Sarah Hughes

Big Ten Championship: Best Bets, Predictions, and Preview for Purdue-Michigan

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The regular season in college football ended in spectacular fashion last week, featuring high-stakes rivalry contests and upsets in every major conference. The Big Ten had it all.

In the Big Ten West, where Iowa simply needed to beat a downtrodden Nebraska for the division title, the Cornhuskers upset the Hawkeyes with a remarkable performance on offense. Once Iowa was knocked out, Purdue was in the driver’s seat and took care of business on the road at Indiana to top the West with a 30-16 win over the Hoosiers.

In the Big Ten East, Michigan and Ohio State faced off in Columbus for the division in what was anticipated as the game of the season, with both teams ranked in the top four. The marquee matchup lived up to its billing through three quarters, as Michigan led 24-20 before the final 15 minutes. But the close contest turned into something else entirely in the fourth quarter, as the Wolverines outscored the Buckeyes 21-3 in the final 10 minutes and intercepted Heisman candidate C.J. Stroud twice in the final five. Michigan won the game 45-23 after the runaway ending, keeping its No. 2 CFP ranking and earning its second straight trip to the Big Ten Championship; Ohio State sits No. 5 in the CFP rankings hoping a playoff path emerges for them this weekend.

 

Purdue vs. Michigan Preview: Wolverines seek second straight conference title (MICH -16.5, o/u 51.5)

Best Bets: Michigan -16.5, Over 51.5

No. 2 Michigan (12-0) and Purdue (8-4) will meet at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Saturday night, with Michigan heavily favored to win its second consecutive Big Ten title. The Wolverines made easy work of the Big Ten Championship game in this building last season, defeating Iowa 42-3. Michigan last won back-to-back conference titles in 2003 and 2004.

Michigan will again be without star running back Blake Corum (at one point considered a Heisman contender), who sat out most of the Ohio State game due to a knee injury and is set to undergo season-ending surgery, according to multiple reports.

The team’s rushing core didn’t slow down in Corum’s absence, though, as sophomore Donovan Edwards earned a career-high 22 carries and 216 rush yards, most of which came on 75- and 85-yard touchdown runs in the final minutes against Ohio State. “If somebody’s down, the whole running back room has to be accountable to get the offense going,” Edwards said after the win.

The Wolverines are exuding confidence and pride ahead of this game following their performance in Columbus last weekend.

“We’re excited to get back there, enjoy it, and dominate,” sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy said Wednesday. McCarthy was a star last weekend, creating explosive plays that have sometimes been missing from the Michigan passing game this season. He threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns (of 45, 69, and 75 yards) with no interceptions.

McCarthy said that the team is not taking Purdue lightly, but they of course have bigger goals in mind. “It’s another game in the way of our ultimate goal, which is the national championship,” he told reporters. “We’re still focused on going 15-0.” Michigan’s last national title came in 1997, when the team was voted national champions in the AP Poll, but the win was considered contested because Nebraska won the Coach’s Poll.

RELATED: College Football Playoff expands to 12 teams for 2024 season

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t taking this weekend lightly either. “First rule of champions – do not let up,” he told Michigan Football Radio on Tuesday.

Despite being the better team, the Wolverines are smart not to underestimate the upset-capable Boilermakers from Purdue. Purdue has nine wins against AP No. 1 and No. 2 sides as an unranked team, more than any other school in the poll era. (Michigan is ranked No. 2 in the CFP and AP rankings.) The Boilermakers have upset No. 2 teams in the Big Ten twice in the last four years, first Ohio State in 2018 and then Iowa in 2021.

Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm engineered both of those upsets, and says his team is hungry heading into this weekend. “They’ve got a chip on their shoulder,” he said Thursday. “They’re out to prove to people what they can do.”

Senior quarterback Aidan O’Connell has been practicing since Wednesday and is expected to play. O’Connell led Purdue to its division-sealing win at Indiana last weekend just days after the sudden death of his older brother, Sean. He went home to be with family following that game and returned in time to practice on Wednesday.

In a statement Sunday, O’Connell said, “Sean was not only one of Purdue Football’s biggest fans, but he was a better son, brother and friend.”

