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 8 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.
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%2C+Sept.+2%2C+2023.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Aggies%2C+24-14.
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 (12-8 for $1175) Picks:

Minnesota +3.5

Iowa has a clear path to an 11-1 regular season, which would put the Hawkeyes one upset away from crashing the College Football Playoff.

But there’s one problem: I’m not sure how many more games Iowa can win when it throws for 37 yards. 

Deacon Hill has completed 12 of his 35 passes — a 34.3% completion percentage! — for 147 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his last two games. He had an EPA per Dropback of -0.68 against Wisconsin as the Hawkeyes put up a Success Rate in the fourth percentile.

That’ll make Iowa incredibly one-dimensional on offense, which is bad news against a Minnesota defense that comes in at 49th in Defensive Line Yards. The Golden Gophers should already be able to get a push up front, so if they sell out to stop the run, Iowa will have nowhere to turn.

Sure, the Hawkeyes ran for 200 yards in their win over Wisconsin last week, but if we exclude Leshon Williams’ 82-yard touchdown run, they averaged a dismal 2.5 yards per carry. 

Now, they enter this game without their starting quarterback and their top two tight ends, who were the only real threats in the passing game.

Would I be surprised if Iowa found a way to pull off the win? Not at all. But I can’t back a team that doesn’t have the ability to throw or run the ball.

I’ll take a field goal and the hook with the Gophers here.

Under 32.5

According to Action Network’s Evan Abrams, the lowest college football total ever tracked came in 2022 in Iowa’s game against — wait for it — Minnesota. Actually, that’s tied for the lowest closing total ever with Iowa’s Music City Bowl matchup against Kentucky a few weeks later.

In fact, three of the five lowest totals tracked feature Iowa, and all three of those the under cashed. And it looks like we’re on track to add another one in Week 8.

Both of these teams rank inside the top 25 nationally in rush rate, as Minnesota runs the ball on 63.9% of plays while Iowa takes to the ground 59.5% of the time. The Golden Gophers and Hawkeyes also play at a snail’s pace, ranking 126th and 98th in seconds per play, respectively.

These teams will live and die with the ground game, but they still sit outside the top 100 when it comes to Passing Success Rate. So, even when they do find themselves in obvious passing situations, I don’t expect much success.

Lock of the Week: Penn State +4.5 vs. Ohio State

Oregon vs. Washington lived up to expectations last week, but with the massive Big Ten and College Football Playoff implications on the line, this might still be the best college football game we’ve had this season.

The Buckeyes have a reputation as one of the best offenses in the nation, but they’ve underwhelmed thus far with Kyle McCord under center. 

Despite boasting two of the best wide receivers in the country in Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, the Buckeyes rank 15th in Passing Success Rate. That’s clearly still a solid mark, but it’s not where we’ve seen Ohio State’s previous offenses sit. Plus, Egbuka’s status is unknown for this game after he missed the Buckeyes’ last contest against Purdue.

To make matters worse, Ohio State’s offense — a unit that ranks 50th in Rushing Success Rate — might be without its top three running backs. Head coach Ryan Day was forced to play fourth-stringer Dallan Hayden alongside wide receiver Xavier Johnson against the Boilermakers.

That’s not what you want against a Penn State defense that’s arguably the best in the country. The Nittany Lions rank top-six in every meaningful advanced metric, leading the nation in Defensive Passing Success Rate, Passing Explosiveness Allowed, and Quality Drives Allowed.

On the other side, Penn State ranks first in Offensive Finishing Drives and should continue to score when given the opportunity behind the outstanding running back duo of Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. 

That tandem has combined for 737 yards and nine scores on the ground, and I expect James Franklin to rely on them heavily against an Ohio State defense that ranks 39th in Defensive Line Yards.

The rest of Penn State’s offense is a bit of an unknown because Drew Allar hasn’t been fully unleashed. In fact, he’s attempted only 12 passes over 20 yards in the air, which is a big reason why the Nittany Lions rank 132nd in passing explosiveness.

Ultimately, I expect Penn State to show why it’s one of the few units in the country that can limit the Buckeyes offense while Singleton and Allen do enough to keep Penn State ahead on the scoreboard.

