Over/Under 7.5 Wins () vs Iowa Hawkeyes ()Date : 09/01/2018
Time : First Game: Nothern Illinois Huskies @ Iowa Hawkeyes 2:30 PM
Location : Kinnick Stadium
Pick, Prediction, & Preview:
Over/Under 7.5 Wins vs Iowa Hawkeyes
The Iowa Hawkeyes have been as consistent as any team in the Big Ten in terms of making bowl games under Kirk Ferentz as they made their 15th bowl game in the 19-year tenure for Ferentz. Iowa may have only finished the regular season with a 7-5 record but 2 of their wins were really impressive as they demolished Ohio State by 31 points and then beat their in-state rival in Iowa State. Ferentz will have to enter the 2018 season with a new look as they didn’t only lose their 1000 yard rusher but they will be missing two All-Americans on the defensive side of the ball. The heart and soul of this Iowa Hawkeye team have been their hard nose front 7 but given the departure of all 3 starting linebackers, Ferentz will need to find some reinforcements on the recruiting trail or within. Iowa is a hard place to recruit for as they don’t have the big facilities like their conference foes and that showed this past offseason as Iowa’s 2018 recruiting class ranked 41st in the nation without signing a 4-star recruit. Iowa resides on the easier side of the Big Ten but they will have to compete once again with Wisconsin for the top spot.
Over/Under 7.5 Wins's Latest Performance :
Iowa has always been a consistent team in making bowl games and competing for the top spot in the Big Ten West and although Kirk Ferentz has to reload a bunch of key spots on both side of the ball he should still be in contention for the #1 spot. Oddsmakers have seen the way that Ferentz has coached his teams in the past which is why they have high expectations and have set the over/under at 7.5 wins.
Can Iowa Break Through?
The Iowa Hawkeyes are trying to return back to the Big Ten title game and show the Big Ten East they can compete with the best of them too, and this might be the season for that given their schedule. Iowa was fortunate enough to only have one of the top Big Ten East teams on the schedule as they will have to travel to Penn State for a tough road test. Iowa will get the blessing to host their competitor for the top spot in the Big Ten West as Wisconsin will travel to Iowa City on 9/22 for a chippy matchup. The conference road schedule for Iowa isn’t too bad as they will travel to Minnesota, Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois which are all winnable games. Iowa will also have the advantage of hosting their in-state rival during the second week of the season as the Hawkeyes look to make it 4 straight against Iowa State. Outside of Iowa State, the Hawkeyes should have no problem sweeping their non-conference schedule as they will host Nothern Illinois and FCS foe in Nothern Iowa.
Iowa Hawkeyes's Latest Performance :
Iowa doesn’t run the modern day spread offense like many teams have been accustomed to as they are a pound the football type of team but as we saw last year the quarterback position is still important in keeping the opposing teams guessing. Luckily for Iowa, they return their starting QB from 2017 in Nathan Stanley after he was really efficient with the ball last season. Stanley experienced his ups and downs like any first-year starter but he only threw 6 interceptions compared to his 26 touchdowns which is solid in a run-first offense. With that being said the Hawkeyes will need to find a new workhorse at the running back position after the departure of Akrum Wadley. Wadley was a do it all back for Iowa as he led the team with 1109 rushing yards and 10 TDs as well as another 353 yards through the air. Ivory Kelly-Martin should shoulder most of the load this season at the running back position after he averaged 9.2 yards per carry in the 20 touches he had last season. Stanley has the luxury of returning some of his top pass catchers from last season which may prompt the offense to throw the ball a little more. Iowa returns their slot receiver Nick Easley who led the team in yards last season with 530 as well as junior TE Noah Fant who recorded 11 TDs last season. Iowa will go through some changes on the defensive side of the ball as they will have to replace Joey Jewell (132 tackles & 13.5 TFL) and Joshua Jackson (8 interceptions) who were both team leaders and All-Americans. The safety spot will be one of the strongest for this defense as they return both Jake Gervase and Amani Hooker as the duo combined for 114 tackles and 5 interceptions last season. Iowa will also be strong at the defensive end position as they will return their sack leader from 2017 in Anthony Nelson who comes into his junior year after a 7.5 sack season. The linebacker position will go through the most growing pains as the penciled in starters have little to no experience at the collegiate level.
Player To Watch
A.J. Epenesa, DE. Soph.
A.J. Epenesa didn’t live up to his hype in 2017 as the true freshmen was the former #1 defensive end in the nation as well as the best recruit to ever land at Iowa but don’t expect a similar outing from the 6’5 277 monster. Defensive end has always been a strong spot for Kirk Ferentz which was part of the reason Epenesa only recorded 15 tackles last season but he did make the most out of his appearances as he recorded 4.5 sacks. Epenesa didn’t pick Iowa over Alabama and Georgia to sit on the bench but rather to be a major contributor, expect to see a lot more of the sophomore this season given the fact that he has a year of experience under his belt. Epenesa could be a player to watch for in a year or two especially after having a 7+ sack season this year.
How Over/Under 7.5 Wins & Iowa Hawkeyes Matchup.
Vegas Odds, Offshore Odds, & Odds ATS:
Over 7.5 Wins -Even
Under 7.5 Wins -120
In-Depth Analysis of each team:
9/1- Nothern Illinois- W
9/8- Iowa State- W
9/15- Nothern Iowa- W
9/22- Wisconsin- L
10/6- @ Minnesota- W
10/13- @ Indiana- W
10/20- Maryland- W
10/27- @ Penn State- L
11/3- @ Purdue- L
11/10- Northwestern- W
11/17- Illinois- W
11/23- Nebraska- W
Overall Record- 9-3
Against The Spread Selection: Over 7.5 Wins - Even
My reason for the pick :
If you look at each season under Kirk Ferentz there is not much failure in the Iowa Hawkeyes as they consistently win the necessary amount of games to compete for the top spot in the Big Ten West and expect nothing less this season. I can understand people being hesitant in backing the Hawkeyes after they lost two All-Americans and a 1000 yard back but there is also a lot to like about the returning starters. Iowa has arguably one of the best tight ends in football in Fant and he has a solid QB to hook up with him as Stanley and Fant could topple their 2017 numbers. Iowa also has the advantage in terms of schedule as they will not see Michigan, Ohio State, or Michigan State 3 of the top team in the Big Ten and on top of that they get Iowa State and Wisconsin at home. Expect Iowa to crush the 7.5 win mark as the Hawkeyes have potential to make the Big Ten championship game.