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Betting the Big Ten: Spreads, lines and picks for Week 1

Northwestern at Stanford is by far the most intriguing showdown this weekend.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Northwestern Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to Betting the Big Ten. We’re happy to bring this feature back for the 2019 season. These will be a bit lengthy until conference play rolls around, and there are a lot of big spreads in Week 1, but we will do our best to pick them and keep track anyways.

Thursday, Aug. 29

South Dakota State at Minnesota (-14), O/U: 56

Year three is where we should really get a sense of what Minnesota can be under PJ Fleck. The Jackrabbits are one of the best teams in the FCS and have a dangerous running attack, but replace their starting quarterback and much of their secondary. As good as SDSU is, this number feels low to me.

Pick: Minnesota -14

Friday, Aug. 30

No. 19 Wisconsin (-13) at South Florida, O/U: 57.5

Wisconsin has an inexperienced offensive line and will break in another quarterback to start the year, but their overall talent is better and Jonathan Taylor should have a nice night to open the year.

Pick: Wisconsin -13

Tulsa at No. 18 Michigan State (-23), O/U: 47.5

Michigan State always seems to struggle in the Friday night opener regardless of opponent. They should be able to hit the -23, but it remains to be seen if their new secret offense is able to be any better than what it has been the last few years, at least to the extent of putting up that many points. Their defense will shine and the offense may struggle a bit, but this is still an easy win for them.

Pick: Under 47.5

UMass at Rutgers (-15.5), O/U: 55.5

Rutgers is not and will not be a good football team, but even they should be able to cover a 15.5-point spread, right? They will take care of business in their opener in what may be one of their only wins of the year.

Pick: Rutgers -15.5

Purdue (-10.5) at Nevada, O/U: 58.5

Anytime you’re picking a Purdue game, you know there’s a chance they could score a ton of points. I think there’s a good chance Nevada can score a lot of points, too, making this a sneaky-good watch as the Friday night slate of games wraps up. Let’s get weird.

Pick: Over 58.5

Saturday Aug. 31

Akron at Illinois (-17), O/U: 61

The Brandon Peters era begins for the Illini, who need to find a way to win some football games under Lovie Smith badly. Peters is a starting-caliber Big Ten quarterback and his transfer from Michigan had more to do with what they had as opposed to his skill-set. He has something to prove and he sends a message to start the year on Saturday.

Pick: Illinois -17

Indiana (-17) vs. Ball State, O/U: 60

This is a neutral site game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Ball State has had a rough go of it the last few seasons, but they have arguably the best receiving corps in the MAC and Indiana may have some problems stopping them through the air. Still, we roll with the Hoosiers, as this may be the best team they have had in a few season.

Pick: Indiana -17

Howard at Maryland (-29.5), O/U: 65

The Terps are massive favorites in Mike Locksley’s debut at head coach and should not have any problems with Howard coming to town. However, that O/U of 65 feels very high for them.

Pick: Under 65

South Alabama at No. 24 Nebraska (-36), O/U: 64.5

There’s no need to overthink this one or try and get clever. South Alabama won three games last year and the second year of the Scott Frost era with Adrian Martinez at quarterback will provide some fireworks.

Pick: Nebraska -36

Florida Atlantic at No. 5 Ohio State (-27.5), O/U: 63.5

Lane Kiffin brings his team to town coming off of a five-win season in Ryan Day’s full-time debut as Ohio State’s head coach. Kiffin’s team is probably going to get spanked hard in a game that showcases Justin Fields and the playmakers OSU has on offense.

Pick: Ohio State -27.5

Idaho at No. 15 Penn State (-40), O/U: 58.5

This is a tune-up game for the Nittany Lions. Nothing more, nothing less. Despite questions about their offense heading into this season, they will win this one going away against a team that is bad on both sides of the ball.

Pick: Penn State -40

Northwestern at No. 25 Stanford (-6.5), O/U: 47.5

This is easily the best matchup of the weekend for Big Ten teams. These two squads last met in 2015 when Northwestern beat Stanford in Evanston and both programs are on somewhat equal footing in terms of how they are viewed heading into 2019. I truly do not know who is going to win this game, but this feels like a safe bet to be one of those old fashioned Jim Ross slobber-knockers.

Pick: Under 47.5

Miami (OH) at No. 20 Iowa (-21.5), O/U: 48.5

Advantage Iowa in all night games played at Kinnick. They have some questions about replacing TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant as playmakers in their offense, but they should not have any problems covering this number against a MAC opponent.

Pick: Iowa -21.5

Middle Tennessee at No. 7 Michigan (-34), O/U: 54

And now the one you have all been waiting for. Relax, Michigan is going to win this game and win big. It would not surprise me to see Middle Tennessee score a bit early in the game and in garbage time, but the Wolverines are ready to unleash their new offense, as well. For whatever reason, the -34 scares me, but I like the over in this game.

Pick: Over 54

That’s it for this week. For better or worse, we’ll be back next week to see how I did and pick next week’s games.