The Iowa – Iowa State football game is a great rivalry. Bragging rights for the state of Iowa are on the line, and with the Hawkeyes perched in the Top 10 of both the AP and Writer’s polls, even more is at stake this year.
The home Hawks opened as 13 ½ point favorites, and despite the public playing Iowa around 75%, the line has remained mostly steady with a book or two touching 14 points. The spread looks like a dangerous play in this game, especially considering ISU is 7-5 straight up over the past 12 seasons. The best play in this match-up has to be the point total. The total opened at 44 points but books are now putting the game at either 45 or 45 ½. With about 60% of the public playing the over, don’t be surprised to see the total move to 46 at most sites. That being said, fading this public favorite looks like a wise move. With Iowa’s defense and Iowa State’s inability to score touchdowns against the Hawks in recent years, the under is the play to pay here.
First off, the technical numbers in this game clearly support the under. Over the past two seasons the Hawkeyes have played the total 1-5 as a favorite of 10 ½ to 21 points, 0-3 against the Big 12, and 1-7 in non-conference games. On the flip side, Iowa State has played the total 3-5 against non-conference teams, 0-3 against the Big 10, but 5-2 as an underdog between 10 ½ and 21 points. In the series since 1992, these two teams have played the total 2-7.
The Hawkeyes have one of the nation’s top defenses, including one of the best front 4. Three seniors anchor the line, but none as valuable as defensive end, Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn recorded 11 ½ sacks and 70 tackles last year. He also blocked a punt at Penn State and ran it back for a touchdown, which ultimately won the game for Iowa. Joining Clayborn are two seniors and one junior who together totaled 15 ½ sacks last season. All combined, Iowa’s front four brings back 27 sacks from last year!
The linebackers are tough, but relatively inexperienced. The secondary is top-notch, especially the safeties. Tyler Sash (6 sacks) and Brent Greenwood (3 INT) clean up whatever gets through the front 7, which isn’t a lot. Last year the Hawks gave up a meager 15 points per game. Don’t be surprised if they go under that total this season.
The Cyclones have a productive offense, but not against Iowa. Against the Hawks, the Cyclones haven’t scored a touchdown in 14 quarters, although they won the game 3 years ago with 5 field goals, 15-13. Quarterback Austen Arnaud has thrown a combined 6 picks against Iowa over the past 2 seasons, including a 35-3 drubbing in Ames last year. Iowa State doesn’t have the depth to play with Iowa, and they don’t have the playmakers to break big gains, either.
On defense the Cyclones have gotten better. Against Northern Illinois last week, the Cyclones held the Huskies to under 250 total yards, 3-13 on 3rd down, and collected 3 interceptions. Last year the ‘Clones allowed just over 21 points per game, which was their best total since 2005. Also, cornerback David Sims – ISU’s top defender – returns from his one game suspension this week.
Personally, I think this is a tough spread to figure. The Hawks seem like they should be favored by more than two touchdowns, but the game also has the feel of an unexpected upset in the making. So I’m not going either way. I will, however, recommend fading the public on the game’s over. The under is the way to go in this match-up, and if you’re a Cyclone fan, cross your fingers and hope for a big upset.
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