Record to date: 19-16-1, $2,489

Pete Ruden, Action Network College Football Editor

Iowa -2

This rematch of last year’s Citrus Bowl is going to be a rock fight. Both offenses rank outside the top 100 in scoring, while both stop units sit top-15 in scoring defense.

Then, there are a number of offensive uncertainties on both sides. 

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras will miss this game with an injury that requires surgery, while Alex Padilla has hit the transfer portal. That leaves Joe Labas and Carson May on the depth chart, but neither has thrown a collegiate pass.

On the Kentucky side, highly touted NFL quarterback prospect Will Levis has opted out to prep for the NFL Draft. The Wildcats are also thin at running back, as Chris Rodriguez Jr. has also opted out and Kavosiey Smoke jumped into the transfer portal.

That gives value to the side with more continuity, which I think is Iowa.

With the lack of experience at quarterback, I expect Kirk Ferentz to lean on Kaleb Johnson and his run game. That could work well, as the Wildcats rank just 82nd in Defensive Line Yards despite sitting 18th in Defensive Rushing Success Rate.

Johnson is also averaging 100.4 yards rushing per game over his last five contests, which only helps an Iowa offense looking for a sense of normalcy.

On the other side, Iowa should shut the Kentucky offense down. The Wildcats enter this game 77th in Rushing Success Rate and 95th in Passing Success Rate. Remember, those are their rankings with a potential top-10 NFL Draft pick at quarterback and their two leading rushers.

The Hawkeyes should have no problem shutting down an offense full of backups while finding enough success on offense to win and cover this short number.

Under 31.5

If this total stays at 31.5, Iowa will have been involved in the two games with the lowest over/unders in college football history.

These are offenses with fresh faces all over the field facing two of the best defenses in the nation. 

As noted, Kentucky finished the regular season ranking 95th nationally in Passing Success Rate with one of the top quarterback prospects in the upcoming draft class. Am I supposed to think his backups are going to do better against an Iowa defense that comes in at seventh in Defensive Passing Success Rate and first in PFF coverage grade? I don’t think so.

With the Wildcats also missing their top two running backs, I don’t see how they’re going to find success on the ground or through the air.

Both Petras and Padilla are out for Iowa, so the Hawkeyes will more than likely stick to the ground game a bit more than usual. That will keep the clock ticking throughout all four quarters.

A slew of backups facing two top-15 defenses is a great recipe for an under.

Lock of the Week: Southern Miss -6.5 vs. Rice

My favorite bet of bowl season so far is actually San Diego State -1.5 against Middle Tennessee. However, that number has been bet all the way to-7 at some books, so I’ll stick with something that’s more widely available.

Southern Miss’ defense is fantastic. The Golden Eagles rank top-25 in both Defensive Rushing Success Rate and Defensive Passing Success Rate. 

That’s bad news for a Rice offense that has struggled to find a groove while navigating multiple quarterback injuries. In fact, this unit has averaged just 11.3 points per game over its last three matchups, which were all losses.

I also expect the Golden Eagles to force the Owls into plenty of miscues. Southern Miss ranks 10th in Havoc, while Rice comes in at 106th in Havoc Allowed. Whether it’s creating turnovers or playing in the backfield, I don’t envision the Owls finding a groove in this one.

The Golden Eagles offense isn’t anything to write home about either, but Frank Gore Jr. rushed for over 1,000 yards this season and has been a model of consistency in the Sun Belt since 2020.

Plus, with a 5-7 record, the Owls wouldn’t even be playing in a postseason game if enough six-win teams qualified for bowl season.

Give me the better defense against a team that’s just happy to be here.