Matt McGowan’s (15-6 for $1349) Picks:

Iowa -3.5 

I know this sounds like the perfect trap game for Iowa, but I believe the Hawkeyes can weather the storm once more at home. Even though Minnesota might be returning starting running back Darius Taylor from injury, it’s not like the Hawkeyes haven’t contained a star in the backfield before. Case in point: Tyrone Tracy Jr. of Purdue and Braelon Allen of Wisconsin. 

Even if defensive tackle Yahya Black doesn’t play on Saturday, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Black has several replacements, including Deontae Craig and Jeremiah Pittman. Yet it’s not as if the Gophers have a potent offense to begin with, ranking 119th in the nation in terms of total offense. Granted, the Hawkeyes fall even lower in the category, sitting at rock bottom at 130th. 

Nevertheless, in spite of being inept on the offensive side of the ball, the Hawkeyes have not only managed to come out on top but also win by sizeable margins. How else would they be 6-1 and atop the Big Ten West? Last week’s matchup against Wisconsin was the ultimate measuring stick on how far Iowa has grown since that humiliating loss against Penn State, and the Hawkeyes passed, albeit in an ugly manner. 

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Minnesota ranks 65th in the nation with regard to defense, and with Jaziun Patterson possibly rejoining the Hawkeye RB trio this weekend. This means Iowa can stick to its ground game, have one explosive play, win to the confusion of many, and most importantly, cover the number.

Under 32.5 

I will admit, I got a little tempted when I saw this total, but nevertheless, I must stay strong. Last year’s matchup yielded just 23 total points, and I doubt this one will be much better. Both squads prefer to run the ball, meaning that a lot of clock will bleed away, preventing either team from pulling away or managing any garbage time scores. 

If Iowa even reached the red zone in Madison, I could point out how clueless it is near the end zone, but alas the Hawkeyes never flew that far. Over six games, the Hawkeyes have more made field goals within the 20-yard-line than touchdowns. Expect kicker Drew Stevens to be on the field a lot in this one. 

Meanwhile, Minnesota has 11 touchdowns in the red zone compared to five field goals, but I don’t think Gopher head coach P.J. Fleck and Co. will get down the field that much anyway, as Iowa’s defense has proven its abilities to get stops. 

This one won’t be pretty, and I’ll have no idea what to do if future totals are even lower, but the under-wager has been free money all season. Why stop now? 

Lock of the Week: Toledo -1.5 over Miami Ohio 

This is some quality MACtion, but it’s an absolute tragedy this contest isn’t being played on a Tuesday night. Even still, this game being on the weekend allows me to feature it this week, so I’ll take what I can get. 

Both the Rockets and RedHawks are 6-1 and undefeated in conference play, and even though Toledo will be on the road, it has the offense and track record to back up being a favorite in hostile territory. 

The Rockets have a potent offense, ranking 18th in the country in total offense while slotting in at 22nd in the red zone. In the ground game, they feature three players averaging more than five yards per rush; among them being running backs Peny Boone and Jacquez Boone, as well as quarterback Dequan Finn. The trio, all of whom are returning starters from the Rockets’ 2022 MAC title team, has combined for 1,486 yards and 14 scores on the year. 

Attempting to stop the Rockets from taking off will be a RedHawks team that ranks 58th in the nation in rushing defense, so not exactly a showstopper. 

In terms of schedule, Toledo has held its own against Illinois, while Miami Ohio got embarrassed by Miami Florida. The RedHawks talked a big game before that showdown with the Hurricanes, then had to eat their words on who is the real Miami. Yes, Miami Ohio did beat Cincinnati, but I’m not taking the Bearcats that seriously this year. 

But wait, isn’t Illinois bad, too? Yes, but it has an NFL talent on the defensive line, and the Rockets proved they’re more than able to handle such pressure. 

Honestly, I wish they would show this game up in the press box at Kinnick, but that’s wishful thinking. What’s not wishful thinking: the Rockets proving themselves as best-in-class of the MAC.

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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
(he/him/his)
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.