O’Connell leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game with an average of 284, while his favorite target – senior wide receiver Charlie Jones – leads the conference in receiving yards and touchdowns (he’s in the top five nationally for both stats as well).

O’Connell and Jones will have their work cut out for them against one of the top defenses in the country, and Purdue will likely use the full playbook as they go to Indiana with nothing to lose.

Prediction: Jeff Brohm and Purdue have proven their ability to play up to great teams like Michigan, and Michigan could be on a comedown after the huge game at Ohio State last weekend. But the Wolverines showed no sign of comedown after Ohio State last year and they should be able to stay in control of this game to cover, even if Purdue creates a little chaos and scores some points to put the Over in play.

 

More Championship Week Predictions

The team at NBC Sports EDGE has taken a deep dive on this week’s Big Ten Championship game and are serving up their favorite plays for the week. Here’s a preview:

Purdue Team Total Over 17.5 (+110)

Vaughn Dalzell (@VmoneySports)

Aidan O’Connell is expected to play but miss some practice after the unexpected death of his brother prior to the Indiana game.

O’Connell could have another emotional showing as a he went 18-of-29 for 290 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Indiana to clinch the Big Ten Championship berth (30-16 win).

With O’Connell as the starting quarterback, the Boilermakers scored 18 or more points in nine out of 11 games this season and six-straight to end last year (15 of the last 17). The only defenses to keep Purdue Under 18 points was Iowa (3 points) and Norhtwestern (17 points) during that 17-game span. 

While it will be an unpopular bet, Purdue could score two-plus touchdowns on Michigan — Rutgers (17), Penn State (17), Illinois (17), Ohio State (23) and Maryland (27) all scored at least 17 points versus Michigan this season.

 

Read more of the EDGE team’s Big Ten plays here. If you’re looking for a deeper dive into every game this Championship Saturday, join NBC Sports analysts Vaughn Dalzell, Eric Froton, and Brad Thomas Saturday from 11A-12P Eastern for the NBC Sports YouTube Championship Saturday Q&A as they dive into the weekend’s slate of games, answer your questions, and offer value plays including sides, totals, and props.

 

 

**Betting stats are provided by BetMGM. Must be 21+ years of age or older to wager. Must be present in NY. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available. Call (877-8-HOPENY) or text HOPENY (467369).

Big Ten Week 13: Best Bets, Predictions, and Previews for Michigan-Ohio State and Nebraska-Iowa

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Week 12 in the Big Ten included surprising scares for the two best teams in the conference, as No. 2 Ohio State (11-0) escaped a close one at Maryland (6-5) and No. 3 Michigan (11-0) needed a last-minute field goal to survive against Illinois (7-4) at home.

A possible explanation is that both teams were already looking ahead to Week 13, when they’ll go head-to-head in one of the biggest regular-season matchups of 2022. Ohio State will host the rivalry game this season, a year after its playoff hopes were dashed by the Wolverines in an Ann Arbor upset.

Before the showdown for the Big Ten East title, though, Iowa (7-4) controls its own destiny in the West on Friday afternoon against Nebraska (3-8). A win will send the Hawkeyes to their second straight Big Ten Championship game (they lost to Michigan 42-3 in 2021). A loss by Iowa would put Purdue (7-4) in the driver’s seat in the Big Ten West, giving the Boilermakers a chance to clinch the division with a win Saturday at Indiana (4-7).

 

No. 2 Ohio State seeks redemption in ‘winner takes all’ against No. 3 Michigan (OSU -7.5, o/u 56)

Best Bets: Ohio State -7.5, Over 56

A year ago, the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes traveled to Ann Arbor to take on No. 5 Michigan for The Game, the name ascribed to the 125-year-old rivalry between the two schools. On a snowy afternoon at the Big House, the Wolverines combined strong defense and ground game to win The Game for the first time in 10 years, earning a spot in the Big Ten title game and ultimately their first trip to the College Football Playoff.

If you ask Ohio State, everything the team has done in the last year has been a reaction to that result.

“We have scars,” head coach Ryan Day said Tuesday. “It motivated us all offseason.”

