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Michigan, Ohio State co-favorites at top of Big Ten champion odds

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Entering year two of the Jim Harbaugh era, Michigan is level with archrival Ohio State at the top of the Big Ten champion futures board at sportsbooks monitored by

Harbaugh’s revival of the maize and blue has led to the Wolverines being installed as co-favorites alongside the Buckeyes, with each holding identical +175 odds. Michigan’s climb up the board also means that the Michigan State Spartans might be undervalued at +700.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer will need to call upon his proven ability to reload quickly. The Buckeyes return only six starters from a year ago, although one is star quarterback J.T. Barrett. The talent level at Ohio State is still mouth-watering, but bettors will have to decide how they feel about the Buckeyes’ chances in a daunting September 17 road game against the Oklahoma Sooners. That top-ten matchup won’t affect conference standings, but a loss could affect the Buckeyes’ morale.

Michigan returns 14 starters, including eight on a defense now coordinated by Don Brown, who oversaw the nation’s No. 1 defense last season at Boston College. Whether the Wolverines will push Ohio State – which has home field for their November 26 rivalry game – might come down to quarterback play. Michigan is counting on Houston transfer John O’Korn to deliver the ball to their trio of senior receivers that includes tight end Jake Butt.

It is possible some fans might not identify Michigan State as one of the six Power 5 teams which has an .800 winning percentage since 2010. The Spartans, with likely high NFL draft pick Malik McDowell as the fulcrum of their rugged defense, should give offenses headaches once again. Michigan State’s offense is a blank slate. Fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler O’Connor might represent a step down from Connor Cook, while there isn’t a wide receiver on the roster who had more than seven catches last season.

The Big Ten West offers two darkhorses, with the Iowa Hawkeyes and Nebraska Cornhuskers each listed at +900 on the college football betting lines. Of the two, Iowa is the one whose prop owes more to past performance. Everything went right for Iowa early last season while starting 12-0, but that eventually culminated in losses in both the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl. They could be due for a step back, even with quarterback C.J. Beathard and shutdown cover cornerback Desmond King among their 13 returning starters.

The law of averages would suggest a better fate is in store for Nebraska after a 6-7 season where it lost five games by less than a one-touchdown margin. The Cornhuskers project to have seven seniors starting on offense, including quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., so they will be well-equipped for high-scoring games. To get in contention, though, Nebraska needs to coach up their inexperienced front four. Their pass defense, which ranked No. 122 (of 128 teams) last season, has nowhere to go but up.

The Wisconsin Badgers, who are listed at +1400 odds, appear to be on a downswing. The Badgers’ famed rushing attack was garden-variety last season. Meanwhile, post-Christian Hackenberg Penn State is listed at +1800, followed by the Northwestern Wildcats (+3300) and Minnesota Golden Gophers (+4400). The Indiana Hoosiers, Illinois Fighting Illini and Maryland Terrapins are all listed at +5000, with the Purdue Boilermakers and Rutgers Scarlet Knights at +10000 each.

Alabama betting favorite over Clemson in National Championship

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Led by linebacker Tim Williams and a hellacious defense, the Alabama Crimson Tide have got better at beating oddsmakers’ expectations during their pursuit of a repeat national championship.

Alabama is listed as the 6-point favorite against the Clemson Tigers with a 50.5-point total for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Tampa on Monday night at sportsbooks monitored by

Alabama is 7-2 against the spread in its last nine games as a favorite on the college football odds, and is also 4-2 ATS in its last six games when it was favored by 4.5 to 10 points. In last season’s national championship game, though, Clemson accounted for one of the two covers. Clemson is 6-1 SU in its last seven games after losing the previous game in a matchup.

The Tigers, who are 13-1 SU and 7-7 ATS, are once again a worthy challenger to Alabama as Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson embarks on his last college game before leaving for the NFL.

