Big Ten to Play College Football This Fall, Ohio State Big Favorite to Fourpeat

Posted on: September 16, 2020, 11:59h. 

Last updated on: September 17, 2020, 09:56h.

After days of speculation that the Big Ten would resume college football later this fall, the conference made it official on Wednesday.

Big Ten college football
Ohio State has won the last three Big Ten college football championships. Oddsmakers have the Buckeyes as the prohibitive favorite to win it again this year. (Image: Big Ten)

The conference’s 14 members unanimously voted to start play the weekend of Oct. 23-24. The plan is to play eight regular-season games within an eight-week period. Then, on Dec. 19, the Big Ten would hold its championship game, with the winners of each division facing each other.

The remaining teams would play that weekend as well, with cross-divisional matchups based on the standings, i.e. the two second-place teams play each other, and so on.

It’s a stunning reversal from a month ago, when conference officials, as well as several university presidents, cited the COVID-19 crisis and the potential long-term health impacts to young adults — in particular the development of myocarditis, a heart tissue inflammation — as the reason for shelving all sports until spring.

That move was met with criticism by some conference coaches, lawsuits by some players, and derision from pundits and politicians, including President Trump.

While those critics took a victory lap on social media celebrating the conference’s decision, Big Ten officials cited advances in COVID testing that made them more comfortable moving forward. Players, coaches, trainers, and other field-level staffers will undergo daily antigen testing.

That information had been presented to officials by the conference’s Return to Competition Task Force.

A player testing positive would undergo a different test to confirm the result. If he did contract the virus, he would be out of competition for a minimum of 21 days. The conference will also benchmark positivity rates by team and population, and if certain thresholds are met, teams will need to suspend practice and play for at least seven days.

Ohio State Big Ten and National Title Favorites

With the Big Ten’s intended return in five weeks, several major sportsbooks went ahead and updated their college football futures boards.

Conference championship odds are now available at BetMGM, FanDuel, and PointsBet. All four have Ohio State as the consensus favorite. The Buckeyes, three-time defending champs, are -250 at BetMGM and PointsBet, while FanDuel lists them at -300.

The initial odds vary significantly from there. Michigan is the +550 second choice at MGM and PointsBet, while FanDuel ranks the Wolverines the fourth choice at +2000. Wisconsin ranges from +500 at FanDuel to +1000 at PointsBet, and Penn State goes from +650 at PointsBet to +900 at MGM.

DraftKings doesn’t have Big Ten conference odds. But oddsmakers there have added the schools to the national title board. Ohio State is now the cofavorite alongside Clemson at +250. The next conference school on the list is Penn State at +2800.

FanDuel, too, lists Clemson and Ohio State as its cofavorites, with +250 odds. Penn State is at +3000. The Flutter book also added Big Ten players to the Heisman futures board. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is now the cofavorite with Clemson’s signal caller Trevor Lawrence at +500.

Other Conferences Following Suit?

The Big Ten wasn’t the only major college conference to pull out from fall football and other sports last month. The PAC-12 made a similar announcement, as well as fellow Football Bowl Subdivision leagues the Mid-American (MAC) and Mountain West conferences.

After the Big Ten’s announcement, PAC-12 Commissioner Larry Scott issued a statement saying the state public health officials in California and Oregon would approve a return to practice if local health officials concurred. That could open the door for the last Power Five conference to announce its fall return, an announcement coming perhaps later this week.

Reports also circulated that the Mountain West is likely to follow suit, although some schools may choose to opt out. However, MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement the league continues to plan for a spring season for all fall sports.