Nebraska vs. Iowa Odds & Picks for College Football Friday: Huskers Can Cover the Large Spread

Nebraska vs. Iowa Odds & Picks for College Football Friday: Huskers Can Cover the Large Spread article feature image
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Steven Branscombe/Getty Images. Pictured: Nebraska quarterback Luke McCaffrey (7).

  • Nebraska and Iowa meet on Friday afternoon for a 1 p.m. ET Big Ten college football matchup on FOX.
  • The Cornhuskers and Hawkeyes seem to be headed in opposite directions, but college football analyst Pat McMahon argues why Nebraska may offer a nice buy-low opportunity at home in Lincoln.
  • Below, find McMahon's full college football betting guide, including updated odds, in-depth analysis, plus McMahon's picks for Friday afternoon's Big Ten tilt.

Nebraska vs. Iowa Odds

Nebraska Odds +13.5 [BET NOW]
Iowa Odds -13.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +475 / -667 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 55.5 [BET NOW]
Time 1 p.m. ET
TV FOX
Odds updated Thursday afternoon and via BetMGM. Get an INSTANT $500 deposit match at BetMGM today.

The Iowa Hawkeyes (3-2) will head to Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday riding a three-game winning streak. After losing their first two games by a combined five points, the Hawkeyes have righted the ship with three straight blowout victories.

The Huskers’ (1-3) season hasn’t exactly gone to plan, and they enter this game coming off a terrible performance against Illinois. Nebraska surrendered nearly 500 yards of offense to the Illini, and Luke McCaffrey threw three picks in the 41-23 loss. Nebraska didn’t look ready to play against Illinois, but Scott Frost will have his guys motivated and will make sure they’re ready to go in this rivalry game.

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Nebraska Cornhuskers

Offense

After gradually working him into the offense in the first two games, Scott Frost gave freshman McCaffrey his first start in the Huskers’ win over Penn State on Nov. 14. McCaffrey is an exceptional athlete and a very strong runner, and he’s given defenses fits with his legs.

However, McCaffrey hasn’t looked good as a passer, and his three interceptions in last week’s loss to Illinois were costly. This has raised questions on whether or not Frost should go back to Adrian Martinez against the Hawkeyes on Friday.

Frost indicated in a Monday press conference that he is not yet sure who will start, but it’s a good bet that both players will see action. Martinez hasn’t turned the ball over as much as McCaffrey, but a big reason he was pulled as the starter was due to accuracy issues and the inability to get the deep ball going.

I think Frost will stick with McCaffrey, as the quarterback running game is a big part of the offense and he’s deadly in that area. It also makes more sense to give the guy who’s clearly the future of the program as much game experience as possible during a losing season.

Whoever starts will need to need to find a way to get the passing game going. The Huskers have really struggled in this area, ranking 109th in the nation in pass yards per game. They’re particularly struggling to get anything going deep, with McCaffrey and Martinez combining for just 6.1 yards per attempt and 10 yards per completion.

The Huskers do have a top-40 rushing attack and ran the ball very effectively last week against Illinois despite the loss. The quarterbacks have dominated the workload on the ground, with Martinez and McCaffrey accounting for 52% of the team’s total carries.

Excluding sacks, McCaffrey ran for 150 yards on 6.5 yards per carry and two scores against the Illini. Dedrick Mills is the top tailback but missed the Illinois game with an injury and is questionable for Friday.

With Mills out, Frost got creative in the running game by getting his top weapon involved — wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson. Robinson had seven carries for 60 yards, and also posted 60 yards receiving. His versatility and big-play potential could be huge for Nebraska in this game and will keep the Hawkeyes’ defense on their toes.

Defense

The Nebraska defense has had a hard time versus tough competition. The Huskers are giving up 450 yards per game and nearly six yards per play through their first four contests.

After getting torched by Ohio State in the opener, the defense actually played pretty well against Northwestern. The Huskers limited the Wildcats to under five yards per play and just 14 first downs. Their performance last week is cause for concern, however, as they allowed Illinois to move the football without much resistance. The Huskers surrendered 490 yards and 6.4 yards per play to the Fighting Illini.

The Nebraska pass defense has been average statistically but really only struggled against Justin Fields and Ohio State. The Huskers have had a tough defending the run, ranking 115th in the nation in rushing defense.

The front seven lacks depth, which has proven to be a huge issue this season with the Huskers mostly trailing in games. They’re getting worn down by opposing offenses that are playing with a lead and pounding the ball. They can’t afford to get down early and have the Hawkeyes grind it out on the ground all game.

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Iowa Hawkeyes

Offense

The Iowa offense had plenty of question marks entering this season, and it really struggled in the first two games. As the competition has eased up, the Hawkeyes unsurprisingly performed much better. However, at the end of the day, their overall numbers haven’t been impressive, and they have the same problems that consistently plague Kirk Ferentz-coached teams.

The strength of the Hawkeyes offense is on the ground. It’s rushing for 182 yards per game on the season, and that average has elevated to 212 in Iowa’s three wins.

Tyler Goodson has been strong season as the featured back, posting 91 yards per game on 5.5 yards per carry. Mekhi Sargent is an excellent second option, as he’s tied with Goodson for a team-high six touchdowns while posting an impressive 6.4 yards per carry.

Spencer Petras and the Iowa passing game has left a lot to be desired. Petras was forced to sling it in Iowa’s loss to Northwestern, and the results didn’t end well. He went 26-of-50 for just 216 yards, one touchdown and three picks in defeat. In the Hawkeyes’ three wins since, Iowa took control early and kept the pressure off of Petras.

Petras has averaged just 24 attempts and 177 yards in Iowa’s three victories. He haven’t been able to establish the deep ball at all and is throwing for a measly 5.8 yards per attempt.

Defense

The Iowa defense has been a force this season and is the strongest unit for either team in this game. The Hawkeyes currently rank 17th in total defense and are holding opposing offenses to under 320 yards per game and 4.3 yards per play. They haven’t been facing offensive juggernauts, but their points allowed average of 16.0 per game is an incredible number that can’t be ignored.

They’ve been outstanding against the run, allowing just 2.64 yards per rush, the fifth-best mark in the nation. The front seven should be able to penetrate and stuff the running lanes for Nebraska’s tailbacks. McCaffrey presents a new challenge, however, as they have yet to face a quarterback who’s a major threat with his legs.

Iowa also boasts a strong secondary and hasn’t really had trouble with any quarterback it’s faced so far. The Hawkeyes have held veterans such as Tanner Morgan and Peyton Ramsey in check and should be fine against a struggling Nebraska passing attack, no matter which quarterback is throwing the ball.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Many signs point toward Iowa being the right side in this game, and the Hawkeyes have certainly been the better team to date. However, it’s tough to trust their offense to cover such a big number on the road.

Neither team has any answers in the passing game right now, so we’re likely looking at a low-scoring battle that’ll be won in the trenches. Turnovers will play a huge factor as well, an area that Scott Frost has undoubtedly emphasized in practice after the Huskers lost the turnover battle to Illinois, 5-0.

The Huskers couldn’t have looked worse in that game, and I think that performance has influenced this spread a little too much. This is a great buy-low spot for Nebraska. Expect some fight from Scott Frost’s club and a couple of big plays from McCaffrey to keep the Huskers within the number.

Pick: Nebraska +13.5 (down to +11).

[Bet Nebraska now at BetMGM and get a $500 INSTANT deposit match]
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