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The Daily Sweat: Big Ten has a big day in bowl games coming on Thursday

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  • Paul Chryst
    Paul Chryst
    American football coach

Big Ten fans can settle in for a long day of bowl games Thursday. 

There are four bowl games scheduled for Thursday and the final three all include Big Ten teams. It'll be a big day for conference pride. 

The first game of the Big Ten tripleheader is Tennessee vs. Purdue in the Music City Bowl. The Volunteers are 7.5-point favorites at BetMGM in what should feel like a home game. Then Michigan State is a 3-point favorite over Pitt in the Peach Bowl, and Wisconsin is a 6.5-point favorite over Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl. 

Purdue pulled off some big upsets this season and won four of its last five, but it'll be a challenge against a Tennessee team that is looking to cap a successful first season under new coach Josh Heupel. It's hard to take Purdue knowing most of the crowd in Nashville will be wearing orange. 

The Michigan State-Pitt game is more notable for who won't be playing. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III finished sixth. Both have opted out. While it's in their best interests to avoid injury and get ready for the NFL draft, it takes a lot of wind out of this game. Michigan State is probably better suited to replace a running back than Pitt will be moving on from an excellent quarterback, and the Spartans seem like the right side. 

Wisconsin had a weird season, starting terribly, getting in Big Ten West contention and then falling flat in the season finale against Minnesota to let Iowa win the division. Still, Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst is 5-1 in bowl games at the school, a sign that his program values winning these games. Arizona State will be quite shorthanded due to opt-outs. Wisconsin is the right side at less than a touchdown. 

The Big Ten has bigger games upcoming this bowl season. But Thursday will see plenty of its teams in action. 

Scott Nelson (9) is part of a strong Wisconsin defense that will be looking to shut down Arizona State. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Scott Nelson (9) is part of a strong Wisconsin defense that will be looking to shut down Arizona State. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday: 

What about the other bowl game? 

The bowl that doesn't involve a Big Ten team kicks off at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. North Carolina faces South Carolina in the Duke's Mayo Bowl. North Carolina is favored by 11.5 points at BetMGM. That went up two points from 9.5 on Wednesday. 

UNC was expected to be a top-10 team before the season, with quarterback Sam Howell getting a lot of hype, but finished 6-6. It never won or lost more than two in a row. South Carolina was also 6-6, but that was considered a solid first season for new coach Shane Beamer, whose team wasn't expected to be in a bowl. South Carolina has a number of players out for various reasons, which is part of the reason why UNC is favored. 

What else is on the schedule? 

There is a modest four-game NBA schedule, though that includes the Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets in what should be a top-shelf game, and should still be entertaining despite some players being out due to COVID-19. The Nets are 5.5-point favorites. 

The NHL has seven games on the schedule and none has been postponed as of yet, which is a positive sign. College basketball had three games that included top-25 teams on the schedule and all were canceled, including a fun Arizona-UCLA showdown. 

What's the best bet? 

Among the bowl games, Wisconsin seems like the strongest play. The Badgers take bowl games seriously under Paul Chryst so you don't have to worry about a letdown. They also haven't been affected by players leaving, so they seem like a safe favorite to back.