Each team's average win total is based on 10,000 computer simulations. I don't agree with every projection that our computers make, but I will explain whether I am leaning one way or another. The BIG10 is the first conference that I will previewing.
Best BIG10 Over Bets:
IOWA HAWKEYES: PROJECTED WINS 8.1 (ODDS 7.5 -110o, -110u)
The Hawkeyes lose their top two offensive threats last season, TEs TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant, who both went in round 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft. Outside of those two, Iowa returns most of their talent on offense. The OL should be one of the best in the country and have two possible early round picks in OTs Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs. The Hawkeyes' top three running backs, Mekhi Sargent, Toren Young, and Ivory Kelly-Martin, all return. Sargent and Young should get the bulk of the carries this season. TE Shaun Beyer had no catches last season, but he is expected to be the starter and will have big shoes to fill. Freshman TE Logan Lee could possibly get some early action this season. QB Nate Stanley has been very good the past two season, but he will need to step up this season if he is going to prove to be a legitimate NFL prospect. WR Brandon Smith is a possible breakout candidate. Iowa should put up around 30 points per game in Stanley's third season as the starter.
Iowa lost DB Amani Hooker and DE Anthony Nelson, who declared for the draft early, but returns one of the best players in the nation at DE, AJ Epenesa. The Hawkeyes' top 4 leading tacklers are all gone, but there is still plenty of talent returning in 2019-2020. DE Chauncey Golston is a possible breakout candidate and will replace Anthony Nelson at the opposite end of AJ Epenesa. Djimon Colbert and Kristian Welch both return at LB, and DBs Geno Stone and Michael Ojemudia are back in the secondary. DBs Riley Moss and Julius Brents should see an increased roll in 2019-20. The defense ranked 11th in the country giving up just 17.8 PPG and should have similar production this season. I can see Iowa winning 9 or 10 games this season.
NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS: PROJECTED WINS 7.1 (ODDS 6 -110o, -110u)
Clayton Thorson is gone at QB, and Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson seems like the obvious choice to become the starter. Johnson was once a top recruit and has all the traits to be the starting quarterback. RB Isaiah Bowser took over the starting role last season as a true Freshman and should have a big Sophomore season. Leading receiver Flynn Nagel is gone, but second-leading receiver Bennett Skowronek returns. Riley Lees, Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, Kyric McGowan, and JJ Jefferson give the Wildcats some depth at receiver. The OL needs to improve this season and only returns two starters.The offensive output all depends on the play of Johnson, but I think that they should average more than the 24 PPG that they put up last season.
Northwestern should have one of the better defenses in the country next season. Sam Miller, Joe Gaziano, and Earnest Brown return on the Defensive Line. Gaziano and Miller have been key cogs in the lineup the past couple seasons, and I expect Brown to breakout this season. Paddy Fisher and Blake Ballagher return as one of the best LB duos in the country. Chris Bergin should be the third linebacker and had 50 tackles last season. Montre Hartage is a big loss in the secondary, but JR Pace and Travis Whillock return, while Greg Newsome is a possible breakout candidate. Northwestern should be just as good or a little better than they were last year on defense. I think this is a 6 to 8 win team.
BEST BIG10 UNDER BETS
INDIANA HOOSIERS: PROJECTED WINS 5.2 (ODDS 6.5 -110o, -110u)
Indiana has come so close to making the postseason in each of Tom Allen's first two seasons but have come up just short and finished 5-7 both years. Peyton Ramsey had an up and down Sophomore season last year and will look to hold off Michael Penix and Jack Tuttle and remain the starter this season. Penix looked like he was primed to overtake Ramsey last season before going down with a torn ACL, and Tuttle is immediately eligible after transferring in from Utah. I think Penix gives the Hoosiers the best chance to win, but I wouldn't be surprised if any of these three QBs is named the starter. RB Stevie Scott returns after rushing for over 1,000 yars as a Freshman last year. The three leading receivers Nick Westbrook, Donovan Hale, and Ty Fryfogle return this season. The OL returns Coy Cronk but will need to shuffle up after the losses of Wes Martin and Brandon Knight. The offense averaged 26.4 PPG last season, and I see them increasing to around 30 PPG with the addition of Kalen DeBoer at OC.
The defense struggled last season, giving up 29.9 PPG. The top two tacklers are gone from last season, but their best player Marcelino Ball returns. Tom Allen was hired as a defensive coach, and Allen must be cringing with the lack of production on defense last season. DT Jerome Johnson is a breakout player to watch as well as DB Bryant Fitzgerald. The secondary is the most talented part of the defense and needs to show it. The defense returns a lot but needs to be more effective in 2019-20. Indiana could shave off a point or two this season, but I expect them to give up 27-30 PPG this season. Indiana should win 5 or 6 games this season.
ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI: PROJECTED WINS 3.6 (ODDS 4.5 +100o, -120u)
The Fighting Illini have a heavy presence in the transfer portal, both incoming and departing. Illinois has added a ton of former top end recruits to its roster this offseason. QB Brandon Peters (Michigan), WR Trevon Sidney (USC), WR Josh Imatorbhebhe (USC), and Richie Petitibon (Alabama) were all added as grad-transfers this offseason. Former Georgia Tight End Luke Ford hoped to be eligible this season after transferring to Illinois to be closer to his ailing grandfather, but the NCAA denied his waiver request. The QB position remains a question mark after M.J. Rivers transferred out and A.J. Bush graduated. Matt Robinson, Brandon Peters, and Isaiah Williams are battling for the QB position. Williams is the most electric and Peters has the most experience, and I wouldn't be surprised if both QBs see the field. RB Reggie Corbin returns after rushing for over 1,000 yards last season, and he will be running behind an OL that returns 4 starters and brings in Alabama grad-transfer Richie Petitibon to fill the 5th spot. TE Daniel Barker should see an increased role this season. Ricky Smalling returns as the leading receiver, and former USC 4-star receivers Trevon Sidney and Josh Imatorbhebhe should play an immediate roll. The Illini averaged 26.0 PPG last season after averaging 15.4 PPG in 2017. I can see a slight increase in production this season if the QB play improves.
