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Hot Reads: You Taking Nebraska to Win More Games Than These Rivals?

July 23, 2019

As legal sports wagering inevitably expands in the years ahead and sports books are suddenly competing for scores of new customers, expect to see plenty of new bets on the board in hopes of standing out from the crowd (and increasing the handle). That goes to online books, too, which will in some cases be desperately trying to hold on to existing customers who might all of the sudden have the opportunity to play legal wagers in their home states.

BetOnline––an online sports book, as you may have guessed from the name––unveiled one such new opportunity this week. You can already try to beat the book's number for regular season wins for your favorite team, but what if you could also try to beat a rival in total wins? What if you wanted to bet that Auburn will have more wins than Alabama this year?

That's what BetOnline unveiled on Monday––head-to-head win spreads for 28 of the biggest rivalries in college football. For example, Wisconsin is listed at -1 win over Minnesota. So, if the Badgers win 10 regular-season games and the Gophers win eight Wisconsin covers the spread and that side pays.

Given Nebraska's malleable history with rivalry, no bet involving the Huskers made the list. This is what happens when there's no simple answer to the simple question, "Who is Nebraska's rival?" and there hasn't really been an easy answer to that since the start of the Big 12.

But that doesn't mean we can't create our own rivalry win spreads for the Huskers’ past, present(?), quasi- and perhaps future rivalries. Those are easy enough to guess with the existing win totals so let's do that using the numbers at BetOnline. Nebraska's win total there remains at 8.5 and it costs a little extra (-130) to take the over.

Nebraska -4.5 vs. Colorado: The Buffs are at 4.5 wins for a total but with plus money on the over, meaning the under is viewed as slightly more likely. Considering that Nebraska is the opposite–plus money on the under–that's worth the extra half game in my mind. Part of what makes these fun is the head-to-head matchups become pretty valuable and, of course, these one-time, limited-time rivals play in September.

Nebraska -1 vs. Iowa: The two West Division co-favorites, at least according to the cleveland.com poll, have a one-game difference in win totals. You can probably chalk that up to strength of schedule. Regardless, this would be a fun one to watch throughout the season. Maybe it should be Nebraska -0.5 just to eliminate the push and set up a last-game scenario where the winner takes all. If that game also decided the division, even better. This potential rivalry could really use a game like that.

Nebraska -0.5 vs. Missouri: This one is for the true old-school fans. Maybe Missouri is not the first (or even the fourth) team that comes to mind when thinking of Husker rivals, but the two schools did play for a trophy before realignment ended that. The Tigers are going to be pretty good this year, I think. Obviously, at eight wins in the SEC, the oddsmakers do too.

Oklahoma -2 vs. Nebraska: The Huskers’ rival, classically defined, but they don't play any more so what can you do? This line is tough. BetOnline has the Sooners at 10.5, but a few outlets are at 10. You could avoid a potential push by making this 1.5, but I think that would be too big of an edge for Oklahoma so -2 it is.

Texas -0.5 vs. Nebraska: The Horns' total is at 9.5, but the juice is on the under meaning it is viewed as more likely (and you have to pay for it) so I feel OK nudging this one up a half game from the raw -1 suggested by the totals. Were Texas and Nebraska ever really rivals? I don't know. It's sort of a tough argument to make from the Lone Star point of view given how much Longhorn fans hate A&M and Oklahoma, but it certainly felt like one from the Nebraska side by the time the Huskers left the Big 12.

Nebraska -0.5 vs. Wisconsin: Easy enough. The plus money is on the over for Wisconsin meaning you could think about moving this to -1, but I'm leaving it at a half game to avoid the push.

We've known about the buzz that is building around Nebraska for a while now, but something about this exercise sort of underscores it. Minus the top two teams in the Big 12, these win totals would probably have the Huskers as a slight favorite over every past, present(?), quasi- and perhaps future rivalry. Outside of Colorado, that gives me pause. Are we really ready to say that? Feels ambitious to me, but I don't have any real stake in these numbers, I just find them interesting.

Also mildly interesting: Nebraska's past, present(?), quasi- and perhaps future rivals now cover four of the five power conferences. What a time to be alive.

Here are the rest of the rivalry lines involving Big Ten teams:

Iowa State -0.5 vs. Iowa
Michigan -2.5 vs. Michigan State
Michigan -0.5 vs. Notre Dame
Ohio State -0.5 vs. Michigan
Penn State -2.5 vs. Pittsburgh
Wisconsin -1 vs. Minnesota

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