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 4 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.
Grace Smith
Iowa tight end Addison Ostrenga dives with the ball during a football game between Iowa and Western Michigan at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Broncos, 41-10. Ostrenga received the ball two times for 19 yards.

Pete Ruden’s (6-3, $545) Picks:

This is a national championship-caliber Penn State team, and I don’t think Iowa will be able to keep up.

The Hawkeyes have taken a slight step back on defense through three games. 

While they’re still a top-20 team in terms of scoring defense, Iowa now ranks 69th in Defensive Rushing Success Rate. That’s not a very nice number considering Penn State’s stellar rushing duo of Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, who have combined for 362 yards and seven scores on the ground through three games.

But the biggest problem for the Hawkeyes here may be their third-down offense. Penn State ranks 16th nationally in forcing long third-down attempts, according to Action Network’s Collin Wilson, putting opponents 8.3 yards behind the first-down marker on average.

Well, Iowa converts under 35% of its third downs as it is (108th nationally), so it’s going to struggle if the Nittany Lions attack on standard downs and force the Hawkeyes into third-and-longs.

Iowa also hasn’t caused as much Havoc as it has in past seasons. While the Hawkeyes of the past were turnover machines, they’ve generated two interceptions (T-69th) and two forced fumbles (T-57th) this season. That’s going to be a concern against a Penn State team that leads the nation in Havoc Allowed — especially when quarterback Drew Allar hasn’t thrown an interception in his 88 passing attempts.

The Nittany Lions also rank 11th nationally in Finishing Drives, which means they tend to score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals when they cross their opponent’s 40-yard line.

And I haven’t even mentioned that the atmosphere in Beaver Stadium is going to be electric for Penn State’s annual White Out game. That significant home-field advantage will only help the Nittany Lions.

For the first time this season, I’ll fade the Hawkeyes.

Over 40.5

Penn State’s stellar marks in Finishing Drives (11th) and Quality Drives (20th) will certainly help the over, but I don’t think the Nittany Lions will be the only team scoring.

Iowa running back Leshon Williams burst onto the scene with an explosive performance against Western Michigan. The third-year back from Chicago racked up 145 yards on 12 carries against the Broncos for an average of 12.1 yards per carry — and he found the end zone through the air. With an average of 3.5 yards after contact, he should play a key role against a Penn State defense that ranks just 94th nationally in PFF tackle grading.

The Hawkeyes also haven’t been afraid to throw the deep ball, as quarterback Cade McNamara has already attempted 15 passes over 20 yards downfield in three games.

While his accuracy on those passes has been an issue, Iowa’s newfound aggressiveness could pay off in a game in which it’s a two-score underdog. 

On the other side, Penn State has come away with a touchdown on 14 of its 17 trips to the red zone. 

Add in the fact that Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin won’t be afraid to plunge into the end zone late to cover a spread (see: Penn State vs. West Virginia on Sept. 2) and that both defenses have the ability to score, and I feel better about taking the over in an Iowa game.

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’ll take the over in Iowa’s Big Ten opener at 41 or better. 

Lock of the Week: Oregon -21 vs. Colorado

The biggest story in college football continues to be inflated in the market. 

Colorado State entered last week’s showdown with Colorado as a 24-point road underdog. The Rams covered with ease and nearly won outright after taking the Buffs to overtime.

Oregon is much better than Colorado State, and Autzen Stadium isn’t the friendly confines of Folsom Field.

The Ducks rank inside the top 10 in every advanced offensive metric, from Rushing Success Rate and Passing Success Rate to Quality Drives and Finishing Drives. The Buffaloes’ defense, meanwhile, ranks outside the top 80 in every advanced defensive metric except Finishing Drives Allowed (71st), Quality Drives (66th) and Defensive Line Yards (42nd).

Travis Hunter — who had allowed only three completions prior to the CSU game — was the main thing this defense had going for it. Now, he’s out. 

This defense — a unit that has faced a rebuilding TCU team, Nebraska, and Colorado State — allowed the Horned Frogs to put up 42 points and gain 70% of available yards. It’s not ready for the Ducks’ high-powered offense.

