The Lineups crew has you covered across the board for Week 1 of the college football season with best bets articles, video coverage, matchup previews, and more. In this article, you’ll find a breakdown of the matchup between the opening matchup between Utah State and Iowa.
Iowa is hoping for a much better season from its offense after their inability to score kept an elite defense from helping them repeat as Big Ten West champions. Meanwhile, Utah State is hoping for better results after a bowl game blowout ended their 6-7 campaign. Keep reading for a prediction on this game.
Utah State Aggies Vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Prediction & Pick
Iowa finished with one of the worst offenses in the country last season, ranking next to last in the FBS with just 251.6 yards per game and bottom five in both EPA per play and success rate on offense. Two Michigan transfers – quarterback Cade McNamara and tight end Erick All – were brought in the help turn things around.
I’m not sure how much that moves the needle for the full season, but in this game specifically, Iowa should be able to score. Utah State lost 23 scholarship players and eight walk-ons this offseason, including nine of their top ten in defensive snaps from last season.
Whether or not you buy into Iowa’s ability to cover in this game depends on your confidence in them scoring, and as I’ll break down below, I don’t have much faith in that department. I do have great confidence in the Iowa defense and special teams, however, which will carry them to a win here.
There’s no way I’m laying a big spread with this Iowa team, but I see some value in the first half team total for Utah State. Currently priced at -140 on DraftKings, I’d take the under on 3.5 for them. Helping this under is that the Aggies are integrating a new kicker, William Testa, who made just 60.9% of his field goals last season at New Mexico Military Institute.
Utah State Aggies Vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Odds
Iowa currently sits between a 24.5 and 25.5-point favorite in this game depending on the sportsbook you’re using. If you’re looking to bet Utah State, it’s important to note that the Aggies weren’t a profitable team to back last season as they went 4-9 ATS overall and 2-5 ATS as an underdog.
The market consensus has the total for this game lined at 45 points. That leads to implied totals of around 35 points for Iowa and 10 points for Utah State. You can also find intriguing lines on quarters and halves on different books, if you want to break up your bet in that way.
Utah State Aggies Vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Key Matchups
Brian Ferentz vs. the Iowa offense
Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has overseen one of the most inept offenses in college football during his six years as Iowa’s offensive coordinator, and things hit new lows in 2022 as the Hawkeyes finished with just 17.7 points per game – that ranked 123rd in the FBS.
As a result, Ferentz had a new clause added to his contract that will see him fired if his offense can’t average 25 points per game this season. For reference, 25 points per game would have been 78th in the FBS last year, which would still have Iowa with a below-average offense. Circa Sports has released a prop on Iowa’s offense, pricing the over on 25 points per game at -160.
— Trent Condon (@trentcondon) August 28, 2023
Cade McNamara should be an upgrade over Spencer Petras and the offensive line should improve with all five starters returning. Kaleb Johnson is also a big play running back who averaged 5.2 YPC last season. However, none of this matters if Ferentz can’t prove he can call effective plays, and that’s very much in question at this point.
Cooper Legas vs. the Iowa defense
I’d be remiss if I got out of here without talking about the Iowa defense. The Hawkeyes allowed just 13.3 points per game last season, which ranked second in the country, as they routinely made up for their invisible offense. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker calls a defense that has finished top six in SP+ in four straight seasons.
Parker needs to replace two key front seven players – NFL first rounders Lukas Van Ness and Jack Campbell – but ten of the 16 defenders who saw 200+ snaps last year return. Look out for junior cornerback Cooper DeJean to be the next highly drafted Iowa defender after he finished last year with five interceptions, seven pass breakups, and just a 10.8 QBR allowed in coverage.
Utah State quarterback Cooper Legas struggled in 2022 with just 1,499 passing yards in ten games and just eleven touchdowns to ten interceptions. The Aggies ranked outside the top 100 in passing EPA and success rate last season, and Legas will struggle against this elite Iowa defense.
Helping Iowa will be punter Tory Taylor, who led the FBS with 3,725 punting yards last season and helped the Hawkeyes rank third in special teams FEI. Look for Taylor to pin Legas and the Utah State offense deep all day, forcing them to drive the full field to score, which they won’t be able to do.