The No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes (12-1) are set to face off against the No. 6 Stanford Cardinal in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 EST at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California and will be televised on ESPN. Our college football bowl spreads show Stanford as a 6.5-point favorite over the Hawkeyes.
The Cardinal were the lone Power 5 conference champion that was left out of the playoffs. The Cardinals cruised to a 41-22 win over USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but 6-16 loss at Northwestern in their opener and 36-38 defeat at home to Oregon late in the year cost them a spot in the 4-team playoffs.
Iowa finished the regular season a perfect 12-0 and looked like they were headed to the 4-team playoff, as they led Michigan State 13-9 in the 4th quarter of the Big Ten Championship Game. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes the Spartans closed the game on a 22-play game-winning touchdown drive and they lost 13-16.
Early Lean on Iowa +6.5
This is an interesting matchup, as you have two teams that were right in the thick of the playoff race only to come up short, so you could argue that this a bit of a letdown spot for both teams. Typically I would be inclined to go against Iowa, given they suffered a devastating loss in their final game, while Stanford closed out the season with two impressive wins over Notre Dame and USC. However, I believe the Hawkeyes are going to be able to shake off the loss and get up for this game.
While they won’t have the chance of playing for a national championship, Iowa does have the opportunity to go down as one of the greatest teams in school history if they can get a win against the Cardinal. Iowa has already won a school-record 12 games, but the season won’t be viewed the same if they lose their final two. You also have to take into consideration that the Hawkeyes haven’t been to the Rose Bowl since 1958. Stanford on the other hand will be playing in their 3rd Rose Bowl in the last 4 years, so it’s not as big a deal to them.
The other big key here is that leading up to the Big Ten Championship Game, no one wanted to give Iowa any respect for their 12-0 start, as the Hawkeyes benefited from an easy schedule. Even though Iowa proved those doubters wrong with their performance against Michigan State, a win over the likes of Stanford would put those critics to rest and solidify the legacy of this team.
Iowa is 40-17 ATS in their last 57 games against teams who average 200 or more rushing yards/game and 6-0 ATS in their last 6 road games against teams who average 4.75 or more yards/carry.
I know it came early in the season and the Cardinal likely weren’t giving Northwestern their full attention, but Stanford’s struggles against Northwestern certainly give optimism to Iowa backers in this game. The Hawkeyes went on the road and destroyed that same Wildcats team 40-10. At the same time, I think there’s something to be said about Michigan State beating Oregon and Michigan only losing by 7-points at Utah with Wolverine quarterback Jake Ruddock throwing 3 interceptions, including a 55-yard pick-six in the 4th quarter. Maybe the Pac-12 isn’t all it’s made out be.
The other big factor here for me, is Iowa has the talent defensively to contain Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey. Iowa finished the season ranked 9th in the country against the run, allowing just 114.9 yards/game and also gave up just 3.4 yards/carry. At the same time, I think the Hawkeyes are more than capable offensively of moving the ball against the Cardinal defense. Stanford gave up 231 rushing yards to Oregon and 299 to Notre Dame over their final 4 games and Iowa has one of the better rushing attacks in the country.
Iowa is 40-17 ATS in their last 57 games against teams who average 200 or more rushing yards/game and 6-0 ATS in their last 6 road games against teams who average 4.75 or more yards/carry. The Hawkeyes are also 17-4 ATS in their last 21 against teams who score 37 or more points/game and 10-2 ATS over the last 3 seasons in road games after the first month of the season. I would definitely lean towards taking Iowa catching almost a touchdown in a game they have a legit shot at winning outright.