget listed (11) one of just four teams along with Georgia, Alabama and Oregon that can say that. The Buckeyes are 11-point home favorites over Wisconsin in that massive Leaders Division game on Sept. 28. Ohio State is also -6 on the road at Michigan.