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 14 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.
Emily Nyberg
Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill throws the ball down the field during a football game between No. 17 Iowa and Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Nebraska on Friday, Nov. 23, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers 13-10.

Pete Ruden’s (22-14, $1,987) Picks: 

Iowa +23.5

With a total this low, I have to take the underdog catching more than three touchdowns.

It might not be pretty, but Iowa has a few ways to keep this game within 24 points.

First, the Hawkeyes have one of the nation’s best run defenses, as they rank 12th in defensive rushing success rate and 22nd in defensive line yards. Michigan has consistently had one of the nation’s best offensive lines over the past few years, but it comes in at just 57th in Offensive Line Yards this season and just lost starting guard Zak Zinter to a leg injury against Ohio State. 

That’s bad news for Michigan’s backfield duo of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, who are also playing an Iowa defense that sits second nationally in explosiveness allowed. 

Add in the questions that surround quarterback J.J. McCarthy after he failed to eclipse 150 yards passing for the third straight game last week, and it becomes a little more clear that Iowa’s defense can hold its own in this matchup. 

Now, I don’t expect Iowa’s offense to have loads of success, but it’s worth noting that Michigan’s defense isn’t elite when it comes to preventing explosive plays. The Wolverines rank 35th nationally in that area, so it could only take a couple of big plays for Iowa to put points on the board and stay within the number — especially with a total this low.

Plus, if Michigan gets up by a few scores, I think it’ll be content to run out the clock and avoid injuries ahead of another College Football Playoff appearance after it played Penn State, Ohio State and a physical Iowa team all in the span of four weeks.

With a total in the mid-30s, give me the ‘dog catching more than three touchdowns.

Under 35.5

Another week, another Iowa under.

While this total isn’t anywhere near record-breaking, Iowa will still do whatever it can to muck this game up enough to stay within striking distance. 

Both teams run the ball at a top-25 rate, and both squads also sit outside the top 100 in seconds per play. That means the clock will be running early and often as these championship participants look to find success on the ground first.

Plus, this is just a good matchup for the under. 

Essentially, you have a defense that matches up well with one of the best teams in the country and one of the worst offenses in the nation taking on one of the country’s top stop units.

Iowa ranks top-15 in most advanced metrics on the defensive side of the ball and will face a ground attack that has struggled at times this season, while a Wolverines defense that ranks top-12 in most advanced metrics will face an Iowa offense that sits outside the top 115 in nearly every area.

In the past, Michigan has also been very conservative when it knows it has an advantage. Take the Penn State game, for example. The Wolverines took a 17-9 lead over the Nittany Lions and didn’t even think about throwing the ball, as evidenced by McCarthy’s eight total pass attempts — including zero in the second half.

I could not be more excited to take another Iowa under here in the Big Ten Championship.

Lock of the Week: Miami (OH) +7.5 vs. Toledo

In a conference where the unexpected becomes the norm, I’m taking the underdog to keep this close. 

Miami (OH) lost star quarterback Brett Gabbert for the season in October, but the RedHawks haven’t really taken a step back since turning to Aveon Smith, who has helped this ground attack click despite deflated season-long rushing metrics. 

Oh, and the RedHawks have won four in a row with Smith under center.

Smith ran for 60 yards against Buffalo just two games ago and has added 132 total yards on the ground over this four-game streak. If he can get things going alongside 800-yard back Rashad Amos, the RedHawks should be in a good place against a Toledo defense that sits outside the top 75 in defensive rushing success rate and defensive line yards.

On the other side, this Miami defense has been stout. The RedHawks rank second in the conference in scoring defense and fourth in total defense, along with top-40 rankings in rushing success rate, passing success rate, havoc, finishing drives, and quality drives.

Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn has been solid this year, but I think this Miami defense can do enough to keep this game within a touchdown. 

Plus, the RedHawks came away with a four-point loss when these two teams met earlier this season, which is the game where Gabbert got hurt.

