USC vs. Iowa Odds, Betting Pick, Prediction: How to Play the Spread & Over/Under in 2019 Holiday Bowl

USC vs. Iowa Odds, Betting Pick, Prediction: How to Play the Spread & Over/Under in 2019 Holiday Bowl article feature image

Neville E. Guard, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Kedon Slovis

  • The latest betting odds for the 2019 Holiday Bowl feature the Iowa Hawkeyes as small favorites (spread: Iowa -1.5) against USC with the over/under currently at 52.5.
  • The game is being played in San Diego and the kickoff is at 8 p.m. ET. You can tune in on FOX.
  • Can you trust the slow-paced Iowa offense to cover as favorites? See how our experts are betting the Holiday Bowl, including their picks on the total and spread.

USC vs. Iowa Odds, Pick

  • Odds: Iowa -1.5
  • Over/Under: 53.5
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV: FS1
  • Location: San Diego, Calif.

Bowl season really heats up Friday, and Iowa-USC should be a big part of that.

The Trojans will bring their Air Raid offense to San Diego to face a stingy Hawkeyes defense. USC quarterback Kedon Slovis began the season as the third-string option, but turned in an excellent season thanks in part to some dynamic weapons on the outside.

Who is the edge in a game expected to be about a coin flip? Our experts dive in.

Odds as of Thursday evening and via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.

USC vs. Iowa Line Movement

The Holiday Bowl has been remarkably slow in terms of line movement, at least leading up to Friday. The total has ticked up from 51.5 to 53.5 on game day afternoon, and Iowa has gone from -1.5 to -2 back to -1.5.

About 55% of bets have come in on Iowa, while 75% of bets are on the over. — Steve Petrella

Collin Wilson: Iowa Can Handle the Air Raid

The Air Raid is not something you come across often in the Big Ten, so this should be an interesting matchup between two very different Power 5 programs.

Clay Helton has yet to cover a bowl game in three attempts at USC. That could be a meaningless trend, but you do wonder about how prepared Helton will have his team. Iowa was able to get in multiple practices since its season-ending win over Nebraska while, as of mid-December, USC was still working on a schedule for practices.

The good news for USC is that wide receiver Michael Pittman will not sit this game out in preparation for the NFL Draft. Iowa, too, will have its soon-to-be-drafted players — defensive end AJ Epenesa and offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs.

The advanced stats show that Iowa may be able to stymie USC’s air raid. The Hawkeyes rank 27th in defensive passing success rate and are terrific in passing-down situations, ranking sixth against explosiveness and 19th in sack rate in passing downs.

This could be the best passing offense that Iowa sees in 2019, but the Hawkeyes have had success against the air raid under Kirk Ferentz in the past. Iowa figures to be the better prepared team in the Holiday Bowl.

Pick: Iowa -2

Stuckey: Is the Market Too Low on the Trojans?

Iowa’s three losses this season came by a combined 13 points against top-15 teams — Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan. USC is no stranger to close contests, losing a pair of games (at Notre Dame, vs. BYU) by three points apiece.

Both of these offenses should have success moving the ball in very different ways. Iowa will do it on the ground against a vulnerable run defense, while USC’s prolific passing attack — which figures one of the best receiving corps in the country — should still put up points.

That being said, it’s hard to play an over when Iowa is on the field. Not only is Ferentz a conservative play-caller, but the Hawkeyes move very slowly, ranking 108th in seconds per play. When it comes to finishing drives, Iowa is terrible on offense (109th) but stellar on defense (second). Add in some potential rust for USC’s air raid, and the over becomes a lot less appealing.

As for the side, I think the Trojans could be undervalued. The USC defense is better than its numbers indicate as a result of all of the injuries it has had to deal with this season. Talanoa Hufanga, Drake Jackson and Christian Rector all missed time, which meant USC played a lot of underclassmen in key areas of the field. The Trojans had trouble containing mobile quarterbacks, but they won’t need to fret about that with Nate Stanley under center for Iowa.

I do think USC might be a little undervalued in this game, but I am waiting on a +3 to pop. If it doesn’t, I may just look for a better opportunity to play this game live.

Clay Helton is my least favorite coach to bet on and he is 9-21-2 against the spread away from home. That includes a 2-11 record as an underdog and an 0-3 record in bowl games — all three of which came against Big Ten teams.

Kyle Miller: Expect Crooked Numbers

While the decision to keep Helton has USC fans and the media questioning the new administration’s ability to return them to glory, Helton has already secured his biggest win of the offseason. Offensive Coordinator Graham Harrell was being courted by programs all over the country, including Texas. He decided to stick with Helton and USC, signing an extension that will keep him in L.A. for at least another year.

Harrell has a wealth of weapons to work with Pittman Jr, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Tyler Vaughns on the outside. True freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis was forced into action early in the season and has been fantastic. The Trojan offense ranks 15th in yards per play, third in passing success rate, and ninth in overall efficiency. Their offensive line has done a good job protecting Slovis and while they haven’t hit a ton of big plays, the potential is there.

As usual, Iowa has very stout defense and a stale, disappointing offense. That’s a product of Brian Ferentz being one of the worst play callers in all of college football and a banged up, under-performing offensive line.

The Hawkeyes essentially had zero run game all season and relied on Stanley to bail them out on 3rd-and-long. Iowa ranked just 86th in yards per play and struggled in every offensive category besides ranking 41st explosive passing. Iowa did have promising freshman running back Tyler Goodson late in the season though so they may have found something.

USC’s defense has been just as disappointing has Iowa’s offense. The Trojans rank 77th in yards per play and an astonishing 126th in defending rushing success rate. They’ve been able to limit big passing plays but any semblance of a run game will torch USC. That seems to matchup well with how limited Iowa is offensively.

I make USC a small favorite in this game, so I jumped on the Trojans +3 earlier in December. I still like them at that number so I’d suggest playing side should the number get back to a field goal.

My suggested play for this game at current numbers is the over at 52 or better. The ball is going to be in the air for almost the entirety of this game so the clock will be stopped frequently. I trust USC to get their fair share of points and I know Iowa will be able to put up some points, especially if Goodson is the real deal at running back.

Pick: Over 52

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