The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Weekly Wager | The Daily Iowan’s official bettor’s guide for Week 2 of the Iowa football season

Each week during the Iowa football season, Daily Iowan Pregame Editor Matt McGowan 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.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa running back Kaleb Johnson celebrates after a run during a football game between No. 25 Iowa and Utah State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Aggies, 24-14.

Pete Ruden’s (1-2) Picks

Money Earned To Date: $91

Iowa -4

I like Iowa to cover in Saturday’s Cy-Hawk game for a couple of reasons. The first? Iowa State’s performance against Northern Iowa doesn’t match what the final score shows.

The Cyclones seemingly dominated UNI from the jump in a 30-9 season-opening victory, but when you look at the advanced box score, there are definitely some red flags. 

For starters, the Clones really didn’t have to do anything offensively to jump out to a quick 14-0 lead. They posted a 58-yard pick-six before a big punt return gave the offense a short 21-yard field that it took advantage of.

Outside of those gifts, Iowa State’s offense struggled. The Cyclones generated a Success Rate of just 30%, which ranked in the ninth percentile nationally, per GameOnPaper. They also gained just 37% of available yards, which pales in comparison to the Panthers (48%) and the Hawkeyes (56%).

Add in the fact that they gained only 25.1 yards per drive, and it’s scary to think what this Iowa defense could do in Jack Trice Stadium — especially considering that we haven’t seen much of Rocco Becht or JJ Kohl against Power 5 competition.

I bet Iowa -3 when lines opened on Sunday, but I’d still play the Hawkeyes at -4 or better.

Under 36.5

While Iowa State’s offensive struggles become apparent after digging into the data, Iowa didn’t put on much of a show against Utah State either. It ranked in the 30th percentile in EPA per Play and struggled to convert on third downs once again, going 6-of-17.

But the real story starts to show up when you compare the offensive and defensive metrics of both sides. 

Iowa State’s offense ranked outside the top 90 last season in Success Rate, Finishing Drives, and explosiveness, while Iowa’s defense finished inside the top 10 in all three categories.

Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes’ offense sat outside the top 115 in Finishing Drives and explosiveness, but the Cyclones’ defense came in at third in preventing explosiveness and 22nd in Finishing Drives.

Neither team has a knack for moving the ball with ease, much less creating explosive plays.

This total is low, but I can’t bring myself to bet an over when these two teams play each other. Might as well start calling the Cy-Hawk Game the “Under Bowl.”

Pick of the Week: Texas +7.5 at Alabama

Don’t get me wrong — fading Alabama is a terrifying proposition. But this is the week we find out whether or not Texas is actually back.

While the Crimson Tide have earned the title of “dynasty” under Nick Saban, I don’t think the talent gap is that wide in this matchup — especially considering the Tide rank 108th in net TARP (Transfer Assets & Returning Production), while the Longhorns come in at 30th. 

Both teams’ metrics are actually quite close, with the offense typically owning a very slight advantage. But the one area that gets me is Finishing Drives, where the Longhorns’ offense ranks 15th against the Tide’s defense at 33rd. That’s key because Finishing Drives has shown to be the most important stat when it comes to covering the spread.

Texas actually led Alabama, 16-10, at the end of the third quarter last year before ultimately falling, 20-19. However, the Longhorns played most of that game with Hudson Card at quarterback after starter Quinn Ewers left with an injury. 

Also of note, Alabama’s quarterback situation is much less stable this year with Bryce Young off to the NFL.

According to Action Network’s Stuckey, Saban is 2-5 against the spread at home as a favorite of seven or fewer, which is exactly where this line sits in some books. Action Network’s Collin Wilson also has the Tide and Longhorns power-rated evenly, so I’ll grab the 7.5 with Texas and would play it down to +7.

Matt McGowan’s (2-1) Picks

Money Earned to Date: $186

Iowa -4 

The Hawkeyes will enter Jack Trice stadium hungry for revenge after a gut-wrenching loss last September at Kinnick. And in all honesty, I don’t think the Cyclones know how to react with the trophy in their hands; having to defend it will be an odd feeling for them. 

Such a close spread means Iowa doesn’t have to put up a high total and can get by just fine scoring less than 25 points. Even though some may be concerned about Iowa giving up 14 points to lowly Utah State, the Aggies really only had a garbage-time touchdown and two-point conversion as their only real offense. 

Hawkeye linebacker Jay Higgins is a tackling machine who will severely limit the Cyclones’ inexperienced rushing attack, while defensive coordinator Phil Parker’s secondary will provide plenty of confusing looks for Iowa State’s new starting QB. 

The Cyclones only had 43 offensive snaps in Week 1, a reflection of their offense not sustaining long drives, as their defense and special teams did most of the work with a pick-six and quality punt returns. 

Over their last 10 meetings, the Hawkeyes have given up an average of 15.8 points per game to the Cyclones, and that includes the high-scoring 2017 game in which team each exceeded 40 points. 

And against this average and youthful Iowa State offense, plus considering the motivational factor? There’s no way the Hawkeyes let up more than 10 points. So, in the worst-case scenario, Iowa has to score more than 14 points against a defense that let up an average of 20.25 points last season? Should be simple enough. 

Under 36.5 

When I first glanced at this line, my eyes lit up with excitement. A total of only 36.5 points?! What a steal for the over! But then someone pinched me and my senses returned to reality: this is the Cy-Hawk game, a contest where the end zones have the day off. 

Over the last 10 matchups, the average Cy-Hawk total has been 39, and that number includes the ridiculous anomaly of 2017 when both teams scored over 40 points each in an overtime victory for the Hawkeyes. 

Even though this total is slightly below average, both the Hawkeye and Cyclone offenses were average at best in their season-opening games. Iowa only put up 24 points, while taking away the pick-six, the Cyclones mustered just 23. 

In this game, where both defenses will be sharp against their arch-rivals, I will be shocked if either team puts up more than 20. 

To put it simply, I’m not going to bet an Iowa over this year until I see it happen. Even though it may be enticing, especially against any other opponent, don’t give in. Stay on the safe side: bet the under. 

Lock of the Week: Colorado -3 vs. Nebraska 

I made a foolish mistake last week by doubting the talents of Coach Prime, Shaduer Sanders, and Travis Hunter. The Buffaloes made a statement last week in their thrilling victory over TCU, and even if the rest of the college football world is now aware of their prowess, the Nebraska Cornhuskers don’t stand a chance. 

Nebraska may have averaged 5.3 yards per play against Minnesota last week, but the Huskers gave away the ball four times with three interceptions and a fumble. Such a turnover-prone team is a perfect target for the Colorado defense, who picked off TCU last Saturday. 

A bonus to this game is that Colorado will be at home for the first time this season in front of a sold-out crowd. Head coach Matt Rhule and the Huskers will be up in thin air and have their breath taken away when Hunter scores a touchdown on both offense and defense. 

Colorado broke the ‘Rhules” of how a college football team is assembled. To paraphrase Deion: Who needs culture when you can win? And that’s just what the Buffaloes will do this weekend, and it won’t be a particularly close affair. 

I know this bet is a common one among the public, but I would take this wager up to -5 if possible.

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @PeteyRuden Pete Ruden is the Pregame Editor at The Daily Iowan, where he has worked since the beginning of his college career. He has covered a variety of sports at the DI, including football, men's basketball, baseball, wrestling, and men's tennis. Currently a senior, he served as a sports reporter his freshman year, before becoming the Assistant Sports Editor and then Sports Editor his junior year.
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.