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Big Ten Best Bets: Harrison Could Be Catching on as a Heisman Candidate

Penn State Looks To Seal the Deal in 2023

What a season it was in the Big Ten with both Michigan and Ohio State reaching the College Football Playoffs. The college football world came oh so close to an all-Big Ten title game with Ohio State throwing a scare into Georgia before losing 42-41 when listed by the college football picks as the 4½-point underdog. Michigan fell to TCU 51-45.

The college football predictions have Michigan and Ohio State as top national title contenders once again as well as the top best teams in the Big Ten. Penn State and Wisconsin are among the teams eager to prove that this is not a two-team conference.

Big Ten Best Bets: Harrison Could Be Catching on as a Heisman Candidate
Marvin Harrison Jr. #18 of the Ohio State Buckeyes | Todd Kirkland/Getty Images/AFP

Things get going on Aug. 31 when Nebraska and Minnesota square off and on Sept. 2, it will be Ohio State traveling to Indiana.

Michigan comes in second in both national polls while Ohio State is third in the Associated Press poll and fourth in the coaches’ poll. Penn State is seventh in both national polls with Wisconsin also breaking into the top 25 in both rankings.

Michigan’s ranking doesn’t figure to be impacted by the school’s self-imposed three-game suspension for head coach Jim Harbaugh as he is accused of failing to cooperate with NCAA investigators over alleged rules violations.

In the odds to win the national title, Ohio State (+700) is third behind Georgia and Alabama with Michigan fourth at +900. The college football odds have Penn State at +2500 in the championship odds and Wisconsin at +7000.

Crowded at the Top

Both the East and West Division races might not be decided until the final month of the season.

The clash between Michigan and Ohio State decides the East Division representative in the Big Ten title game more often than not.

Is this the year that Penn State spoils that scenario? The Nittany Lions come in at +450 in the odds to win the East Division with Ohio State (+110) and Michigan (+120) running almost neck-and-neck.

In the West Division, Wisconsin (+125) is the preseason favorite and the final game of the regular season comes against a Minnesota team with the fourth-best odds (+650) to win the division title.

A Look at the Heisman Candidates

When it comes to the Heisman Trophy race, the Big Ten might be the one Power-5 conference where it might make more sense to ride with players other than quarterbacks.

Receivers tend to be undervalued when it comes to the Heisman. However, Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. is being talked out as one of those generational talents and it is quite possible that he is the first player selected in the 2024 NFL Draft.

His chemistry with quarterback C.J. Stroud was pretty obvious. Will it take some time for the new Ohio State QB to develop that? Perhaps that is why he comes in at +2000 in the Heisman Trophy odds.

It would have been interesting to see where Michigan running back Blake Corum would have finished in last year’s Heisman Trophy race. As it was, he had 1,463 rushing yards and 18 touchdown runs despite missing two games and being limited to two carries in the win over Ohio State. Like Harrison, his +2800 Heisman odds seem a little on the low side.

Ohio State running back TreVeyon Henderson (+4000) is another player to watch after an injury-plagued 2022 season.

With Ohio State and Penn State both losing starting quarterbacks to the NFL, that leaves Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy (+1800) as the Big Ten player with the best Heisman odds.

McCarthy has the talent to put up big-time numbers. However, he plays in a run-first system and that could impact his statistics.

Corum, Harrison and fellow Ohio State receiver Emeka Egbuka, Penn State offensive lineman Olu Fashanu, Michigan offensive lineman Zak Zinter, Illinois defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton, Ohio State linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, Penn State cornerback Kalen King as well as the Iowa duo of defensive back Cooper DeJean and punter Tory Taylor all made the Associated Press preseason All-American first team.

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Number Crunching

Penn State led the Big Ten with a 9-3-1 record against the college football betting lines a season ago with Indiana (4-8) and Michigan State (3-6-3) bringing up the rear.

The Nittany Lions were 8-2-1 against the spread as the favorite. Ohio State and Michigan combined to go 12-11-2 as favorites ATS.

Ohio State led the way with 10 games finishing over the total with nine of Iowa’s 13 games going under the total.

Games of the Year

Here are the top five Big Ten games in 2023.

  • Iowa at Wisconsin, Oct. 14: It will be fun to see how Wisconsin’s more wide-open offense fares against what could be one of the better defenses in the conference in a showdown of the top two contenders in the West Division.
  • Penn State at Ohio State, Oct. 21: Ohio State has won six straight games against the Nittany Lions. Penn State has covered against the college football spread in all but one of those losses.
  • Ohio State at Wisconsin, Oct. 28: Quite the back-to-back games for Ohio State as the Buckeyes hit the road to meet the West Division favorites.
  • Michigan at Penn State, Nov. 11: This could be Penn State’s chance to make a run at the Big Ten title with the Wolverines coming to town.
  • Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 25: Not only could a spot in the Big Ten title game be on the line, but quite possibly the loser of this game will be out of the national title chase.

A Look At the Opener

The Big Ten season gets underway on Aug. 31 when Nebraska heads to face Minnesota.

The Golden Gophers had to work to edge Nebraska 20-13 in an early November game in 2022. Each of the last three meetings finished as one-score games so keep that in mind as Minnesota is favored by 7½ points.

This is a matchup of teams that could be headed for mediocre seasons since Nebraska is priced at -140 to finish over six regular-season wins while Minnesota has -130 odds to go under seven wins.

Top Newcomers

The highest-rated incoming Big Ten transfer stayed within the conference as former Nebraska linebacker Ernest Hausmann is now at Michigan while Ohio State added Ole Miss cornerback Davison Igbinosun.

Quarterback Hudson Card, who moves from Texas to Purdue, and offensive lineman LaDarius Henderson, who transferred from Arizona State and Michigan, are other top-20-rated transfers. Indiana also has defensive lineman Andre Carter come in from Western Michigan with former Syracuse safety Ja’Had Carter now at Ohio State.

Hausmann, Michigan State receiver Keon Coleman (Florida State) and Indiana linebacker Dasan McCullough (Oklahoma) are the most prominent outgoing transfers.

As for the incoming freshmen, it is not a great sign that two top-five rated recruits from the midwest headed out of the Big Ten as Michigan-raised quarterback Dante Moore signed with UCLA and Iowa-bred offensive lineman Kadyn Proctor landed at Alabama.

The top-rated Big Ten signee according to the 247sports.com database is receiver Carnell Tate as the No. 22 prospect is now at Ohio State. The Buckeyes got commitments from three of the top eight receivers in this recruiting class.

Penn State offensive tackle J’ven Williams is the other top-25 recruit.

Illinois edge rusher Gabe Jacas, Maryland linebacker Jaishawn Barham, and Penn State linebacker Abdul Carter made the college football news first-team All-Freshman team a season ago.

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