The defense has also added several transfers that are eligible to play right this season in former USC 5-star Oluwole Betiku and former Washington LB Milo Eifler. The defense was ranked 124 out of 130 teams last season allowing 39.4 PPG, so there is plenty of room for improvement. The best player on defense should be OLB Bobby Roundtree who 13.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks as a Sophomore last season. He should be on the radar of every NFL team at this point.CB Tony Adams, LB Milo Eifler, and LB Jake Hansen are three other players to watch this season on defense. I think the defense will improve but not as much as it would like to. I think the defense will give up around 35.0 PPG this season, and the Illini will win only 1 or 2 conference games this season. Illinois has a favorable non-conference schedule this season which could help them get to 4 wins if they take advantage of the opportunity.
RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS: PROJECTED WINS 2.5 (ODDS 3 -120o, +100u)
After winning their first game of the season last year, Rutgers finished the season losing 11 straight. Freshman QB Artur Sitkowski completed less than 50% of his passes and hasd 18 INTs to just 4 TDs. The Scarlet Knights brought in Texas Tech grad-transfer McLane Carter to compete for the QB job, and I think he ultimately wins it. Raheem Blackshear and Isaih Pacheco provided Rutgers with a bright spot on an otherwise dreadful offense. Blackshear was Rutgers' leading receiver last year and that needs to change. The OL returns everyone besides LT Tariq Cole. The offense was dead last in the FBS at 13.5 PPG. It would be difficult not to improve upon that number this season.
Rutgers had the worst rushing defense in the BIG10 last season, but they were in the top half of the league in passing defense. 5 of the top 7 tacklers are gone from last season. The D-line was a big weakness last season and doesn't look much better this season. Michigan transfer Drew Singleton could have an impact at LB alongside Tyshon Fogg. The secondary lost Saquan Hampton and Isaiah Wharton, but Avery Young is coming off an excellent Freshman season and could be a star. I don't see much improvement from the defense this season. I think they might allow more than the 31.4 PPG that they allowed last season with the losses in the secondary. I think Rutgers is a 1 win team next season. I like the under here.
PURDUE BOILERMAKERS: PROJECTED WINS 7 (ODDS 7 +100o, -120u)
Jeff Brohm has recruited extremely well the past couple of seasons and Purdue is starting to become better equipped to compete in the Big10. Purdue landed threoo of its highest ranked recruits ever in last year's class in WR David Bell, WR Milton Wright, and DE George Karlaftis QB Elijah Sindelar began last season as the starter before being overtaken by David Blough. Sindelar will have full control of the offense this season. RBs DJ Knox and Markell Jones are gone and replacing them is an area of concern. Tario Fuller is back for a 5th year along with Richie Worship. The strength of the offense should be the WR group. Stud WR Rondale Moore is back after a monster Freshman season. WR Jared Sparks is also back as well as TE Brycen Hopkins. The offense should put up similar numbers to 30.2 PPG if Sindelar can perform like he did in 2017.
Its not often that a 5-star choses to attend Purdue, but the Boilermakers were able to land 5-star DE George Karlaftis. Karlaftis, Lorenzo Neal, and Anthony Watts could form a good defensive line. The LB group should be solid with Markus Bailey, Derrick Barnes, and Cornel Jones returning. The secondary was the biggest weakness last season. The younger players are going to have to step up if they are going to better the 285 passing yards they allowed per game last season. I think the defense should improve by a little next season if they can improve their pass defense. Purdue can be sneaky good but has a tough schedule. I expect 6 or 7 wins from Jeff Brohm's squad.
PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS: PROJECTED WINS 8.7 (ODDS 8.5 +100o, -120u)
Penn state will have to replace quarterback Trace McSorley and RB Miles Sanders but have many pieces in place. Sean Clifford will take over at QB, but he has only thrown 7 passes in his career. RB Ricky Slade should get a bulk of the carries and could be the next stud RB for the Nittany Lions. KJ Hamler broke out last season and was the team's leading receiver and should have a big RS-Sophomore season. TE Pat Freiermuth returns and was the second leading receiver last season. Justin Shorter is a breakout candidate this season to watch. Azuza Pacific grad-transfer Weston Carr is a player that could have an impact but is mostly an unknown at this point. The OL returns several starters and should be solid. The offense should score around 35 PPG, depending on how Clifford performs.
The defense should be very good next season on all three levels. Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney return at DE. Jayson Oweh is a breakout candidate to watch. Kevin Givens surprisingly left with a year of eligibily left, but Robert Windsor is back at DT. Micah Parsons, Jan Johnson, and Cameron Brown are back at LB and could be one of the best LB units in the country. Recruits Brandon Smith and Lance Dixon could make an impact as well. Garrett Taylor, Tariq Castro-Fields, and John Reid are back in the secondary. The defense gave up 20.5 PPG and I think they can improve this season even if the numbers don't say so. Penn State should win 9 or 10 games next season. I would lean over if I were to bet, but I would shy away from betting either way.