Weekly Wager | The Daily Iowan’s official bettor’s guide for Iowa football’s bowl game
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.
December 14, 2022
Record to date: 19-16-1, $2,489
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.
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.
Record to date: 19-17, $2,275
Another line under three points in an Iowa football game? That makes sense for the Hawkeyes’ final contest of the 2022 season.
As I have all year, I would implore bettors to explore their options with the moneyline before messing around with the spread. Iowa and Kentucky are currently -130 and +110 on the moneyline, respectively. Any moneyline bet will likely yield greater dividends than betting on a two-point spread.
A thin spread like this one doesn’t really provide much of a safety net, so the Music City Bowl’s line is as risky as its moneyline. So, in my opinion, there’s minimal upside in betting this game’s spread.
For the sake of this, I like Iowa -2. Both of these teams are going to be playing with backup quarterbacks. Redshirt freshman Joe Labas and true freshman Carson May are battling for the Hawkeyes’ starting gig. Regardless of the winner of that competition, Iowa will be starting a quarterback that has never thrown a collegiate pass.
Senior Spencer Petras sustained an injury to his throwing arm in Iowa’s 24-17 loss to Nebraska on Nov. 25. Backup Alex Padilla entered the transfer portal on Nov. 29, leaving Labas and May as the Hawkeyes’ only options at QB.
Kentucky will probably start freshman Kaiya Sheron on Dec. 31 in Nashville. Starter Will Levis opted out of the Wildcats’ bowl game to prepare for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Sheron started one game this season while Levis was injured. He went 17-of-29 for 187 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in Kentucky’s 24-14 loss to South Carolina on Oct. 8.
With backup quarterbacks starting on both sides, I’m relying on Iowa’s defense to be good enough to create a two-point margin of victory for the Hawkeyes.
This might be the easiest under bet of the year — which is surprising because lots of Iowa games have featured pretty safe unders.
I’ve jokingly said I’d play this under all the way down to 18 points because I just don’t see these teams scoring more than 17 points combined. A 10-7 final score makes sense for a game that will feature backup quarterbacks under center and defenses that rank inside the top 20 in the country.
The Hawkeyes are currently fourth in the nation in total defense. The Wildcats are rated 18th in that category.
Both offenses were even inept when their starters were available. Iowa and Kentucky ranked 130th and 106th in the nation, respectively, in total offense at the end of the regular season.
As Iowa has proven to bettors in many games this season, unders hit when bad offenses and great defenses collide.
Lock of the Week: Washington +5.5 vs. Texas
I think Washington might be one of the most disrespected teams in the country. The Huskies went 10-2 and finished third in the Pac-12.
Somehow, the Alamo Bowl was the best Washington could get. This contest should hardly even feel like an enjoyable postseason opportunity for the Huskies. After all, they’re traveling to San Antonio to take on the 8-4 Texas Longhorns.
Washington will basically be playing an extra road game come Dec. 29. Even with that in mind, I like the Huskies to cover.
Washington’s passing attack, led by Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr., is ranked No. 1 in the nation. Penix Jr. threw for 4,354 yards, 29 touchdowns, and seven interceptions this season. Even though he was arguably the best quarterback in the country this season, Penix Jr. finished eighth in the 2022 Heisman Trophy voting.
I think Penix Jr. will take the Heisman electorate’s vote and the line oddsmakers set for this game personally. He’ll probably shred Texas’ 88th-ranked pass defense and turn some heads in doing so.