Kentucky vs Iowa Odds, Prediction, Picks: How to Bet Music City Bowl

Kentucky vs Iowa Odds, Prediction, Picks: How to Bet Music City Bowl article feature image

Robin Alam and Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured from left: Jack Campbell (31) of Iowa and Alex Afari Jr. (3) of Kentucky.

Kentucky vs Iowa Odds

Saturday, December 31
12 p.m. ET
Kentucky Odds
-104o / -118u
Iowa Odds
-104o / -118u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Iowa and Kentucky meet in the Music City Bowl in what will be its second straight bowl game matchup. Last year, the Wildcats outlasted the Hawkeyes in a 20-17 Citrus Bowl slugfest.

Due to opt-outs, injuries and transfers, this season's matchup feels more like a spring game than a bowl game. Given the absences for both teams, Vegas has set the total at 31.5, the lowest in college football history.

This low total is the result of both teams struggling on offense this season and rolling out completely untested freshman quarterbacks.

Both of these young quarterbacks will be going up against two of the best defensive units in the country, which have allowed less than 21 points per game this season.

Whichever offense can take advantage of the few scoring opportunities it's given will come out with a win.

Kentucky Wildcats

Similar to Iowa, Kentucky has a Music City Bowl roster that will have significant holes to fill on offense.

The Wildcats will be without starting quarterback Will Levis (2,406 yards), running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (904 yards), running back Kavosiey Smoke (277 yards) and wide receiver Chauncey Magwood (seven catches).

The Kentucky offense will also have a new play-caller after Rich Scangarello was fired at the end of November. Associate head coach Vince Marrow will be the primary play-caller for Kentucky on Saturday.

The last time Kentucky turned to Marrow to run the offense was in the 2021 Gator Bowl in which Kentucky defeated NC State, 23-21. The Wildcats ran for 288 yards on the ground on their way to the victory.

Marrow will have freshman quarterback Destin Wade under center when he returns to the offensive coordinator role.

Like Iowa's Joe Labas, Wade has yet to play a collegiate snap but impressed in high school. The 6-foot-3 dual-threat quarterback was also a four-star recruit coming out of high school.


Back at Kentucky football practice, Destin Wade taking first team reps at QB here in the portion of practice open to the media. Made some good throws to Barion, Dane and Tayvion. 👀

More on the WRs tonight at 6:30pm on @FOX56News!

— Michael Epps (@MichaelEppsTV) December 29, 2022

Offensively, the loss of Rodriquez may be the most significant. The Wildcats played four games to start the year without Rodriquez due to a suspension and failed to produce a 100-yard rusher in all four.

This lack of production will be catalyzed by an Iowa front seven that has allowed a Rushing Success Rate of only 34.1% to opponents this season (17th nationally).

The Wildcats will look to remain in this game through a defense that has done something similar all season.

Kentucky ranked 27th nationally in overall Defensive Success Rate (36.2%). Most importantly, at the time of writing, Kentucky will only be without one significant contributor on defense, cornerback Carrington Valentine.

Just as Iowa will rely heavily on special teams to put points on the board, so will the Wildcats. However, this will be a problem for a Kentucky team that struggled in its kicking game all year. Kicker Matt Ruffalo has missed eight field goal attempts and two extra points this season.

Given Iowa's special teams strength, this is will be a significant disadvantage for the Wildcats on Saturday.

Collin Wilson's Top Bets for OSU vs. UGA

Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa will arrive in Nashville with a bitter taste in its mouth after dropping its final game of the season to Nebraska, 24-17. A win would've clinched a Big Ten Championship berth for the Hawkeyes, but the loss put them here at the Music City Bowl.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz will have his work cut out for him, having to prepare for this matchup without a number of key contributors on offense.

The Hawkeyes had a number of offensive players enter the transfer portal, including backup quarterback Alex Padilla, wide receiver Arland Bruce IV (19 catches), running back Gavin Williams (52 touches) and wide receiver Keagan Johnson (two catches due to injury).

The loss of Padilla is significant given the announcement that starter Spencer Petras will sit out after suffering a shoulder injury against Nebraska.

The Hawkeyes will turn to third-stringer Labas, who has yet to play a collegiate snap.

Labas originally committed to Ball State in May 2020, before signing with the Hawkeyes a month later. The 6-foot-3′ pro-style quarterback was a four-star recruit coming out of high school.

In high school, Labas showed an ability to create plays on the ground through his scrambling ability. That will be key in creating yards for an Iowa team that has struggled offensively this season.

Bees TD…Joe Labas 31 yd TD run..kick good@whsgrizzlies 35@bbhathletics 45

— Sports On Tap (@SOTPodcast) October 3, 2020

Offensively, Iowa ranked outside the top 110 in almost every significant category. Luckily for the Hawkeyes, their defense proved to be one of the best units in the country.

Defensively, Iowa ranked 12th nationally in Success Rate (32.2%) and had a lights-out secondary that allowed just a 32.2% Passing Success Rate (7th nationally).

The secondary will be without star safety Kaevon Merriweather, however, as he opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft. The Hawkeyes still have the depth and scheme to slow down a Kentucky offense that will be without a majority of its production.

In a game that seems destined to be extremely low-scoring, taking advantage of every scoring opportunity will be critical in coming away with a win. That means special teams will play a key role, and Iowa will has a significant advantage in that area.

Iowa kicker Drew Stevens is one of the best kickers in the country, making 16 of his 18 field goal attempts this season. Stevens has also not missed an extra point this year, making all 21 of his attempts.

Additionally, punter Tory Taylor ranks 15th in the country averaging 45.1 yards per punt.

These special teams numbers have the Hawkeyes at fourth nationally in overall special teams, according to SP+. In a game where points will be incredibly hard to come by, this will be the difference-maker for the Hawkeyes.

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Kentucky vs Iowa Matchup Analysis

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

Iowa Offense vs Kentucky Defense
Rush Success12118
Line Yards12882
Pass Success12128
Pass Blocking**13079
Finishing Drives12422
** Pass Blocking (Off) vs Pass Rush (Def)

Kentucky Offense vs Iowa Defense
Rush Success7733
Line Yards808
Pass Success957
Pass Blocking**8340
Finishing Drives1134
** Pass Blocking (Off) vs Pass Rush (Def)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling411
PFF Coverage113
SP+ Special Teams473
Seconds per Play28.4 (104)32.0 (130)
Rush Rate55.1% (59)58.0% (31)
Data via (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics

Kentucky vs Iowa Betting Pick

There's simply not a total too low for a matchup between these two teams.

Both Iowa and Kentucky have struggled offensively all season and will be throwing freshman quarterbacks into a matchup against one of the best defenses either offense has faced this season.

Ultimately, I believe this game will come down to which team can create points on special teams and on defense. Both of these are areas in which Iowa has an advantage.

In a game that will be historically low-scoring, give me the points with the Hawkeyes' superior special teams.

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