Watson and RB Wayne Gallman successfully running against the likes of Williams, MLB Rashaan Evans and OLB Reuben Foster could prove difficult, as Alabama has the nation’s No. 1 run defense. The Tigers do have an athletic receiving corps led by WR Mike Williams and TE Jordan Leggett and even Alabama might not be able to completely shut them down.

Watson is coming off a two-interception performance against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl and will need to be disciplined against the takeaway-happy Tide.

The major question about the Crimson Tide, who are 14-0 SU and 10-4 ATS, is how much liberty freshman QB Jalen Hurts will have after the coaching shake-up following the Peach Bowl. Newly arrived offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will be in his first game calling plays for Hurts after the ouster of Lane Kiffin.

Alabama and LT Cam Robinson can often exert their will in the rushing phase without being complemented by a dynamic passing attack, but Clemson has a stout defense led by DT Carlos Watkins and DE Christian Watkins. The Tigers were able to shut down a more seasoned dual threat QB, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, in the Fiesta Bowl.

Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough is a bruising ball carrier who could be essential to tiring out the Tigers defense. Both WR Calvin Ridley and WR ArDarius Stewart have the size and speed to win one-on-one battles downfield – provided Hurts has the time and precision to find them.

Alabama is 8-2 SU and 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games in the postseason. The total has gone UNDER in four of Clemson’s last five games on a Monday. The total has gone UNDER in four of Alabama’s last five games against teams with winning records.

College Football Playoff semifinals: Ohio State, Alabama set as favorites

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While they are the second-best and third-best teams in the country by any measure, Clemson and Ohio State carry some negative against-the-spread trends into the Fiesta Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal this weekend.

The Buckeyes are listed as 3-point favorites against the Tigers with a 58.5-point total, according to sportsbooks monitored by In the Peach Bowl, the early semifinal on Saturday, the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are 14-point betting favorites against the Washington Huskies with a 52.5-point total.

Ohio State is only 2-6 ATS over their last eight games while Clemson is 1-5 ATS in their last six games against teams with winning records.

Clemson (12-1 SU, 6-7 ATS) is bolstered by NFL- bound QB Deshaun Watson’s passing and a voracious pass rush that has amassed 46 sacks. Football Outsiders rates Ohio State second nationally (after Alabama) in defensive efficiency, and cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore won’t be easy pickings for star WR Mike Williams and the other Clemson receivers. The Buckeyes also have the speed to counter Watson’s scrambling.

Ohio State (11-1 SU, 6-6 ATS) is not as explosive offensively as Clemson, and the 11 sacks they allowed on QB J.T. Barrett over their last two games is a troubling trend to take into a matchup against the Tigers. However, with Barrett, RB Mike Weber and H-back Curtis Samuel, the Buckeyes inevitably get scoring opportunities. Clemson’s defense can also struggle to generate turnovers, so there could be some long Ohio State drives on Friday.

The total has gone over in Clemson’s last four games according to the OddsShark College Football Database.

Washington (12-1 SU, 7-6 ATS), led by QB Jake Browning, has the country’s fourth-highest scoring offense while Alabama is first in scoring defense by a fair margin. The only SEC offenses which had success against DE Jonathan Allen, OLB Reuben Foster and the vaunted Alabama defense in the regular season were Arkansas and Mississippi, who run the same fast-paced spread attack as the Huskies. If Washington is up to blocking Allen and fellow DE Dalvin Tomlinson – a big if – it might be able to move the ball.

Alabama (13-0 SU, 9-4 ATS) is the deeper team on each side of the ball. The Huskies defense allows only 17 points per game, but has shown vulnerability since the season-ending injuries to MLB Azeem Victor and OLB Joe Mathis. The only QB to defeat Washington this season, Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold, is also a scrambler, somewhat like Crimson Tide QB Jalen Hurts. Hurts has turned the ball over 14 times on fumbles and interceptions and Washington does excel at takeaways.

The Crimson Tide are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games against teams with winning records heading into the Peach Bowl. The total has gone over in seven of Washington’s last 10 games against teams with winning records.