Outback Bowl Odds
Posted by Ryan James
After opening the season with a 4-3 record before even getting into the challenging portion of the schedule many were calling for the Iowa Hawkeyes to miss bowl eligibility. They went on to win four of their last five games including impressive back-to-back wins over Michigan and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes faced just two teams that were ranked at the time of play, and they finished 0-2 in those games. The Big Ten was loaded with talent from top to bottom this year, so Iowa’s 8-4 record may be a little misleading.
The LSU Tigers had was many would consider a letdown season. Expectations are always high for a Les Miles coached team, and there is nothing to be ashamed about finishing the year with a 9-3 record as an SEC team. The Tigers faced five ranked opponents this season, posting a 3-2 record in those games. Two of the Tigers three losses this season came by three points or less. The SEC is always a tough conference, and the Tigers will be ready to prove themselves against their Big Ten opponent in those games.
Kick-off for the Outback Bowl takes place at 1:00 PM ET on New Year’s Day with television coverage provided by ESPN. The LSU Tigers find themselves listed as a 7.5-point favorite over the Iowa Hawkeyes. The total has been set at 49-points.
Why Iowa Covers
The Hawkeyes are one of the few teams in the country that actually does more scoring on the road than they do at home. They are averaging 30 points per game in road games this season. While a bowl bid is certainly not a traditional road game, it will feel like one since the Tigers have such a large dedicated fan base. The Hawkeyes have faced LSU in a bowl game before, where Iowa picked up a 30-25 win in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. Once again the Hawkeyes find themselves playing as a large underdog, and that should serve as motivation to the team and head coach Kirk Ferentz.
The Iowa Hawkeyes are 14-3 ATS against teams scoring 37 points per game of more.
If defense wins championships then you can just hand the Outback Bowl title to the Hawkeyes. Iowa has held opponents to 18.7 points per game this season, and a mere 18.6 points per game when playing on the road. The Tigers on the other hand have allowed an average of 32.4 points per game in road games. Iowa is a perfect 5-0 against the spread when playing away from home this year, and they are 4-1 straight up in those games. LSU on the other hand saw all three of their losses come when they didn’t have the luxury of playing in front of their home crowd. The Hawkeyes defense appears to be without weakness, holding opponents to just 3.5 rushing yards per carry against the run, and allowing a 56 percent completion rate from opposing quarterbacks for a mere 182 passing yards per game.
Why LSU Covers
The Hawkeyes may have a bowl win over the Tigers, but that came during the Nick Saban era, in a year he left for NFL coaching opportunities. LSU is now in the Les Miles era, and it seems very unlikely he will be leaving the team at the end of the season. Miles has won several conference titles with the Tigers, and he has to be licking his chops coming into the Outback Bowl when he faces an Iowa team that has struggled to get points on the board against some of their better opponents. The Hawkeyes were held under 21 points in games against Michigan State, Northwestern and Wisconsin. The Tigers are averaging 37 points per game this year, so outpacing the Hawkeyes should be an easy task to accomplish.
While the Tigers may look like a soft defense statistically, I think the numbers are a bit misleading. First of all, LSU has allowed 32.4 points per game on the road, but they have also faced the likes of Georgia and Alabama in two of their road games this season. The Hawkeyes have a very strong run bias, averaging 43 rushing attempts out of their 72 total offensive plays. They average 4.4 yards per carry, but LSU’s opponents have averaged 4.8 yards per carry this season. The Tigers will be one of the best run defenses Iowa has faced, and the Hawkeyes are a slightly below average running team in comparison to the Tiger’s opponents.
With Mettenberger injuring his knee, and the Hawkeyes knack for stepping up under the bowl game spotlight I have to roll with Iowa plus the points. The Hawkeyes have exceeded expectations all season, and the team has only improved with each passing week. I think this game will be a defensive battle, so a play on the under fits well too.