Iowa Hawkeyes Odds to win the Big Ten with Expert Betting Predictions
With Bob Stoops retiring unexpectedly in June, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz is now just one of two coaches who was hired by his current team in the previous century. Bill Snyder is the other, but Ferentz has one up on him because Snyder retired in 2005 before returning in 2009. Ferentz is 147-113 since starting in 1999, with two Big Ten titles and an appearance in the Big Ten title game in 2015. He isn't consistently good, but every so often he gets things lined up and his teams compete. So is this going to be one of those competitive years? Short answer - probably not. Longer answer:
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2016 in a Nutshell
The Hawkeyes started the season ranked and climbed up to 13th heading into Week 3. Then that came crashing down with a loss at home to FCS power North Dakota State - a team that was dealing with the loss of Carson Wentz. That knocked them right out of the Top 25. They beat Rutgers - who didn't? - but then lost a tough one at home to Northwestern. Again they feasted on weaklings, beating Minnesota and Purdue, before crashing back to reality against Wisconsin and at Penn State. The high point of their season came next, when they ground Michigan into the ground, boring the No. 2 team in the country to death and winning 14-13 at home. They built some momentum from that win, closing out the season with a shutout over Illinois and a 30-point win over a ranked Nebraska team. That got them back into the bottom of the Top 25 heading into bowl season, but they fell flat against Florida in the Outback Bowl, losing 30-3 in a non-effort. So it was definitely an up-and-down season, with enough high points to believe in the potential of the team and enough low points to be frustrated. In other words, it was a Kirk Ferentz season.
Key Additions and Departures
The offense is going to face a lot of change. C.J. Beathard is gone after a long career at QB, so there is a big change ahead there. The starting QB race is tight this year, with Tyler Wiegers, who backed up Beathard two years ago, battling with sophomore Nathan Stanley, who surpassed Wiegers as a freshman to be primary backup last year. Neither has a world of experience.
They have big problems at receiver, too. They lost their top three receivers and have just one guy on the roster who caught any passes last year, and that's Matt VandeBerg, who lost most of last season to a foot injury. They will need guys like JUCO transfer Nick Easley or New Mexico grad transfer Matt Quarells to step up in a hurry.
They have a line that has more than 100 combined starts, so there is some bright news. They also added a very good running back in Nevada grad transfer James Butler. He can handle a lot of carries and will benefit from running behind a veteran line. He is also a very good pass catcher, so he should help out whoever wins the QB battle.
All these offensive changes are further complicated by a change at offensive coordinator. Greg Davis held the job for five years and was very solid, but he retired after last year. In his place Ferentz promoted his own son, Brian. The younger Ferentz had coached the offensive line for six years, so he is familiar with the team. They will be fine unless Brian proves incompetent at play calling.
The defense has a lot of returning talent - seven players, including a very solid linebacking corps. The bad news, though, is that the four they lose are very costly. They lost two strong defensive tackles, including the very strong Jaleel Johnson. And they lost both corners, including one of the very best in the Big Ten the last couple of years in Desmond King. They have some nice talent at corner, and some guys have been able to play a little bit in anticipation of these changes this year, but at best it is an unknown impact at the position. More significantly, King was so good that opponents just didn't throw at him, so his absence changes fundamentally how teams will play against this defense. At DT they have a senior, Nathan Bazata, who has seen plenty of time and will be relied upon heavily. Beyond that, though, it comes down to a raw sophomore and a lot of speculation. They have a lot of experience at DE, so we will very likely see some creative shuffling as things move along for the team.
Iowa Hawkeyes Schedule Analysis
They won't get a second shot at Michigan - which is probably good, because they don't have to prove that last year wasn't a fluke, and it very much was. A nonconference slate of Wyoming, at Iowa State, and North Texas is definitely at least two wins and could very easily be three because that Iowa State game is a tossup - if they get the offense smoothed out in time they should be fine. Conference play opens up ugly with Penn State and then a tough game to judge at Michigan State. Illinois is a gimme, but a trip to Northwestern is very tough. Hosting Minnesota should be fine unless P.J. Fleck pulls off major miracles in his first season, but then a two-game stretch of hosting Ohio State and traveling to Wisconsin is going to end very badly. Purdue is another gimme, but then closing at Nebraska could be tough - the Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers are in similar places this year in a lot of ways.
So, the season is made up of four all but sure wins, three very likely losses, and five games that are going to define how frustrating and disappointing the season is going to be. Add it all up and you have an odd situation - bowl eligibility is no certainty, but nine wins wouldn't be a total shock.
2017-18 Iowa Hawkeyes Betting Odds and Trends
BetOnline has Iowa at +20000 to win the national title, which is the third-longest price of the 36 listed teams on the board, behind only Michigan State and Boise State. At +2200 they are the seventh choice to win the Big Ten, though there is a major gap between the big four teams in the conference, and Northwestern and Nebraska, who are both close to Iowa at +2000.
The team was a disappointing 6-7 ATS, but that doesn't tell the whole story. They were a dismal 1-4 ATS in their first five but bounced back for a strong 5-2 ATS down the stretch before that disaster in the bowl game. The "under" had a slight 7-6 edge on the totals, but there wasn't much there for bettors to get excited about.
2017-18 Iowa Hawkeyes Predictions and College Football Picks
I find it tough to get too excited about this team this year. They will be fine, and they will make a bowl game, but seven wins seems about right. I don't think they'll be an easy team to handicap, and I don't suspect they'll offer a lot of value.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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