Weekly Wager | The Daily Iowan’s official bettor’s guide for Week 13 of the Iowa football season
Each week during the Iowa football season, Daily Iowan Pregame Editor Austin Hanson and Action Network College Football Editor Pete Ruden will place three hypothetical bets of $100. Their picks are listed below and will be tracked throughout the year.
November 23, 2022
Record to date: 18-14-1, $2,298
Everyone enjoys a good strength-on-strength matchup. Well, what about a weakness-on-weakness showdown?
This Nebraska defense is absolutely atrocious. The Cornhuskers are tied for 12th in the conference in scoring defense, giving up an average of 28.5 points per game. They also rank second-to-last in total defense, allowing opposing offenses to go off for 427.2 yards per contest. The latter number ranks 108th nationally.
After running for a total of 300 yards over the past three games, including a 200-yard outing against Purdue on Nov. 5, Kaleb Johnson should have an absolute field day. The Huskers rank 126th in Defensive Rushing Success Rate and 116th in Defensive Line Yards, so Iowa should have no problem getting a solid push up front and running wild.
Nebraska’s “Blackshirts” — more like black-and-blue shirts, am I right!? — have had such a rough year that they might even make Johnson and Spencer Petras look like the 2022 version of Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart.
I also don’t expect Nebraska’s offense to have much success against a stout Iowa defense. While the Mark Whipple-coached offense was expected to be one of the best in the West this season, the Huskers are averaging just 9.8 points per game over their last four.
With rankings of 70th or worse in both Passing Success Rate and Rushing Success Rate, I don’t expect Nebraska to keep up with Iowa.
Nebraska’s defense might be terrible, but Iowa is still Iowa. It’s still going to feed its trio of running backs (56.1% Rush Rate) while playing at a slow and methodical pace (28.9 seconds per play).
Even if the Hawkeyes do race out to an early lead, I’d expect them to stay on the ground and try to get out of Kinnick without risking injury.
Meanwhile, I’d be a bit surprised if the Huskers put up more than 10 points against an Iowa team looking to make its second consecutive Big Ten Championship appearance.
This line (somehow) opened at 46.5 before being bet all the way down to 37 at one point. I still don’t think it’s time to buy back on the over.
Lock of the Week: Missouri +3 vs. Arkansas
Ah, yes — time to back a five-win team looking to reach bowl eligibility.
The Tigers actually match up quite well with the Razorbacks. It’s going to be imperative to stop the Hogs on the ground, and Mizzou boasts one of the best defenses in the nation. The Tigers rank 21st in Defensive Rushing Success Rate, eighth in Defensive Line Yards and sixth in Havoc.
And when Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson drops back to pass, Ty’Ron Hopper and Isaiah McGuire are going to cause problems. Both excel at putting pressure on the quarterback for a defense that ranks 16th in pass rush.
On the other side of the ball, wide receivers Luther Burden III and Dominic Lovett should find plenty of success, as Arkansas sits outside the top 100 in PFF coverage grade and Passing Downs Success Rate.
One of Mizzou’s biggest weaknesses is allowing explosive plays on defense. If the Tigers can keep Raheim Sanders and Co. from breaking off big plays, they should be in a good spot.
I’ll back a motivated Mizzou squad at a field goal or better.
Record to date: 17-16, $1,893
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about these Iowa-Nebraska games over the last few years, it’s that they’re never decided by two scores or more. Since its inception in 2011, seven of the first 11 Heroes Trophy Games have been decided by eight points or fewer.
The last four Heroes Trophy games have featured margins of victory of seven points or fewer.
I know the Hawkeyes have won their last seven matchups with the Cornhuskers. I also recognize that Iowa is playing for a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game, and 3-8 Nebraska has nothing on the line other than a trophy.
But that is exactly why the Cornhuskers are going to cover this week. Based on recent trends, this game is going to come down to a late touchdown or field goal. And last I checked, if a game is decided in the final seconds, the team favored by two possessions or more doesn’t cover.
Nebraska will be taking the field to win its first game against Iowa since 2014. The Cornhuskers will also be wielding the Hawkeyes postseason fate in their hands, and they know it. Ruining Iowa’s season would be as good as making a bowl game for Nebraska. So, I think all signs point to Nebraska covering, but not winning, this game.
I got burned by picking the Iowa over last week. The total for the Iowa-Minnesota game was 32.5, and the Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers combined for a whopping 23 points.
So, the logical thing to do this week would be to take the under. The total for this Iowa game is higher than last week’s by 5.5 points.
But four years ago, I almost failed a philosophy and formal reasoning class called Principles of Reasoning, Argument, and Debate. So, I’m going to make an inexplicable decision here and take the Iowa-Nebraska over.
At some point, the dam will break. One of these Iowa overs is going to hit. And if there’s any week for it to happen, the last of the regular season makes the most sense.
Nebraska ranks outside the top 75 in the country in a number of key categories including pass, rush, total, and scoring defense. Overall, the Cornhuskers’ defense might be the worst the Hawkeyes have faced this season.
I’m not calling for an offensive explosion from Iowa this week. But I could reasonably see the Hawkeyes scoring a season-high in points against the Cornhuskers.
I think a season-high point total from Iowa will be what it takes for one of these Hawkeye overs to hit. And Nebraska’s porous defense will give Iowa a chance to put points up in bunches.
Lock of the Week: Michigan State +18 vs. Penn State
Michigan State is wielding a power not meant for mere mortals this week. The 5-6 Spartans are playing for bowl eligibility against a team that is much better than them.
No. 11 Penn State should breeze past Michigan State without issue. The Nittany Lions rank higher than the Spartans in a number of critical offensive and defensive categories.
But there’s nothing quite as motivating as playing for a berth in the Motor City Bowl. And with all Michigan State has gone through this year, a home-state bowl game would taste pretty sweet.
Do I think the Spartans will win outright? Definitely not. But will they cover because they have more incentive to win than the Nittany Lions do? Absolutely.