Junior offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. was more specific about his feelings. “Looking up at the scoreboard, I felt like not only did we fail at our number one goal, but all the past people who kept the tradition of beating [Michigan]… I felt like I let them down,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been holding onto that.”

Buckeyes tight end Cade Stover called it the “greatest rivalry in all of sports” during his media time on Tuesday, adding how personal it feels for players like him who grew up in Ohio.

Jim Harbaugh celebrates with fans after The Game in 2021. (Mike Mulholland / Getty)

The energy in Columbus this week stood in contrast to what emanated from Ann Arbor.  “We’re very grateful to be in this position, to be playing this game,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. “We’ve got a great group of players who are happy warriors. They’re on a happy mission.”

Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy seemed to embody that description on Tuesday, remarking that “the stars are aligning and it’s finally here, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

Harbaugh likened the game to “two superheroes going against each other,” which is not far off from what the statistics suggest: Ohio State (sitting at No. 2 in CFP rankings) is the second-most efficient passing offense in the country, led by Heisman favorite C.J. Stroud at quarterback. Michigan (No. 3 in CFP rankings) is the fifth-best passing defense in the nation, and the fourth-best rushing offense.

That rush game has been highlighted by junior running back Blake Corum, who’s fourth in the FBS with 1,457 rush yards and second in FBS with 18 rushing touchdowns this year. But Corum’s status for this Saturday is unknown after he left the Illinois game last week with an undisclosed injury to his left knee.

Harbaugh offered that Corum’s knee is “structurally good, which is good news,” but hasn’t commented on his ability to play against Ohio State. Day says his team is preparing as though Corum will play.

Even if Corum plays, he may not be at 100% health, likely increasing the workload for J.J. McCarthy in the passing game. Harbaugh says McCarthy “has the ability to turn water into wine” and that his message to his quarterback on Saturday will be to “have at it.”

While McCarthy’s accuracy has left some to be desired (his completion percentage hasn’t risen above 53% in November), he’s become a reliable steward of the ball this month with no turnovers since October 15. Fumbles have been an issue for McCarthy – he has five this season, all recovered by his teammates – and he can’t afford them against the Buckeyes’ defensive front.

Both teams looked like they had work to do in their Week 12 tilts: Ohio State was losing to Maryland at halftime and the Terrapins were within 3 points of the Buckeyes for most of the fourth quarter, while Michigan needed a last-minute field goal to survive Illinois.

“Some people call it a character builder, I called it a character revealer,” Harbaugh said of the close call.

Day reminded reporters that their number one goal is “to win and move on” in his postgame comments on Saturday. “There’s been times this year when we’ve had style points… And there’s going to be games we don’t jump out as fast as we would like to.”

With all the talk about gratitude at Michigan and of last year’s motivation at Ohio State, both sides know the stakes of this game. The winner takes the Big Ten East and should be a heavy favorite in the conference title game with an easy path to the playoff. There is a path for both teams to get into the playoff if this weekend’s game is close, but it’s narrow.

“There’s nothing quite like The Game,” Day told reporters. “This is our number one goal every season.”

“Winner takes all,” Harbaugh said.

Indeed.

Prediction: It feels tough to take Michigan in this one, on the road with their best player banged up at best, out at worst. The Wolverines defense should be able to slow down the Buckeyes’ offense, and the Michigan ground game should be able to wear down the Buckeyes defense, but ultimately Stroud and the OSU receivers break this open enough to win by 10, and to put the Over in play.

 

Iowa looks for second straight Big Ten West title in home game against Nebraska (Iowa -10.5, o/u 38.5)

Best Bets: Iowa -10.5, Under 38.5

The Iowa Hawkeyes are currently atop the Big Ten West standings, winning a tiebreaker against Purdue. A win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers this weekend will send the Hawkeyes to Indianapolis to play for the Big Ten title against the winner of Ohio State-Michigan.

The rivalry game between Iowa and Nebraska has been played on Black Friday since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2012. The game is known as the Heroes Game, with the Heroes Trophy up for grabs each season. Fans of each school are encouraged to nominate everyday citizens of Iowa and Nebraska who have performed extraordinary acts of heroism; one nominee from each state is invited to attend the game to receive on-field recognition, and their names are inscribed on the game trophy.

