By Jeff Frank
Big Ten Conference - More Unders in 2012
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Even though most Big Ten teams' starting quarterbacks return this season, nine of the twelve teams' leading receivers are no longer in the league. On the other side of the ball, eight of last year's top 10 tacklers return along with seven of the top nine tackles for loss leaders.
Based on the above information, look for many more unders in Big Ten play this season.
Time now to take a team-by-team look at the league with predicted straight-up overall and conference records for those wagering on over/unders for total victories.
6) MINNESOTA (175-1 - Odds to win the Big Ten Conference courtesy of 5Dimes) - The Golden Gophers are 10-6 as road underdogs the last four years.
Offense - Minnesota ranked last in the Big Ten in both scoring and total offense last season. Look for the Golden Gophers to finish there again in 2012 with the loss of their top running back and wide receiver.
Defense - Minnesota has allowed 34 ppg in conference play each of the last two seasons. This year's defense returns just four of its top nine tacklers so another dismal season is in the cards.
Prediction - The Gophers are 13-9 ATS despite back-to-back 3-9 SU seasons. Expect that trend to continue in 2012 (4-8, 2-6).
5) NORTHWESTERN (45-1) - The Wildcats are 2-7 as road favorites but 10-3 as road underdogs the last four years.
Offense - The Wildcats jumped from 23 to 31 ppg in league play due to more than 50 offensive plays than the year before. This year's group has potential but with the loss of Dan Persa and the top two receivers look for a slight drop in production.
Defense - The Wildcats allowed an average of six more points per game the last four years the defense returned five or fewer starters. This year they bring back five starters after seven returned a season ago.
Prediction - Northwestern plays just three road games before Nov. 10. However, the Wildcats are 4-12 ATS in Evanston the last three years (4-8, 3-5).
4) IOWA (35-1) - The Hawkeyes are 12-3-1 ATS off a SU loss the last four years. They also are 5-12 as road favorites the last eight years.
Offense - It will be difficult for Iowa to reproduce last year's 27 ppg average with the loss of Marcus Coker and Marvin McNutt as well as three starters from the offensive line.
Defense - Iowa's defense allowed fewer than 20 ppg each year between 2007 and 2010. Last season the number rose to 24. This year could be more of the same with only four of the top 10 tacklers back in Iowa City.
Prediction - Iowa is in jeopardy of finishing below ,500 SU in league play for just the second time since 2000 (7-5, 4-4).
3) NEBRASKA (5-1) - The Cornhuskers are 12-20 as home favorites the last five years.
Offense - The Cornhuskers averaged 29 ppg last year but only 24 in Big Ten play. For the offense to reach the next level, Taylor Martinez must improve after finishing ninth in the conference in quarterback efficiency.
Defense - Nebraska had a middle of the pack defense last year ranking sixth in league play in both scoring and total defense. This year's group comes into the new season without its leading tackler and top cornerback.
Prediction - The Cornhuskers should have their first winning non-conference ATS season in three years but will hover around the .500 mark inside the Big Ten (9-3, 5-3).
2) MICHIGAN (5-2) - The Wolverines are 1-6 as road favorites the last four years.
Offense - It's a good thing the defense came to play last year because the offense actually averaged fewer yards per play than in 2010. Look for a rise in all offensive numbers in the second year with Brady Hoke as head coach.
Defense - The Wolverines allowed an amazing 20 fewer points per game in Big Ten play last year (compared to 2010). Nine of the top 12 tacklers return this season so the defense will be just as strong.
Prediction - With little expectations, Michigan improved to 7-4-1 ATS after going 3-9 the year before. Expect the Wolverines to drop below .500 in 2012 (8-4, 6-2).
1) MICHIGAN STATE (6-1) - The Spartans are 8-1-1 as road favorites the last four years.
Offense - This offense has been extremely consistent through the years averaging between 25 and 34 ppg since 2001. Even with a new quarterback and new receivers, the Spartans should average somewhere in the upper 20s.
Defense - Eight of the top nine tacklers return from a group that ranked ninth nationally against the run and seventh in sacks. This is one of the top defenses in the country.
Prediction - Michigan State went 5-1 to the over in its last six games. There will be more unders in 2012, especially early in the year (9-3, 6-2).
6) INDIANA (75-1) - The Hoosiers are 10-3-1 to the over in their last 14 games.
Offense - The Hoosiers return almost everyone that was a factor last season. Unfortunately, the offense ranked ninth in both scoring and total offense in Big Ten play. Look for a slight improvement this season.
Defense - Indiana was torched for 43 ppg and almost 500 yards per contest inside the conference. The coaching staff brought in many junior college players this offseason so it is quite possible those numbers will improve.
Prediction - Expect more unders from the Hoosiers this season (4-8, 1-7).
5) PENN STATE (ineligible) - The Nittany Lions are 4-13 as home favorites the last three years
Offense - With all the defections this summer, the best the Nittany Lions can hope for is to match last season's 19 ppg average.
Defense - Eight of last year's top 11 tacklers are gone, including all four starters from the secondary. Penn State will not match last year's 17 ppg mark.
Prediction - This will be the Lions first losing season since 2004 (5-7, 2-6).
4) ILLINOIS (17-1) - The Fighting Illini is 8-2 as a road underdog but 1-6 as a road favorite the last four years.
Offense - The Illini's 5-0 non-conference record and 23 points per game average skewed the numbers of this pathetic offense. Illinois picked up just 18 ppg inside the Big Ten and that total might not move upward with the loss of A.J. Jenkins.
Defense - This group ranked third nationally against the pass and 13th in yards per carry. However, the defense actually finished eighth in conference play in scoring giving up 24 ppg. Twelve of the top 16 tacklers return so the scoring average should go down.
Prediction - The Illini was 10-2 (83 percent) to the under last season. Expect a similar percentage once again (7-5, 3-5).
3) PURDUE (28-1) - The Boilermakers are 1-6 ATS in non-conference play the last two years.
Offense - Purdue returns its highest number of starters since 2007. This is a very experienced group that should improve on its 27 ppg average.
Defense - The key for the Boilermakers is to get their run defense back to 2010 levels when the defense allowed 3.4 yards per carry in league play. Last year, that number rose to 4.7. With five starters back from the front seven, look for much improved numbers.
Prediction - A much better offense and defense will give Purdue an above .500 ATS record. In addition, take over 6.5 wins at +110 (9-3, 5-3).
2) OHIO STATE (ineligible) - The Buckeyes are 2-5-1 as road favorites the last three years.
Offense - For all the problems the Buckeyes had last season, they still averaged 24.5 ppg. With a more settled offseason, look for the scoring to move closer to the 30-point range.
Defense - The defense allowed over 20 ppg for the first time since 2001. This year's group returns 12 of its top 15 tacklers. Expect a sharp decline in points allowed.
Prediction - Ohio State will improve both SU and ATS (9-3, 5-3).
1) WISCONSIN (8-5) - The Badgers are 15-7 ATS off a SU win the last two years.
Offense - The Badgers lose three long-time offensive line starters. The last time that happened (2009) the offense scored more points per game and averaged more yards per game. Still, the loss of Russell Wilson and the summer injury to Montee Ball will hurt production.
Defense - Wisconsin came into last season without its top three tacklers who combined for 190 tackles. This year the Badgers return their top two tacklers who combined for 293. This is one of the top defenses in the conference.
Prediction - Wisconsin went 8-2 to the over in its final 10 games. Look for more unders in 2012 (10-2, 6-2).