College Football Odds & Picks for Northwestern vs. Iowa: Value on Hawkeyes’ and Wildcats’ Total

College Football Odds & Picks for Northwestern vs. Iowa: Value on Hawkeyes’ and Wildcats’ Total article feature image
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Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tyler Goodson.

  • Northwestern’s offense looked rejuvenated in its season opener against Maryland.
  • While the Wildcats thrived passing the ball, Iowa was strong on the ground against Purdue.
  • Matt Wispe explains why those factors mean bettors should target the over.

Northwestern at Iowa Odds

Northwestern Odds -0.5 [BET NOW]
Iowa Odds +0.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -112/-108 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 42.5 [BET NOW]
Time Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds as of Saturday afternoon and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today.

Things couldn’t have gone much better for quarterback Peyton Ramsey and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian in their Northwestern debuts. The Wildcats played like a completely new team compared to last year when they averaged just 16.3 points per game. Northwestern played with some pace in their 43-3 win over Maryland.

And while that game stayed under the total, if the Wildcats continue to play this style of offense, the overs will come.

Iowa comes into this game following a close loss to Purdue. The Hawkeyes  out-gained the Boilermakers by nearly 100 yards, but were held back by penalties and turnovers. If they continue playing with the tempo that we saw against Purdue, Iowa’s offense will score points.

There will be strong crosswinds when this game kicks off and while that would traditionally point to an under, it may force these two offenses into their strengths and lead to enough scoring to get both teams comfortably into the 20s and clear the low total.

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Northwestern Wildcats

It’s hard to glean too much from one game but for a team that scored just 12.6 points per game against Big Ten opponents in 2019, a 43-point outing, even against Maryland, is a bit surprising. The Wildcats ran 83 offensive plays which is 18% more than their season average from 2019.

New offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian’s Boston College offense was among the fastest in the country so he may be having an impact early, but the pace has plenty of room to improve even with the play count from game one.

The Wildcats ran the ball on 63.8% of their offensive plays against Maryland and it’s easy to see why they relied so heavily on the rush. Northwestern posted a 50% rushing success rate and averaged 3.583 line yards per attempts against the Terps. The offensive line was expected to be a strength and the team was stuffed on just 13.5% of rush attempts and allowed havoc on 9.9% of plays.

Despite leaning on the running game, the offense was successful as a whole with a 50.6% total success rate. The switch from Hunter Johnson to Peyton Ramsey showed immediate returns as Ramsey completed more than 75% of his passes while averaging 7.1 yards per attempt, leading to a 51.7% success rate through the air. With everything working, Northwestern was able to capitalize when they got within striking distance. The Wildcats finished drives well, scoring 5.5 points per opportunity.

Defensively, the Northwestern defense held up well against Maryland. It bears repeating that it was just one game and you can’t tell how good a defense is off a 60-minute performance against an underwhelming team, but against the Terrapins, here’s how things finished in the key metrics:

  • Yards Per Play: 4.2
  • Success Rate Allowed: 29.5%
  • Stuff Rate: 18.8%
  • Havoc Created: 29.5%

Off those numbers, this appears to be a strong defense that limits success and creates havoc. The only stat worth noting is that Northwestern’s stuff rate ranks 39th-worst after the season opener.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa didn’t quite start off the year with a 43-point game, but it still ran a total of 75 plays on offense and played with a pace of 23.8 seconds per play which is more than five seconds faster than its 2019 pace. The Hawkeyes only scored 20 points, but if they’re going to continue to play with pace and clean up the penalties, the points will come.

In their season opener, the Hawkeyes passed the ball on 52% of plays. Starting QB Spencer Petras completed 56.4% of his passes for 6.8 yards per attempt in his Iowa debut. And the passing game wasn’t the highlight for the offense. Iowa had a success rate of just 34.2%, but Petras completed four passes over 20 yards.

Running the ball was where the offense found greater success. The Hawkeyes had a rushing success rate of 52.9% and were only stuffed on 11.8% of runs. Both Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent rushed for over 70 yards with averages over 4.5 yards per attempt, however, each lost a fumble.

The offensive line provided some stability which helped with the rushing success. Iowa only allowed havoc on 9.7% of plays, including just two tackles for loss, and the line created 3.876 yards per attempt.

Defensively, there were a few holes that could be exploited. The Hawkeyes allowed a 41.2% passing success rate, most notably to David Bell who scored three times for Purdue. And while their rush defense appears to be better, they allowed a 37.5 % success rate on running plays despite stuffing 25% of attempts.

The defense failed to create significant havoc and allowed Purdue to finish drives well as the Boilermakers averaged 4.8 points per opportunity.

Betting Analysis & Pick

The weather forecast for this game is projecting crosswinds up to 18 miles per hour which should force both of these teams into their running games. While Iowa favored the passing game slightly against Purdue, their success rates were much higher when they ran the ball. And Northwestern already appears to heavily prefer running, as they did in 2019. If both of these teams are forced to lean into their strengths, point will follow.

Traditionally, a run heavy matchup between these two teams would heavily favor the under and that’s why the game opened in the 40s, but according to the Pro Report, both sharp action and big money bets have come in on the over.

Because the total appears to be weighing the offensive pace and styles of prior years, this number is a value at 46.5 and still has some value if it moves up slightly.

The Bet: Over 46.5. Play up to 49.5.

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