Iowa has won the Heroes Trophy every year since 2015. (Steven Branscombe / Getty)

This is the final hurdle – and should be the lowest hurdle – for Iowa to clear in November. They’re on a four-game winning streak, including last weekend’s close 13-10 win on the road at Minnesota.

“We haven’t had many easy games and Saturday was an example of that,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday.

Nebraska, meanwhile, comes to Iowa City on a five-game losing streak and hasn’t scored more than two touchdowns in a game since October 15.

Iowa’s offense is even more unproductive – Nebraska ranks 11th in the conference in scoring offense while Iowa ranks 13th. The difference will come on the other side of the ball, where Iowa is fourth in the conference in scoring defense and Nebraska is 12th.

The Cornhuskers are coming off a particularly painful loss to Wisconsin, who scored a go-ahead touchdown with 35 seconds remaining after trailing the entire game.

“This one hurts,” Nebraska interim head coach Mickey Joseph said immediately after that loss.

Scoring woes or not, recent history says this game should be close. Iowa has won the last seven Heroes Trophies, but in the last four editions of the game, their margin of victory has been a touchdown or less.

That’s among the reasons Ferentz says he’s encouraged his players to focus on this week, rather than getting caught up in what’s at stake. “The worst thing that we could do is start thinking about stuff from the outside.”

With nothing but pride at stake for Nebraska, Joseph says his team is similarly single-minded. “We’ve got one mission left,” he said Tuesday, in what could be his last week in his post. “I expect and I know our boys will come out and give full effort this last game.”

Prediction: Iowa’s offense is far from standing out nationally (or even in the conference), but it has shown improvement in the last month, especially against teams with weak defenses like Nebraska. Iowa covers at home and the Under is in play, as it nearly always is when Iowa is involved.

 

More Week 13 Predictions

The team at NBC Sports EDGE has taken a deep dive on this week’s Big Ten slate and are serving up their favorite plays for the week. Here’s a preview:

Michigan State @ Penn State:                                  Game Spread Michigan State +18 (-110)

Vaughn Dalzell (@VmoneySports)

I hate this bet, but Michigan State would hate to lose out on Bowl Eligibility, and this is the last chance after losing in double overtime to Indiana last week (39-31).

Penn State is 9-2 and has its bowl eligibility secured. MSU covered six of the past nine meetings with Penn State including a 30-27 win last year in East Lansing. The Spartans have won outright just once in their last three trips to Happy Valley – 21-17 in 2018. However, we just need Michigan State to cover.

MSU has been bowl-eligible for the past four seasons (excluding the Covid season). They will want to continue that tradition or Mel Tucker could start to hear footsteps even though he signed that massive extension late last season.

This is the final Big Ten regular-season game of the season, so expect some weird things to happen, like an MSU backdoor cover or potential win. Penn State has covered five-straight spreads entering this game, but the past three have come versus Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana. MSU is a step up and has motivation to pull off the upset.

For more Big Ten analysis and Week 13 advice from the EDGE team, click here. And if you’re looking for a deeper dive into Week 13 in College Football from a Bettor’s Perspective, join NBC’s team of college analysts at 11am Eastern on Friday and Saturday for an NCAA College Football Betting Preview Q&A on the NBC Sports YouTube page.

 

**Betting stats are provided by BetMGM. Must be 21+ years of age or older to wager. Must be present in NY. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available. Call (877-8-HOPENY) or text HOPENY (467369).

Big Ten Football Week 12: Best Bets, Predictions, and Previews for Illinois-Michigan, Iowa-Minnesota, and More

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** Betting stats are provided by BetMGM.

 

Chaos Reigns in the Big Ten West

Heading into Week 12, college football’s most chaotic division is the Big Ten West, as four teams are tied at the top of the standings with two games to go, and none of them control their own destiny. Here’s a look at where things stand:

To win the division, every team needs wins in both remaining games and a loss from another team (or two) on the list.

