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College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Illinois vs. Iowa: Why to Still Back Low Under

College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Illinois vs. Iowa: Why to Still Back Low Under article feature image

Matthew Holst/Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Padilla.

  • Iowa looks to hold onto hope of potentially winning Big Ten West when it faces Illinois on Saturday.
  • Both offenses have drastically struggled, especially as of late.
  • Mike McNamara explains why he likes the under despite the real low number.

Illinois vs. Iowa Odds

Saturday, Nov. 20
2 p.m. ET
Illinois Odds
-110o / -110u
Iowa Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Illinois heads to Iowa City fresh off a bye week to take on No. 17 Iowa.

The Fighting Illini have found some momentum on the road in the second half of the season and will look to build off of that on Saturday. In its last two road trips, Illinois has won at Penn State and Minnesota, both of which were ranked at the time.

However, Illini head coach Bret Bielema tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week and will not travel with the team.

It’s been another consistent and steady season for Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes. Iowa climbed to as high as No. 2 in the country at one point in mid-October before falling to Purdue and Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes have rebounded from those losses with two straight wins of their own.

Can Illinois upset another ranked opponent on the road, or will Iowa take another step in its quest for a 10-win season? Let’s find out.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois Offense

You’d be hard-pressed to find an offense more run-oriented than Illinois. The Illini come in ranked 23rd in the nation in Line Yards behind a veteran offensive line that has gotten a good push throughout the season.

Chase Brown is the bell cow back for Illinois. In the win over Minnesota, Brown carried the ball 32 times for 147 yards and picked up critical first downs when Illinois really needed them.

Brown also came up huge for the Illini in the win over Penn State, against which he averaged just under seven yards per carry on 33 attempts.

This offense runs through Brown and the hogs up front, but senior quarterback Brandon Peters also provides a bit of a rushing threat of his own in the run-pass option. Peters is limited in his passing ability but when healthy, he gives Illinois its best chance at winning football games.

Illinois Defense

The Illinois defense has slowly improved as the season has progressed.

Since mid-September, Illinois has only allowed one opponent to score more than 20 points. That was Wisconsin, which put up 24 in a game the Illini mustered only 93 yards of total offense.

Illinois intercepted Tanner Morgan twice in its last time out against the Gophers. To pull off another upset in Iowa City, that’s the formula it will need to replicate. Illinois will look to pressure whoever is under center for the Hawkeyes and wreak some Havoc.

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Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa Offense

The Iowa offense continues to limit the ceiling of how good this team can be. It has been a struggle throughout the year for the Hawkeyes, and there’s not one thing this offensive group does particularly well.

Spencer Petras was the man under center for the first nine games of the year and was incredibly inconsistent. Petras left the Northwestern game with a shoulder injury, which led to Alex Padilla making the start last week against Minnesota.

Padilla made a few plays, but he completed just 11-of-24 passes against the Gophers. Ferentz has yet to announce who will get the start against Illinois, but has said both quarterbacks are under consideration.

As a result of the struggles in the passing game, opposing defenses are jamming the box and really making it hard for the Hawkeyes to run the ball.

Iowa comes in at 125th in the country in Rush Success, which is shocking considering what this program typically does on the ground every season.

Iowa Defense

As poor as the Hawkeyes offense has been, the defense has been outstanding. The Hawkeyes are inside the top 25 nationally in both Rush Success and Pass Success.

Opposing offenses have struggled to get anything going against this front all season, and the Hawkeyes simply don’t give up big plays.

Iowa has one of the most complete secondary units in the country and should be licking its chops against an Illinois offense that really struggles to move the ball through the air.

If you had to pinpoint one area where this defense could improve, it would be in getting after the quarterback in passing situations. That shouldn’t be an issue in this matchup, however, with Illinois’ identity as a rush-first offense.

Illinois vs. Iowa Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Illinois and Iowa match up statistically:

Illinois Offense vs. Iowa Defense
Rush Success5824
Line Yards2318
Pass Success12212
Pass Blocking**9685
Big Play1195
Finishing Drives12537
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Iowa Offense vs. Illinois Defense
Rush Success12595
Line Yards130116
Pass Success11682
Pass Blocking**10435
Big Play12177
Finishing Drives10932
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling2430
Middle 82559
SP+ Special Teams117
Plays per Minute81100
Rush Rate60.6% (24)55.% (62)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Illinois vs. Iowa Betting Pick

Iowa currently sits as a 13-point favorite in this game, which feels about right. So, I find the betting value in this matchup on the total.

I just don’t see any way Illinois can consistently move the ball against this Iowa defense. Toss in the fact that Bielema won’t be on the sidelines to help get some things going, and I foresee a busy day for Illini punter Blake Hayes.

Illinois is also one of the slowest offenses in the country and will look to feed Brown and churn clock in this game.

On the other side, expect Iowa to trust its defense and play very conservatively. The quarterback uncertainty adds to the likelihood of this strategy, and Iowa doesn’t really have the firepower to hit the Illini with many chunk plays.

The total for this matchup currently sits at 38.5 as of Thursday afternoon. Although that is very low, I still think there’s tons of value on the under.

This feels like a classic November Big Ten rock fight between two defensive-oriented teams. I look forward to sitting back on my couch and watching a lot of punts, field goal attempts and few big plays.

Give me under 38.5 here.

Pick: Under 38.5

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