I’ll take the RedHawks to keep things close at Ford Field.

Matt McGowan’s (25-11 for $2,261) Picks: 

Iowa +23.5 

Michigan’s last three games have all been decided by nine points or fewer. Yes, two of the Wolverines’ opponents were ranked teams in Penn State and Ohio State, but Iowa’s defensive prowess is on the same level as those squads. Yes, the Hawkeyes aren’t superior to the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes in regard to total defense, as well as against the pass, but have the clear edge in red zone stops. 

Having conceded just 17 scores within the 20-yard line, good enough for a 70.8 percent opponent conversion rate, Iowa ranks behind only Texas and Notre Dame in that category. Getting stops in against a Michigan red zone offense that currently sits 43rd in the nation in the statistic will be key to keeping the Wolverines off the board. 

Now, I’m not expecting another goal-line stand like Wrigley Field, as there’s no way the Maize and Blue’s ground game allows that to happen, but to force Jim Harbaugh to opt for field goals from 30 yards out won’t allow Michigan to pull away. 

The last time Iowa faced off against a ranked opponent, it was a 14.5-point underdog. That spread was more than doubled in the outcome of the game: a 31-0 victory for Penn State. Such a result most likely played a factor in pushing Saturday’s line up a touchdown, and that leniency will benefit the Hawkeyes. Lucas Oil Stadium is no Happy Valley, and with plenty of the Black and Gold faithful in the stands, the Hawkeyes can stay within the number. 

Under 35.5 

After the past few totals in Iowa football games, this number was a bit jarring. In fact, the Hawkeyes haven’t played in a game with a total greater than 35 since Week 7 against Purdue, according to odds from ESPNBet. As usual, that contest against the Boilermakers was an under, and the title game on Saturday will be no different. 

Since I said Iowa would cover in this game, then the under just has to hit. Both teams feature the rush often, and time and time again, the Hawkeyes have proven they can hold off any opposing ground game. Case in point: all but one Big Ten running back has put up more than 100 yards on Iowa’s defense this season. That lone exception was Michigan State’s Nathan Carter, who ran for 108 yards in Iowa’s second conference game of the season. Michigan running back Blake Corum has more talent and pedigree than his East Lansing counterpart, but given Iowa’s recent stretch, won’t eclipse the century mark in this one. 

With the clock draining and Michigan not finding a lot of success in the run game, the Wolverines won’t have the time to put up the points they need to hit the over. 

At the end of the day, it’s Iowa. My dad can cry foul about “point shaving,” but his fake news won’t make a difference. Keep calm and take the under.  

Lock of the Week: No. 24 Liberty -10.5 over New Mexico State 

Before tuning in to the last-ever PAC-12 title game, I highly recommend turning on the Conference USA championship game at 6:00 p.m. Central. That contest may be on the less renowned CBS Sports Network, but it doesn’t lack in flare. Two 10-win teams, Liberty and New Mexico State battle for the trophy as the former looks to preserve an undefeated season while the latter intends to win its ninth straight game after a 2-3 start to the season.  

Both teams are hot, but the Flames will prevail.

Even with all the deserved hype James Madison was getting a few weeks ago, it’s best to realize Liberty is the best football school in Virginia. Ranking first in the nation in rushing offense, the Flames will face an Aggie team that sits 31st against the rush, and 119th in turnovers gained so there’s a discrepancy there. 

Liberty hasn’t been great when favored by large margins this season, but in spreads of two touchdowns or less, the Flames are 6-0. Looking to preserve a perfect season, Liberty will look to make an argument for the CFP, which brings me back to that 2017 UCF team that went 13-0. Who doesn’t want greatness and nostalgia? I know I do. 

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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.
Emily Nyberg, Visual Editor
Emily Nyberg is a second-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic arts. Prior to her role as a Visual Editor, Emily was a Photojournalist, and a News Reporter covering higher education.