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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 10 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.
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Cody Blissett
Iowa running back Leshon Williams celebrates in the end zone after a rushing touchdown during a football game between Iowa and Wisconsin on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. (Cody Blissett/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Ruden’s (15-9, $1350) Picks: 

Iowa -5

Iowa could easily be 7-1 right now with a massive lead in the Big Ten West. Instead, it’s 6-2 and has Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin all breathing down its neck, just waiting for it to make a mistake. 

Those mistakes are what did the Hawkeyes in against Minnesota. The Golden Gophers walked away with three turnovers and a bronze pig that had previously made a comfortable living in Iowa City.

However, I don’t see Northwestern being able to capitalize in that area. The Wildcats have forced the third-fewest turnovers in the Big Ten and rank 125th nationally in Havoc generated. So, while they’re unlikely to come away with fumbles and interceptions, they’re also unlikely to stuff Iowa’s running backs in the backfield.

The Hawkeyes have clearly struggled a lot on offense, but those struggles are amplified when they can’t control the line of scrimmage. The Wildcats aren’t a team that can take control of the line.

Northwestern ranks just 83rd in Defensive Rushing Success Rate and 71st in Stuff Rate, which is bad news against the duo of Leshon Williams and Kaleb Johnson. 

Lastly, Northwestern started backup quarterback Brendan Sullivan last week after starter Ben Bryant was ruled out with an injury. Sullivan had a solid day, going 16-of-23 for 265 yards and two touchdowns — but that came against a Maryland team that ranks third-to-last in the Big Ten in passing defense.

I would expect drastically different results against an Iowa secondary that ranks second in PFF coverage grade and 12th in Defensive Passing Success Rate.

Give me the Hawkeyes to bounce back after the bye week up to -6.

Under 31

This total opened at the lowest number in college football history, and I don’t have a reason to start betting the over now — especially after it was bet up to a key number at 31.

Four of the six lowest totals tracked feature Iowa, and all four of those unders cashed.

Unless Brian Ferentz suddenly opens up the playbook now that it’s official he won’t be returning, I’m still going to make an Iowa offense that ranks outside the top 115 in every meaningful advanced offensive metric prove it to me. 

On the other side, it’s not like Northwestern is a world-beater on the offensive side of the ball. The Wildcats still rank 111th in Passing Success Rate and 108th in Quality Drives, so it’s unlikely they can actually sustain drives against this stout Hawkeye secondary.

While Northwestern owns a decent mark of 53rd in Rushing Success Rate, it’s 124th in Offensive Line Yards. Iowa’s defensive line should still make its mark. Plus, the Hawkeyes — who rank 10th in PFF tackle grading — won’t allow many big plays.

I joked on Twitter during the Minnesota game that this total would open at 13.5. Close enough. Give me the under.

Lock of the Week: No. 5 Washington -3 over USC

I expect Iowa native Ryan Grubb’s offense to absolutely dice up this sieve of a USC defense. 

For starters, Washington ranks top-10 in both Offensive Rushing Success Rate and Passing Success Rate. On the other side, USC — which could be called the University of Swiss Cheese given how bad its defense is (joke credit to my co-worker, Brett McMurphy) — sits 70th or worse in those categories on the defensive side of the ball. 

To boot, the Huskies also lead the nation in big-play offense, while the Trojans come in at 108th in preventing big plays.

USC has given up at least 34 points in each of its last five games, which includes the offenses of Colorado, Arizona, Cal, and Utah with a backup quarterback. It allowed 49 points to the Golden Bears in its most recent game — a matchup it won by only one point.

The Trojans may have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner on their side, but Caleb Williams has looked more than mortal in his last two games against ranked opponents. Against Notre Dame on Oct. 14 and Utah on Oct. 21, Williams threw for 455 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. That’ll be a concern against a UW team that ranks 10th in Defensive Passing Success Rate. 

