The Iowa Hawkeyes, fresh off their dramatic win over Pittsburgh last week, host the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks at Kinnick Stadium this Saturday for a Big 10/Sun Belt matchup. With their win, the Hawks moved to 2-1 on the season, while the Warhawks recent loss to TCU dropped the Warhawks to 1-2.
The Hawks opened as 18 point favorites, and despite the public siding with Iowa at better than 80/20 in terms of the spread, the line has been pulled down to 17 points. In other words, a good amount of sharp money has come in on the Warhawks. Unfortunately, that means less value for LA-Monroe. Nevertheless, I like to follow the sharps and fade the public, which this scenario presents. While Iowa is the better football team, don’t be afraid to grab the points and back the Warhawks on the road.
Whenever a team is coming off an emotional win, I like to go against that team because there’s usually a letdown (see: Baltimore Ravens). The Hawkeyes are coming off the biggest comeback win in Iowa history, and that’s a long history. Down 27-10 with less than 10 minutes to play, the Hawks stunned Pittsburgh with 3 touchdown passes to close game, winning 31-27.
That was a big win for Iowa. They were coming off a crushing loss to instate rival, Iowa State, 44-41 in triple overtime. Now, after another emotional, taxing game, Iowa has to get ready for an upset minded Warhawk squad that has played a challenging schedule and should be ready to roll against Iowa.
LA-Monroe opened the season at Florida State, and predictably got kicked pretty good, losing 34-0. But in fairness, the Warhawks competed. FSU never scored more than 10 points in any quarter and the score was 17-0 at halftime. The visitors only gained 191 yards, but the Seminoles’ defense is far, far more athletic and talented than Iowa’s. And that was week 1, which means the Warhawks’ offense is almost certainly more productive at this point in the season.
Last week the Warhawks lost to an improving TCU team, but they gave them a good game. LA-Monroe led 17-14 after the first quarter, although they didn’t score the rest of the game and eventually lost 38-17. The Horned Frogs’ balanced attack ended up being too much. But the Warhawks were successful throwing the ball, at least early on.
There are elements to LA-Monroe that should give Iowa fits. For one, Iowa usually has a great first drive and then falls into a conservative mentality for the rest of the game. Hawks fans know what I’m talking about. But if the Warhawks come out against Iowa the way they did against TCU (and I think they will), I fully expect them to lead after a quarter and probably even going into halftime. Ultimately, I see Iowa winning the game. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the final score is a difference between 3 and 7 points. The Hawkeyes are a great underdog, but not a great favorite. If they played Oklahoma State, I don’t know what I’d do because the two are polar opposites with respect to the spread.
Also, I think Iowa’s secondary can be exposed. Micah Hyde had 2 big picks last week, and Shaun Prater is an all-Big 10 corner. But at the same time this unit was schooled by ISU, and Tino Sunseri had success too. The Warhawks should move the ball.
Another factor will be athleticism. The Warhawks should be at least equally athletic, although Iowa clearly has better football players. But with 17 points being given to the underdog, raw athletes can be dangerous.
Last, Kirk Ferentz has indicated Iowa will continue to be a run first, conservative-style offense, much to the chagrin of its fan base. Iowa’s receivers looked great last week, and Marcus Coker has yet to live up to the preseason hype. But if Iowa continues to pound the ball, I think they’ll struggle somewhat on offense. I don’t see an upset in this one, but I do think 17 points is too many. Take the points. Best of luck.
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