Iowa Hawkeyes Odds to Win the 2015 College Football National Championship
by Alan Matthews - 8/18/2014
If you type the words "most overpaid college football coaches" into Google or the search engine of your choice, I'm fairly confident that Kirk Ferentz's name will feature prominently. It's hard to believe that Ferentz has been at Iowa since 1999, and he did turn around a program that nosedived under Hayden Fry. The Hawkeyes were 1-10 in Ferentz's first season, but he led them to three straight double-digit winning seasons starting in 2002. He was the golden boy. Except ... not so much. Since then, Iowa has won 10 games just once. That was in 2009 when Iowa shared the Big Ten title with Ohio State and beat Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
After that successful campaign and to keep Ferentz away from the NFL, the school gave him a seven-year, $21 million extension, which is a whopper for a school like Iowa. Yet since then the Hawkeyes have largely been irrelevant. They were 8-5 in 2010, 7-6 in 2011, 4-8 in 2012 and then 8-5 again last year, capped by a loss to LSU in the Outback Bowl. Iowa hasn't come close to contending in the conference, yet Ferentz has security through January 2020. The pressure is on him this season because the road to the Big Ten title game might never get easier for the Hawkeyes, and Ferentz might have his best team since '09.
Iowa Hawkeyes Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Story Lines
There are 13 starters due back overall, eight on offense. That includes one of the best offensive linemen in the nation, Brandon Scherff. He could go No. 1 overall in next year's draft and seems a lock for the Top 10 as long as healthy. He will protect the blind side of returning QB Jake Rudock. He generally got better as last season went on, completing 59 percent of his throws, 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Leading rushers Mark Weisman (975 yards, eight TDs) and Jordan Canzeri (481 yards, 6.5 yards per carry) and top receiver Kevonte Martin-Marley (40 catches, 388 yards, five TDs) also are back.
Iowa finished last year sixth nationally in total defense and 19th against the run but lost all three starting linebackers: Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey were the team's three top tacklers, combining for 223 stops with 12.5 sacks and 36.5 tackles for loss with six interceptions. However, the front four are all back, led by likely All-Big Ten pick: Carl Davis (42 tackles, 4.0 for loss). Cornerback Desmond King is star-in-the-making after a terrific freshman season.
This might be the most friendly schedule of any legitimate Power 5 conference contender in the nation , and I'm not exaggerating. The Hawkeyes should roll through their first three nonconference games at home against Northern Iowa (+16.5), Ball State and Iowa State. The Hawkeyes beat ISU 27-21 in Ames last year and opened as 10-point favorites for this one. They could run into a challenge at Pittsburgh (no line yet).
If the Hawkeyes can beat Pitt, they might start 10-0. Check out the next six games: at Purdue, vs. Indiana, at Maryland, vs. Northwestern, at Minnesota, at Illinois. OK, maybe the Terps and Gophers can win at home, but I'd still favor Iowa (it is -1 at Minnesota). Iowa had to visit Minnesota last year, too, but won 23-7. The Hawkeyes routed Purdue in the Boilers' house in 2013 and beat visiting Northwestern in overtime. They didn't play Indiana or Illinois. The season all comes down to the final two games: at home against Wisconsin and Nebraska. Iowa is +4.5 against the Badgers, whom they lost to 28-9 in Iowa City last season, and -3 against the Huskers, whom they beat 38-17 in Lincoln.
Iowa Hawkeyes 2015 National Championship Odds and Trends
Odds courtesy of 5Dimes . Iowa is +15000 to win the national championship, +1300 to win the Big Ten Championship Game and +340 to take the West Division (third behind Wisconsin and Nebraska). The Hawkeyes currently don't have odds to make the College Football Playoff. Iowa's "over/under" wins totals are 9.5 (under -405 favorite), 9 (under -285 favorite), 8.5 (under -135 favorite), 8 (over -165 favorite) and 7.5 (over -250 favorite). Iowa was 8-5 against the spread in 2013 (2-5 at home) and 8-5 O/U (4-3 at home).
Iowa Hawkeyes Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Predictions
What more can you ask for from a schedule (Iowa hasn't even started 3-0 since 2009)? Almost surely no ranked teams until game No. 11. Your two main rivals at home. No Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan from the East. It's really now or never for Ferentz to play in the Big Ten title game. I don't know if Iowa can afford to eat his contract if the Hawkeyes underachieve again.
You know how reading other articles can sway your opinion of things? That has happened to me with Iowa. A lot of plugged-in people are high on this team, and it is the most experienced of the West contenders. Expect plenty of close games. Iowa has played in 19 games decided by three or fewer points in the past five seasons, with five last year decided by a touchdown or less. I say it finishes 10-2 and does win the West, losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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