Iowa finished the 2017 season with an 8-4 record overall and 6-6-1 against the spread. They were lead by Junio Quarterback Nate Stanley who threw for over 2,400 yards and a strong ration of 26 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. Stanley has a pro caliber Tight End in Noah Fant and an above average primary receiver in Nick Easley. Leading running back Akrum Wadley graduated and the team will miss his 1109 yards and 11 touchdowns. Overall the offense averaged 28.2 yards per game, but was a bit inconsistent. Nevertheless, two key performances of 55 points against Ohio State and 56 points against Nebraska show the unit is capable of big things when things tick.
On the defensive side of the ball, the squad loses 5 starters, two of which were All-Americans. There may be some inconsistency while the unit gels, but there is enough talent that they will keep the offense in games. The squad averaged 19.9 points against last season and we expect that number to increase, but not substantially.
Overall Iowa is a middle of the road Big Ten team that is capable of competing against the upper tier teams when things flow right, much like the big home upset against Ohio State last season. If the turnovers stay low again (+7 margin in 2017), that will also be a benefit.
The over under total for season wins is 7.5 and the odds to win the Big Ten are +2000. We will make a small play on Iowa exceeding 7.5 wins, not because we think they are a juggernaut but the schedule is relatively week. There are no games against Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State and the out of conference schedule is relatively soft. We will avoid the enticing 20-1 on the odds to win the conference as we do not expect Iowa to compete in their division with Wisconsin, who is far more talented.
Week #1 is a home game against Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois is an above average program in the MAC and have traditionally played well in out of conference games. Last season Northern Illinois lost a close game to Boston College and defeated Nebraska. We expect Iowa to in this opener, but believe the opening line of Iowa -13 is a bit high and we will look to make a dog play in this spot as we think the game will be fairly close.
Week #2 features an in-state rivalry game against Iowa State. Iowa has won the last three against Iowa State, but last year was a close 3 point game on the road. Iowa State competes with all teams. They played well in several key losses last year to quality teams and bring back most of its key personnel. We will give Iowa a slight edge, but if the line is pushing double digits, we would suggest taking the points for a small play.
Week #3 is another in-state game against Northern Iowa. The teams have not played since 2014. Northern Iowa is an FCS school, but an above average one. Nevertheless, there may not be a line and if there is, it will likely be a bit high.
Week #4 is the final game of the month for Iowa and will be a tough contest against a powerful Wisconsin team. Iowa will likely be 10 – 14 point home dogs, which seems enticing, but we will look at Wisconsin, who is a legitimate title contender to outclass the Hawkeyes in this spot and cover the number.
We will return with updates at the end of September.