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Hot Reads: Looking at 2020 Win Totals in the Big Ten

April 03, 2020

Just because the fate of the 2020 college football season is somewhat uncertain at the moment, that doesn't mean a sports book can't throw out some win totals.

Sports biz robot Darren Rovell tweeted these numbers from DraftKings Sportsbook on April 1 and, as far as I can tell, they weren't a joke:

A win total without the moneyline odds on either side is only partial information. For example, Nebraska's number here is 8 but you'll have to lay $137 to win $100 (-137) on the under. If you want the over, a $100 bet pays out $110 (+110).

Wisconsin and Illinois are the only two teams with such heavy juice on the under. (Rutgers isn't included because DraftKings is based in New Jersey.)

Ohio State 11 -110/-110
Penn State 9.5 -110/-110
Wisconsin 9.5 +110/-137
Michigan 9 -110/-110
Minnesota 8 -110/-110
Indiana 7 -110/-110
Iowa 7.5 -121/+100
Nebraska 8 +110/-137
Michigan State 6 +100/-121
Illinois 5 +110/-137
Purdue 5.5 +100/-121
Maryland 4 +100/-121
Northwestern 5.5 -137/+110

Back in February, I used the initial SP+ rankings and some informed guesses on win probabilities for FCS games to come up with projected win totals for the Big Ten. Minus Michigan State, which might be getting a small Mel Tucker bump at DraftKings, all of those projected win totals were within a game of these actual totals released by DraftKings.

When I used that SP+ method for Nebraska the projected win total came back at 7.25. When the actual SP+ win totals are released, that number might vary a little based on the Huskers' actual win probability against South Dakota State. I put it at 87.4%. If it's closer to 99% at SP+––which I don't think it will be, but you never know––then Nebraska's projected total gets closer to 7.5.

But there is one ranking system that already has win totals out for every team in the country. You can find those at Sharp College Football. That system doesn't include games against FCS opponents in the totals, so the Huskers' number there is 6.03. If you're willing to chalk up a win against SDSU, adjust that up to 7.03. (Sharp College Football ranks Nebraska 29th in its preseason rankings.)

Either way, 8 seems like it's on the high end for Nebraska and the odds indicate that DraftKings is aware of that.

A couple of other numbers I noticed while perusing DraftKings' offerings: 

>>Wisconsin is a heavy favorite to win the West at +150. Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa all have the second-shortest odds at +300.

>>The conference-title odds–which can't include Rutgers by law, but c'mon–have Ohio State as a heavy favorite (-230) followed by Michigan (+500), Penn State and Wisconsin (+1000), Nebraska (+1600), Iowa (+2000) and Minnesota (+2500).

Staff Picks – No. 8

Turner Classic Movies has been coming up clutch in April so far. On Wednesday TCM celebrated what would’ve been Japanese star Toshiro Mifune’s 100th birthday by putting classics like Seven Samurai, Rashomon and Yojimbo on back-to-back-to-back.

Saturday night offers another delightful double-feature. At 7 p.m. is Peter Bogdanovich’s bonkers drive-in flick Targets followed by his better-known masterpiece The Last Picture Show at 8:45. I know what I’ll be doing that night.

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Tags: Hot Reads