Iowa has the clearest path to winning the division, because the loss they need – Illinois at Michigan – is the most likely. If the Hawkeyes win out and finish in a tie with Purdue for the top spot, they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Boilermakers (Iowa 24, Purdue 3 in Week 10).

This list will likely shorten to two teams after this Saturday, as Illinois is expected to lose at No. 3 Michigan and either Iowa or Minnesota will lose their head-to-head.

The Golden Gophers and Fighting Illini have tougher paths to win the division – Both need an upset Purdue loss. Illinois would also have to pull one of the biggest upsets of the year in Ann Arbor on Saturday.

 

Iowa looks to keep division title hopes alive in at Minnesota (MINN -2.5, o/u 32.5)

Best Bets: Iowa +2.5, Under 32.5

The Floyd of Rosedale Trophy is on the line in Minnesota this weekend – a bronze trophy in the shape of a pig in honor of the prize pig that Minnesota Governor Floyd Olson won in a bet with Iowa Governor Clyde Herring over the Minnesota-Iowa game in 1935. The 1935 bet was seen as an effort by the two governors to ease tension between their states after the 1934 edition of the rivalry game was particularly violent, including . The trophy is now seen as a symbol of a friendly rivalry between the two schools.

 

Iowa has won the Floyd of Rosedale trophy every year since 2015. (David Berding / Getty)

But both teams have more to play for this season as they sit in that aforementioned four-way tie atop the Big Ten West standings.

Minnesota (7-3) and Iowa (6-4) are both on three-game winning streaks coming into this game, though the caliber of Iowa’s last three opponents has been higher than Minnesota’s.

“Optimistic” is the first word Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck used to describe his feelings about the team in his presser on Tuesday. The Golden Gophers are coming off a 31-3 victory over downtrodden Northwestern in which freshman quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis got his first career start in the absence of injured vet Tanner Morgan. Fleck said Morgan is progressing well (he suffered an unspecified upper body injury) and his availability continues to be assessed by medical staff.

In the Week 11 win, Minnesota ran the ball 58 times to lighten the burden on Kaliakmanis. “If we have to do that, we have to do that,” Fleck said. “Would I like to be more balanced? Absolutely. But we’ve got to make the routine plays, and we’ve got to make the routine throws.

“When you’re having a freshman quarterback play, it’s just like a rookie in the NFL. He’s just gotta be able to get in his own routine.”

A majority of the carries go to senior running back Mohamed Ibrahim, whose current streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games is at 18, the longest in FBS since 2000. Ibrahim is fifth in college football with 1,261 rush yards on the season.

“Our style of football is to run the ball. Time management is what we pride ourselves on,” Ibrahim said after the win over Northwestern, in which he scored three rush TDs to bring his career total to 51.

Fleck commented on the challenge presented by Iowa’s defense, which is third in the nation in yards allowed. “I don’t know if I’ve seen that in college football, where the defense creates the majority of the points throughout the year… They seem to do it every year.”

Iowa’s defense has not, in fact, scored a majority of the team’s points (32 of the team’s 179 this season, if you count PATs for defensive TDs), but Fleck’s comment goes to the style of play – when the Hawkeyes score, the defense is usually responsible for putting the offense in prime position.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz knows that’s the case, and commended his defense and special teams units on their roles in the team’s big win over Wisconsin last weekend.

Ferentz pointed out Ibrahim as a priority for the Hawkeyes on Saturday, calling him “the most proven veteran back” in the Big Ten. He compared him to Michigan’s Blake Corum, who’s fourth on the rush yards list this season to Ibrahim’s fifth.

“It looks like maybe there’s nothing there,” Ferentz said, referring to what could be a first impression of Ibrahim’s relative size and speed, “and then next thing you know he’s got a 5-, 8-yard gain.”

Iowa is hard to bet against this time of year – the team hasn’t lost a November game since 2019.

“Really good teams should be peaking in November,” Iowa QB Spencer Petras said Saturday.

Petras will have his work cut out for him: Minnesota is one of four teams ahead of Iowa in points allowed this season at just 13.1 per game. The Hawkeyes are allowing 13.9 on average, so this one should be a solid defensive match with a lot on the line.

