Wisconsin Badgers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Odds & Pick
(25) Wisconsin Badgers (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS) vs. (19) Iowa Hawkeyes (5-2 SU, 4-2-1 ATS)
NCAA Week 15
When: Saturday, December 15 at 3:30 pm ET
Where: Kinnick Stadium - Iowa City, IA
Point Spread: WISC +1/IOWA -1 (Risk less per bet - Lay only -105 instead of -110!)
Over/Under Total: 43.5
The Big Ten is finishing up its sprint of a football season this weekend, and while there is little left to decide in terms of the conference championship game, there is still pride and the Heartland Trophy on the line when Wisconsin takes on Iowa. The Badgers are playing just their fifth game of the season and are looking to get something going on offense after scoring only thirteen points total over the last two weeks. The previous time UW went two games with fewer points was the 1991 season. After an 0-2 start, Iowa has reeled off five straight victories, averaging 37.2 points per game over that span. This rivalry is well over 100 years old, but the trophy series started in 2004. Wisconsin has a 9-5 mark with the brass bull on the line and has won each of the last four in this series. Iowa’s previous home win against Wisconsin came during the 2008 season.
Wisconsin has been one of the better road teams over the last few seasons with a 17-8 record against the spread in their previous 25 games as the visitor. They are just 2-5 ATS when playing a team with a winning record and are 0-4 ATS coming off a straight-up loss. Iowa has only one ATS loss in the last five games overall and are 4-1 ATS in the previous five when coming off a straight-up win. The road team is 4-1 ATS in the last five in this series. The OVER is 7-3 in the previous ten Wisconsin games, but the UNDER is 4-1 in the last five when UW plays in December. The UNDER is 11-5 when Iowa plays a Big Ten opponent, and the UNDER has hit in seven of the last ten at Kinnick Stadium. In early week betting, Iowa is seeing about 70% of the public money, with just over 60% of the public bets on the OVER.
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After a hot start for freshman Graham Mertz, the Badger QB has cooled over the last two weeks, throwing for just one touchdown against four interceptions against Northwestern and Indiana. He has completed only 57% of his attempts in those games, taking six total sacks and losing two fumbles. Jack Coan has returned to practice after recovering from foot surgery, and while there has been no news of Coan regaining his starting spot, it is plausible that Wisconsin could turn his way if Mertz and the offense continue to struggle. The Badgers remain solid on the ground, ranking 34th in the country at 200 rushing yards per game. Freshman Jalen Berger looks to be the next stud in Madison, and he has emerged to lead the team with 267 yards and averages 5.9 yards per carry. Nakia Watson and Garrett Groshek round out the backfield to give Wisconsin a set of fresh legs at any time. The WR group is very beat up with Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor, both listed as questionable for Saturday. That leaves freshman Chimere Dike (7-121-1) as the No. 1 option on the outside with TE Jake Ferguson (23-235-4) the overall top target, and he leads in catches, yards, and scores. Where the UW offense has faltered, the defense has more than held up its share of the bargain, allowing just 31 points over the last two losses. On the season, Wisconsin ranks 1st in the country in rushing, passing, and total yards allowed and has surrendered 12.3 points per game, good for 2nd in the NCAA. UW is also 1st in third-down defense, allowing just a 23.9% conversion rate and gives up 2.9 yards per carry.
Efficiency in Iowa City
Iowa is 96th in passing and 84th in total yards, but they get a lot out of those so-so stats and turn in the 38th scoring average at 32.3 points per game. They have scored at least 35 per game in four of the last five games, falling short of that total against only Nebraska when they scored 26. Spencer Petras has struggled with accuracy over much of the season but has also led the team out of multiple deficits over their recent winning streak. The running game does the heavy lifting for the offense, with Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent combining for over 1,000 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Iowa lacks a singular big-time playmaker in the passing game with no receiver averaging more than 14.4 yards per catch. Still, seven different players are in double-digits for receptions, with Petras hitting five other receivers on his seven touchdown passes. TE Sam Laporta leads in catches and yards, with Ihmir Smith-Marsette (18-205-2) the best option on the outside. Like their opponent this week, Iowa brings an elite defense that ranks 16th in total yards allowed and 14th in points at 17.3 allowed per game. The rush defense ranks 18th and is the better unit, but the Hawkeyes are not poor against the pass, especially in the QB pressure department with Chauncey Golston and Zack VanValkenberg combining for eight sacks.
Hawks Handle Bucky at Home
I have watched every snap of the last two games for Wisconsin, and it has been every bit as bad as you would imagine it would be for a team that scored just thirteen points over eight quarters. There are too many freshmen playing in key spots for the Badgers right now, and while that will likely be good for the team over the long haul, the inexperience of those youngsters is part of their recent struggles. Iowa is giving up just 3.1 yards per rush, so I expect a lot of this game to ride on the shoulders of Graham Mertz, and he has not been making enough plays since the opener. Iowa is just as likely to struggle against a stout Wisconsin defense, but the Hawkeyes have routinely been in close games and found ways to win, while Wisconsin has only looked good when they jumped out to big leads. This is going to be a field position kind of game with turnovers and sacks playing a big role, and that is also an advantage to Iowa as they have nine team interceptions and the better sack rate. Iowa walks away with the Heartland Trophy after a 20-16 win.
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