USC could certainly generate some explosive plays on the ground against the Huskies, who rank 125th in Rushing EPA per Play Allowed. But I don’t think that’ll be enough to keep up with an offense led by Michael Penix Jr. that has an advantage in every facet.

I’ll take the Huskies to bounce back after a couple of uninspiring performances against a USC team that might’ve already quit on the season. 

Matt McGowan’s (17-7, $1525) Picks:

Iowa -5 

While the news about offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s future with the Hawkeyes next year may serve as a distraction for Iowa, I think that this outside noise won’t have much of an impact. Iowa players have been dealing with outside criticism the entire season, and have been performing under the burden of the now-moot 25 points per game clause in Ferentz’s contract. This adversity is nothing new for them, and if anything, will be motivation to help Ferentz finish his career on a positive note. 

That will be enough for the Hawkeyes to win this one, but to cover five points? It will be painful to watch, but yes. 

Out of all possible opponents, Northwestern is the perfect choice, as the Wildcats rank 93rd in the nation and second-to-last in the Big Ten in rushing defense, conceding 163 yards per game to their opponents. This, combined with a defense that has forced just nine takeaways all season, is a perfect formula for the Hawkeyes to soar (relatively) on offense, as they can run the ball for a significant average while also keeping the ball in the air with little risk. 

Now, if Wildcat QB Ben Bryant were starting this game, I would be more concerned, but with Brendan Sullivan under center, Iowa is in a much better spot. While the third-year has run for 94 yards in his last three starts, Sullivan was stuffed for negative 42 yards against the Hawkeye “D” last season. The margin of that victory? 20 points. This one won’t be as pretty, but the Black and Gold faithful will be out in droves at Wrigley to cheer on the Hawkeyes. At least they finally won’t chant ‘Fire Brian,’ right? 

Under 31 

The opening total for this game was 29.5, which was the lowest total in college football history. Even if that number didn’t move all week, I still would have taken the under. The Hawkeyes have been involved in four of the six lowest totals in college football history, and all four unders hit. 

Even though the Wildcats may have a somewhat better offense than the Hawkeyes, they’ve been held to 14 points or less against opponents in with a top-25 defense in the FBS. Iowa, listed at No. 20, is one of those teams. With the more functional offense kept in check, this game won’t have anyone scoring more than 20 points. 

I said on The Daily Iowan’s Press Box Banter podcast that this would be a 10-6 game, but to appease the number, I’ll mark it at 13-6. Either way, still nowhere close to the total. It’s free money people, just take it. 

Lock of the Week: James Madison -5.5 over Georgia State 

It’s an absolute shame, a national tragedy, that James Madison University, the pride of Harrisonburg, Virginia, and a living testament to our fourth president, is not eligible for a bowl game this season. 

Now why is that? Did they do something wrong? A recruiting violation? Stealing signs? Nope. They simply elevated themselves to a higher level of competition. In 2022, the Dukes joined the FBS from the FCS, moving into the Sun Belt Conference, which they have absolutely dominated. As of today, James Madison is 11-2 in conference games, but yet as a result of the killjoy NCAA, aren’t even eligible to play in the conference championship game. 

This is all due to the NCAA rule banning FCS teams from the postseason for their first two years in the FBS. According to them, it’s to “better acclimate” these programs to a different echelon of competition. Well, looks to me like the Dukes have more than acclimated themselves, and they even reached out to the NCAA in April to ask for a shortening of the ban. Yet guess what? They were denied. Classic. 

So, making the NCAA eat its words, James Madison has gone undefeated this season, averaging 32 points per game with a quarterback who has a QB rating of 153.7 on the road. Not to mention the Dukes are also 4-1 against the spread when they are favored by single digits. Meanwhile, Georgia State is coming off an embarrassing loss to rival Georgia Southern last week, so momentum is surely on the Dukes’ side. 

First and foremost: take this pick as a PSA for the grave injustice handed to James Madison. Secondly, 5.5 points against a defense giving up more than 400 yards per game should be no problem. 

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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.
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
he/him/his
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.