Iowa vs


at Orlando
Sat, Jan 1
10:00 AM Pacific
Rotation: 279
Odds: Kentucky -3, Total: 44

Game Analysis

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Lean – Iowa (+3)  23   Kentucky  22

Iowa was outgained this season by 29 total yards per game and by 0.2 yards per play, yet the Hawkeyes outscored their opponents by an average of 4.7 points per game. Being +14 in turnover margin adds a few points per game and the rest can be explained by the Hawkeyes’ outstanding special teams, which I don’t think is reflected in the line on this game.

Iowa’s offense has been 0.6 yppl worse than average this season but the quarterbacks don’t often put the ball in harm’s way (just 8 interceptions in 13 games). The Hawkeyes’ rushing attack should be 0.2 yards per rushing play worse without leading rusher Tyler Goodson but the pass attack has been better since week 4 when WR Tyrone Tracy had his role reduced from 4.3 targets per game to just 1.6 targets per game over the final 10 games. Tracy transferred and the Hawkeyes are better for it given his horrible 3.7 yards per target and 25% success rate. Kentucky’s defense wasn’t as good as the 22.1 points per game allowed suggests, as the Wildcats allowed 5.5 yppl and were just -0.3 yppl better than average on the stop side of the ball. Iowa is projected to gain just 287 yards at 4.9 yppl.

Kentucky’s offense thrives on the ground, as the Cats averaged over 200 rushing yards per game at 6.2 yards per rushing play while quarterback Will Levis averaged 7.3 yards per pass play. The aerial attack isn’t likely to be as good without wideouts Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps, who combined for 772 yards on 76 targets (10.2 YPT) but were both injured in a recent car accident. The other wide receivers combined for 8.2 yppp and the pass rating is 0.3 yppp worse. The Wildcats were 0.9 yppl better than average in the regular season (+0.8 yppl without their two most efficient receivers) but will be challenged by a good Iowa defense.

The Hawkeyes are one of the best in nation defending the run (1.2 yprp better than average) and Kentucky gained only 135 rushing yards on 44 runs in games against Georgia and Mississippi State – the two best run defenses that they faced this season. Leading rusher Chris Rodriguez was banged up and not 100% for those games in the middle of the season, which can partially explain those numbers. However, it’s also possible that they’re relatively worse against run defenses and may run for fewer than the 4.8 yprp that the math projects for them in this game.

The key to the game could be how Levis performs against Iowa’s secondary that is not at full strength with cornerback Matt Hankins missing his 4th consecutive game. Top cornerback Riley Moss missed 3 games in the middle of the season (weeks 7-10) and it appears as if the backup cornerbacks aren’t nearly as good at Moss and Hankins. In the 7 games in which both starting cornerbacks were healthy the Hawkeyes allowed just 53.3% completions and were 1.8 yards per pass play better than average (4.6 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would combine to average 6.4 yppp against an average defense). In the 6 games in which either Moss or Hankins were out the Iowa defense allowed 60.0% completions and 6.7 yppp (to quarterbacks that would average 6.7 yppp). Part of that that is yards per completion variance but I rate the Hawkeyes’ pass defense at just 0.2 yppp better than average without Hankins and project Levis to average 6.7 yppp in this game.

Overall, the math projects an edge of 80 total yards for Kentucky but Iowa has a significant advantage in special teams and in projected turnovers (+0.6) and this game is picked even by the numbers, even after that huge adjustment of 0.7 yppp to Iowa’s pass defense. Kentucky applies to a 9-39 ATS bowl situation and I’ll lean with Iowa at +3 -115 odds or better.

  • Team Stats
  • Game Log
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky


  • Run Plays 33.2 33.3
  • Run Yards 141.9 129.4
  • YPRP 4.3 3.9


  • Pass Comp 15.9 19.2
  • Pass Att 28.7 33.6
  • Comp % 55.2% 57.2%
  • Pass Yards 179.2 219.2
  • Sacks 2.5 1.9
  • Sack Yards 16.2 13.2
  • Sack % 7.9% 5.4%
  • Pass Plays 31.2 35.5
  • Net Pass Yards 163.0 206.0
  • YPPP 5.2 5.8


  • Total Plays 64.4 68.9
  • Total Yards 304.9 335.4
  • YPPL 4.7 4.9


  • Int 0.6 1.9
  • Int % 2.2% 5.5%
  • Fumbles 0.6 0.5
  • Turnovers 1.2 2.3
  • Points 23.9 19.2
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