Although the kickoff to college football season is still five months away, the teams already have dusted off their shoulder pads and laced up their cleats.
The spring game is just around the corner for most programs, giving coaches and fans an early snapshot of their team's makeup.
|Odds To Win Big 10
(courtesy of Golden Nugget)
| Ohio State
| Penn State
| Michigan State
Sportsbooks already are making their evaluations as well, and some are offering a chance at some early action.
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The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas has live odds on Power 5 teams to win their conference title game.
Let's take a preliminary look at the Big 10, with odds and analysis for the teams:
Ohio State (8/5): Quarterback J.T. Barrett will be among the favorites for the Heisman Trophy, and the program?s iconic dual-threat leads an ultra-talented cast that was probably a year ahead of schedule last season.
The Buckeyes made the four-team playoff despite missing the Big 10 title game, before they were blanked by Clemson in the national semifinals. This year, they will face sky-high expectations.
The vertical passing game should improve with experienced returning on the outside, and Mike Weber leads a strong run game.
Ohio State's regular-season finale at Michigan will likely determine its fate for the Big 10 title game, and there are other potential pitfalls. The Buckeyes are a pass at this meager payback.
Michigan (2/1): The Wolverines will have to reload at key positions after losing several NFL-bound stars, led by Heisman finalist Jabrill Peppers and a handful of his teammates from the defensive side.
The offense also loses top rusher De?Veon Smith, reliable tight end Jake Butt and its top two receivers. Even so, quarterback Wilton Speight returns and the Wolverines should have plenty of ample playmakers surrounding him.
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Coach Jim Harbaugh should again have them in the thick of the Big 10 race, and they benefit from getting rivals Michigan State and Ohio State at home. Still, this is a meager payback for a season's worth of work.
Wisconsin (6/1): This sets up as a solid value position on a Wisconsin team that has a habit of reaching the Big 10 title game, with four appearances -- and two wins -- this decade.
The Badgers return plenty of talent, especially on the defensive side, from the team that collapsed in last year?s title game against Penn State. They also have a favorable schedule that features a late-season visit from Michigan, a game that could yield heavy influence on which teams participate in the championship.
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Michigan State (20/1): The Spartans also have a strong recent history of success in the Big 10 title game, with two wins in three appearances this decade. They are coming off a rebuilding year in which they failed to contend in the Big 10, but still played near-spoiler to Ohio State and Michigan by taking both rivals to the wire.
It's unlikely a youth-laden Spartans group can close the gap from last year's three-win team, but Michigan State tends to thrive when its overlooked and has to be considered a viable underdog at this price.
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Wisconsin (6/1): The Badgers have the potential to perhaps make the biggest jump in improvement from last season, and they played in the Big 10 title game last year.
They stayed within single digits against Michigan and Ohio State, pushing the Badgers to overtime before coming up short.
Wisconsin has a favorable schedule and would have a viable chance against any potential opponent in the championship. At 6/1 odds, this is a play worth taking.