The Big 10 West is a logjam, with four teams tied at the top to see who gets the honor of being stomped by either Michigan or Ohio State in the conference championship game. The Golden Gophers are one of those teams in the mix, making Saturday afternoon’s Illinois at Minnesota betting matchup that much more important for P.J. Fleck’s club.
Despite this game being vastly more important for Minnesota, they are just a -1.5 home favorite in this spot. Smart bettors see that as a trap line because the Golden Gophers look like a very easy play, and 60% of public action is on the home team. But as they say, that’s why you play the game.
Why Illinois Has Value at +1.5
It’s really hard to find a reason to pull the trigger on Illinois at +1.5 on Saturday afternoon (3:30 PM ET, Big Ten Network) but many times those are the best bets to make – the contrarian play. Look at the numbers, the Illini are just 3-5 overall, 1-4 in conference play, have lost three of four including giving up an 18 point 4th quarter lead to Wisconsin in their last game, and are on the road – yet are still just +1.5 point underdogs? The line doesn’t make sense.
There are some things the Fighting Illini have going for them, including having a bye last week to help sort out the chaos of what looked like a guaranteed win vs. the Badgers before the late meltdown. Illinois coach Bret Bielema has also never lost to Minnesota (9-0 overall, 2-0 with the Fighting Illini).
Minnesota is tied atop the Big Ten West, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are an impressive team. The Golden Gophers are 9th in the conference in both scoring offense and scoring defense, as well as being 3rd worst in total yards gained (314.9 ypg).
Why Minnesota Has Value at -1.5
Maybe this point spread is right where it needs to be, and playing it as a trap on Minnesota could just be overthinking. The Golden Gophers don’t do a lot of great things on either side of the ball, but they obviously just know how to win.
Another thing, although the Minnesota numbers don’t stand out – they’re still better than Illinois in most categories. The Fighting Illini give up the most yards in the Big 10 (396.0) and allow the third most points in the conference (27.8). Those are the types of numbers that can make even this pedestrian Golden Gophers offense look competent.
The best thing Minnesota does is run the football as their 174.5 ypg are just outside the top 40 in the nation and are 4th best in the Big 10. When you combine that with the Fighting Illini being the third worst in the conference for yards allowed on the ground (161.0) it’s pretty obvious how this game is going to play out.
Free Week 10 Illinois at Minnesota Betting Pick
The big question for this game is do you play it as a trap or just take the better team at home with a very manageable point spread? Personally going with the home team route here.
Free Pick: Minnesota -1.5