Prediction: Iowa seems to be hitting a stride, and with a division title on the line, they’ll do enough to get it done in a close one on the road. The under should be in play given the defensive strengths of these teams. (Hopefully, though, the total score will be higher than the temperature, which is forecast at 17 degrees Saturday afternoon.)

 

Illinois hopes for an upset of No. 3 Michigan in Ann Arbor (MICH -17.5, o/u 40.5)

Best Bets: Michigan -17.5, Over 40.5

It’s likely that the Fighting Illini’s hopes of reaching the Big Ten title game end in Ann Arbor this weekend, where they’re outmatched in nearly every way. The most meaningful team stat that Illinois (7-3) has over Michigan (10-0) is pass yards per game, in which the Illini are averaging about 10 more than the Wolverines.

Given Illinois quarterback Tommy DeVito’s inability to find a rhythm last week at home against Purdue (18/32, 1 TD, 1 INT), that pass yards stat may not help them much on the road at Michigan. And in other areas of strength for the Illini, the Wolverines should have an answer:

  • Illinois has the nation’s leading rusher in Chase Brown (1,442 yards). Michigan has the nation’s leading rush defense (72.7 yards/game).
  • Illinois is 7th in the nation in rush defense (85.9 yards/game). Michigan’s Blake Corum is the fourth-most productive rusher in the nation (1,379 yards).

The only danger for Michigan in this game is that the team could be caught looking ahead to Week 13, when they’ll face Ohio State in a showdown that will likely determine the winner of the conference, and by extension determine a spot in the Playoff.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is focused on stopping Brown from having an impact on the ground. “Our run wall has been very good,” Harbaugh said Tuesday. “It’s going to be tested this week probably like none other up to this point.”

For its part, Illinois needs to win this game and its Week 13 game at Northwestern, and needs Purdue to suffer an upset loss to Northwestern or Nebraska in the final two weeks, in order to win the Big Ten West. It’s a tall order.

Like Harbaugh, Illinois coach Bret Bielema is wary of the rush attack this week, calling Corum “as good as anybody in the country.”

Prediction: Michigan’s rush defense should shut down Illinois’ ground game, making it difficult for the Illini to keep pace in Ann Arbor. Michigan wins easy with the Over in play.

 

More Week 12 Predictions

The team at NBC Sports EDGE has taken a deep dive on this week’s Big Ten slate and are serving up their favorite plays for the week. Here’s a preview:

Northwestern @ Purdue:                      2nd Half Purdue -8.5 (-110)

Zachary Kruger (@ZK_FFB)

One of the worst offenses in the nation, Northwestern has gone for 20 or more points just once in their last seven games. The Wildcats rank 128th in the nation in points per game (15.3) and 83rd in points allowed per game (28.2).

This weekend, Northwestern travels to Purdue to take on a Boilermakers’ offense that is hanging 29.6 points per game on opposing defenses while ranking 50th in yards per game (407.8) and 17th in passing yards per game. Quarterback Aidan O’Connell (2674-18-11) continuously torches bad defenses through the air. To Northwestern’s credit, they are allowing the 12th-fewest passing yards per game in the nation (182.8), but to cover this 8.5-point second half spread, they are going to need to find a way to get on the board a few times themselves.

Northwestern managed just 14 points in this matchup last season and was outscored 19-7 in the second half. In two of their last three meetings, Purdue has outscored the Wildcats by double-digits in the second half.

The first half number of 10.5 felt somewhat of a steep hill to climb when you consider the two-point differential between the first and second half lines. While I am confident Purdue can get the requisite points to cover this one, I am equally confident in Purdue’s ability to limit an offense that has been less than productive against the majority of opponents they have faced this season.

 

For more Big Ten analysis and Week 12 advice from the EDGE team, click here. And if you’re looking for a deeper dive into Week 12 in College Football from a Bettor’s Perspective, join NBC’s team of college analysts at 11am Eastern for an NCAA College Football Betting Preview Q&A on the NBC Sports YouTube page.

 

**Must be 21+ years of age or older to wager. Must be present in NY. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available. Call (877-8-HOPENY) or text HOPENY (467369).