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Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Iowa State Cyclones Point Spread - Pick

Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS), 12:00 p.m. EST, Week 2 NCAA Football, Saturday, September 10, 2011, Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
by Badger, College Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: IA -6.5/Iowa St. +6.5
Over/Under Total: 43.5

The annual battle for bragging rights in the state of Iowa will once again take place this Saturday in Ames, when the Iowa Hawkeyes travel west to take on the Iowa State Cyclones in Jack Trice Stadium.

The Hawkeyes kicked off their season last Saturday with a, 34-7, trashing of Tennessee Tech that was actually delayed in the third quarter than cancelled outright because of the monsoon-like rain much of the country experienced on opening weekend. Quarterback James Vandenberg threw for two scores, receiver Marvin McNutt caught two touchdowns and the Iowa defense added an interception for a score in a game that would have turned more ugly had Mother Nature not shown its mercy on the Golden Eagles from the Football Championship Series (FCS).

The Cyclones also won in their season opener last week, but it was anything but easy and pretty, as it took every inch on the field and every ounce of adrenaline from the sideline for them to get past FCS and in-state foe Northern Iowa, 20-19. A one-yard plunge by QB Steele Jantz with 40 seconds left on the clock gave the Cyclones the narrow victory, allowing them to slip away from the Panthers upset bid in a game that had 24 penalties and six turnovers.

The oddsmakers out in Las Vegas opened this game with the Hawkeyes as 7-point touchdown favorites on the road, but with just a little action on the game thus far the point spread has only moved down the half-point to Iowa minus -6.5 at most sportsbooks.

What is likely causing bettors to take a casual approach to the Iowa-Iowa State game this weekend is the fact that there are still a lot of unknowns for both of these offenses.

For Iowa it remains to be seen if Vandenberg is the real deal, because playing against Tennessee Tech is like beating the Hawkeyes third string. Despite what will look like respectable rushing numbers versus the Golden Eagles, the Hawkeyes running game did struggle a little and should have been able to run for more than just 148 yards and a 4.5 yard average against an FCS team even on a sloppy field in a rainstorm.

For the Cyclones offense the problems are a little more obvious, they must take care of the football. In their first five possessions of the season last week they had two 3-and-outs, two interceptions and one fumble … not the way any offense expects to start. But if not for 16 Northern Iowa penalties (including twice when they were flagged three times on the same play … yes, a 35-yard penalty) that led directly to both of their scoring drives, the Cyclones may not have scored at all last week.

Both defenses also have areas that will need to be tweaked in order to get ready for Saturday.

Iowa did allow 140 yards rushing and a 3.1-yard per carry average to Tennessee Tech in the slop Saturday, and the Cyclones run defense was worse against Northern Iowa (204 yards, 4.9 ypc), so whichever team decides to establish the running game will likely have success come Saturday.

The Hawkeyes prevailed in last year’s “Battle for Iowa,” running up a, 35-0, lead midway through the third quarter before taking the foot off the gas pedal in a, 35-7, victory at home in Iowa City. Iowa covered in that game as 12-point favorites and the finishing total of 42 points came in under the closing total at the window of 45.

Iowa has now covered the point spread in two straight head-to-head matchups with the Cyclones, but over the years its actually Iowa State that has cashed for sports bettors covering in five straight (2004 through 2008) and a 10-3 ATS mark going back 13 games in the rivalry.

Add into the mix that Iowa is a notoriously bad road team (1-4 ATS last five), and the fact that the Cyclones are usually good against the Big Ten (11-3 ATS in last 14 games vs. Big 10 Conf. opponent), and you might also have another reason why bettors are leery of this game and it’s unpredictability.

The under wager is a strong trend play in this game. The last six games in the head-to-head series have stayed under the total, and the under is also 4-1 in the last five played in Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. The under is 7-1 in the Hawkeyes last eight games vs. a team from the Big 12, plus the under is also a perfect 7-0 in the Cyclones last seven games vs. the Big Ten.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I know the trends say Iowa State but I just don’t think the Cyclones are good enough to keep this game within one score, even if it is a home game. I’m breaking the trend for the better team, I’m taking Iowa minus the -6.5 points.

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