Early lines show respect for Big Ten, Jim Harbaugh

Remember all that respect the Big Ten earned from its winning bowl season last winter? Apparently, it hasn't waned over the past six months.

The league opened Friday as favorites in seven of 11 non-conference games posted by the Golden Nugget, the first Las Vegas casino to offer point spreads on college football in 2015.

The Golden Nugget placed spreads on 166 games, its ninth straight year as the Vegas trendsetter.

Early-line favorites against Big Ten competition in September include Utah (minus-4 against Michigan), TCU (minus-18 against Minnesota) and Alabama (minus-10 against Wisconsin), all in Week 1.

Nebraska is listed as even money for its Week 3 visit to Miami.

The Golden Nugget generally likes the Wolverines, listing Michigan as a 14-point Week 2 favorite against Oregon State in Jim Harbaugh's head-coaching debut at the Big House, a 33-point favorite against UNLV and a seven-point favorite against BYU. The BYU line dropped to six points after the first hour of betting, among several quick shifts in favor of the Cougars.

Despite its unsettled quarterback picture, Ohio State -- the top team in power rankings of Golden Nugget oddsmaker Aaron Kessler -- is an early double-digit favorite in four listed games. The Buckeyes are giving 16 points at Virginia Tech in Week 1, a rematch of the Hokies' win at OSU last season that marked the Buckeyes' lone blemish in a national championship season.

Ohio State also opened as a 19-point favorite against Penn State, a 14-point favorite against Michigan State and a 16-point favorite at Michigan, though that line quickly dropped to 13.

The Golden Nugget anticipates improvement from Michigan in its first year under Harbaugh -- or, at least, perceived improvement from the betting public.

In perhaps the most interesting number among the early Big Ten lines, MSU opened as a 4.5-point road favorite over the Wolverines in Week 7. The number jumped to 5.5 in the first hour, still interesting after the Spartans thumped Michigan by 23 and 24 points in the past two seasons.

MSU opened as a one-point favorite in Week 2 over Oregon, perhaps the most important of all Big Ten non-conference games for maintaining that respect earned on New Year's Day and in the College Football Playoff. The Big Ten won six of 11 bowl games last season, including three of four as underdogs against the likes of Alabama, Auburn and Baylor on Jan. 1.

Nebraska opened as a six-point favorite in Week 1 over BYU in Mike Riley's coaching debut in Lincoln. But the Golden Nugget isn't especially high on the Huskers. After enduring a 35-point loss at Wisconsin last season, Nebraska is a 1-point underdog in Week 6 as new coach Paul Chryst and the Badgers visit. The Huskers are also a six-point home underdog against Michigan State in Week 10.