Iowa are having one of the more bizarre starts to a college season in recent memory as their first two games have featured a total of 27 points, three touchdowns, and two safeties- and yes, those numbers are totals for both teams on the field. The Hawkeyes won one of those two games and dropped the other. Nevada stayed steady through victories against two group of five foes in their first two games. But this Saturday, rather embarrassingly, they lost to Incarnate word, an FCS team that was Division II until 2013.
Both teams are off to a strange start to 2022, let’s see what oddsmakers have to say about their matchup in Iowa City this weekend.
Nevada Vs. Iowa Odds
Iowa are sitting as 23.5 point favorites right now which, at a glance, makes sense against a smaller-conference team that just gave up a big comeback win to an FCS opponent. But it makes slightly less sense when you add the context that Iowa’s total scoring through two games is far lower than that 24-point plateau. Similarly, the 40.5 point total is slightly baffling, given the strength of Iowa’s defense, and their inability to score thus far, even against FCS competition (in that wacky 7-3 win over South Dakota State).
Nevada Vs. Iowa Prediction & Pick
We know that longtime Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz likes to emphasize defense but man, this is a bit much isn’t it? The Hawkeyes’ figure of 7 points per game thus far predictably ranks 131st among FBS teams, dead last. Their points-against average of 6.5 is the 6th-best in the nation, but EPA only sees the Iowa defense as being somewhere in the back end of the top 50. Unfortunately for Iowa, this metric sees the offense as being just about as bad as it seems, somewhere in the 120s. Last year’s team actually lived in a similar zone, albeit less extreme, as their scoring offense (23.4 points per game) was 99th in the country, and their defensive output (19.2 points allowed per game) landed them 13th. The loss of last year’s leading rusher Tyler Goodison, who collected nearly 1400 yards from scrimmage, has been even more painful than predicted. Similarly, the stability of last year’s starting quarterback, fifth-year senior Spencer Petras and his top target from 2021 Sam Laporta have not been enough to bring the offense really any success.
Nevada’s season looked like it was going fine, until last week when it quickly became dismal in its own way. ESPN’s FPI gave the ‘Pack a 95.5% chance to win the Incarnate Word game before kickoff (for what it’s worth, Iowa have 89.6% odds to take this matchup by the same metric), and then the FCS visitors inexplicably dropped 55 points on what should have been a passable defense in their stunning victory. Some understandable offensive growing pains following the loss of highly prolific QB Carson Strong and his top WR Romeo Doubs have been visible, as last year’s 17th ranked scoring offense in the country is just 62nd in that category so far this year. Really, the whole program is struggling in the state of flux created by coach Jay Norvell, who left for in-conference rival Colorado State, and took a solid chunk of the wolves from his old pack with him.
When it comes down to it, I’ll have a really hard time betting any sort of over in a game these Hawkeyes play in until one actually hits, or comes remotely close at least. It’s also not wise to trust their offense to cover 23 points against anyone, based on what we’ve seen so far- Nevada may not be much of a superstar defense, but the Iowa offense only scored 3 points against South Dakota State (their score got boosted up to 7 by two safeties registered by the defense). For these reasons, I’m in on the under, as well as Nevada to cover 23.5 against a team that has yet to show the ability to even score 24 points.
Nevada Vs. Iowa Key Matchup
Find the key matchups and mismatches for Iowa vs Nevada below.
Iowa Offense vs. Nevada Defense
This battle is a bit broader than the ones I usually like to focus on, but these units are both really worth scrutinizing from top to bottom after their recent performances; this is where the game will be won or lost. The Nevada defense lost a ton of starters to the aforementioned transfer exodus, as well as good old fashioned graduation. One of the few exceptions is fifth-year senior d-lineman Dom Peterson, a multi-time all conference honoree who stuck around for one more season despite so many pieces around him departing. Behind him will be a secondary led by Michigan transfer Darion Warren-Green, who will bring the experience he gained in one of the nation’s best defensive programs.
While Iowa’s offense has rarely been a strength relative to the team’s defense, the lows achieved by this year’s group make them nearly unrecognizable as compared to the one that reached the Big Ten Championship Game a year ago. When they’ve been at their best, the Hawkeye offense has relied on strong offensive line play, and a steady rushing attack. This year, with the loss of Goodison and a weaker-than-usual line, they haven’t been able to do that, and the passing game has done anything but compensate for the rest of the squad’s deficiencies. Petras, LaPorta, and surprise big-play threat from last year Keagan Johnson are going to have to create a viable air threat, as the Hawkeye way of ground and pound football may not be viable this season.