While Shedeur Sanders has lit up the box score on the offensive side of the ball, the Buffs still sit 117th in Rushing Success Rate, 76th in Finishing Drives and 105th in Havoc Allowed. 

Their only path to success is through the air, but the Ducks rank top-10 in Defensive Passing Success Rate and have allowed more than 10 points just once this season.

It was fun while it lasted. But it’s time for the Buffaloes’ undefeated start to the season to come crashing down.

Matt McGowan’s (6-3, $547) Picks: 

Iowa +14 

Penn State’s Week 3 matchup against Illinois gives me hope that the Hawkeyes stay within the number in this one. The Illini have a strong defensive line with preseason first-team All-Big Ten defensive tackles Jer’zhan Newton and Keith Randolph. This duo created enough pressure to hold the Nittany Lions to 30 points, their lowest output this season. In fact, if it weren’t for five turnovers from the Illinois offense, then this 30-13 contest might have been even closer, as four of the Nittany Lions’ five touchdowns were a result of those giveaways.

While the Hawkeyes don’t have this sort of talent up front, they have a better secondary and special teams unit than the Illini. And while Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara threw two interceptions last week against Western Michigan, he won’t throw the four that Illinois quarterback Luke Altmyer did. If Iowa wins the turnover battle and plays some complimentary football, those 14 points are much more attainable.

In addition, with Penn State’s vaunted secondary, I believe Iowa will shy away from throwing the ball. Not only does this run-first tendency limit the chance of interceptions, it also drains the clock, giving the Nittany Lions less time with the ball in their hands. The Hawkeyes don’t have to score a lot, they just have to mount some time-eating drives in order to limit the scoring potential of Penn State.

Don’t expect any blocked punts in this game, but don’t be surprised if Iowa holds Penn State under 25 points. With some good field positioning from Cooper DeJean in the punt return game, the Hawkeyes will find the endzone and kick enough field goals to cover this spread.  There’s no shot Iowa wins this game, but it can stay within two scores.

Side note: someone should tell Penn State head coach James Franklin that the spread is actually 10, so if he chooses to run up the score like in Week 1, Iowa won’t be screwed out of a cover.

Under 41.5 

Since I chose Iowa to cover this game, I have to opt for the under. The Hawkeyes’ 41 points last week nearly matched the 43.5-point total against Western Michigan, but this is a Big Ten game. Just look at Nebraska against Minnesota in Week 1, where both teams combined for three points at halftime. In fact, every contest between two Big Ten teams has hit the under this season.

In addition, the weather forecast at State College calls for some precipitation on Saturday night, and nothing says “under total points” more than a wet natural grass field. This game will be a battle in the trenches, and Iowa’s white road uniforms tops might be brown at the end of this one. I know I’m already getting some Big Ten fans excited by saying this.

The scoreboard operator at Beaver Stadium might as well stream the Ohio State-Notre Dame game on their phone; it’s not like they’re going to miss anything.

Lock of the Week: Air Force -3.5 over San Jose State 

I’ve actually seen the Air Force Academy (from a distance) when I stopped at Colorado on my way to a backpacking trip in New Mexico. It looked pretty cool, but heard it was pretty expensive. Plus, I’m awful with computers so I highly doubt I can fly a plane. Don’t call me Maverick Carter, but I would definitely be a liability for the top general on the base.

That’s pretty much all I know about Air Force, aside from this one other fact: they have one of the best defenses in college football. And if I know anything from my years of playing sports, it’s that defense wins championships. The Falcons give up just 179 yards per game and 3.47 yards per play from their opponents, ranking first in the nation in both categories. At the other end of the spectrum is San Jose State, as the Spartans rank 79th, giving up 365 yards per game and nearly six yards per play.

The Falcons also boast the top rushing offense in the country, which will serve in handy against a San Jose State team that gives up 170 per contest. Even if the game is on the road, CEFCU Stadium (awesome name, by the way) only holds 30,000 people. And, if you really think about it, the United States military plays in front of a global audience, so this should be no sweat for Air Force. They accomplish much more difficult tasks each day than football, so salute to them. Their motto is “Aim High,” and that is what they’ll do, putting up points on the board with a potent rushing attack while keeping their opponents at zero.

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan
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
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.
Grace Smith
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.