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Free Pick Breakdown Iowa v Illinois (10/8)

By Ace Margolis
October 7, 2022
Photo by: Unknow (Contact us for credit)

College Football

Iowa vs Illinois (10/8 @ 7:30 PM EST.)

Line: Illinois (-3.5)
Total: 36.5

Iowa vs Illinois Preview 10/8/2022

Another Big 10 rivalry heats up Saturday afternoon as the 3-2 Iowa Hawkeyes head into Champagne, Illinois to take on the 4-1 Illinois Fighting Illini in a huge conference battle. The home team Fighting Illini are -3.5 favorites as they look to maintain their hold on first place in the Big 10 West.

Iowa Analysis

Iowa came into 2022 ranked just outside AP’s Preseason Top 25 college football rankings but still got 163 votes, meaning a lot of people thought they should be a Top 25 team. After a 3-2 start, however, the Hawkeyes are now further away from the top 25 than they were at the start of the season as they’re coming off a 27-14 loss at home to the Michigan Wolverines. Iowa failed to cover the +2.5 at home, dropping them to 2-3 against the spread this season.

More concerning for Iowa is simply the inability of the offense to put up points. Last Saturday’s loss to Michigan was the only game thus far that the Hawkeyes threw for at least 200 yards. Not to add insult to injury, but the Hawkeyes average a mere 242.2 yards of offense per game, good for second to last in all of Division I football. Across five games this year, Iowa put the ball across the goal line seven times, averaging 16.4 points per contest, which puts them at 122nd out of 131 teams in the nation.

The Hawkeyes must be doing something right if they have a winning record though, right? As usual, Iowa’s defense fuels the team’s success and are polar opposites of the offense. Nationally, the Hawkeyes are ranked seventh in overall defense, giving up 254.4 yards per game and only 3.74 yards per play. In their three wins, Iowa only gave up an average of 4.3 points and they have only allowed five touchdowns thus far on the season. It’s no wonder that four of the Hawkeyes’ first five games failed to hit the over.

Illinois Analysis

What a difference a year makes, at least so far. Last season, the Illini put up a 5-7 record but this year they’ve almost reached that amount of wins as they’re already 4-1, including 4-1 against the spread. They’re coming off an incredibly strong road win over Wisconsin in which they pulverized the Badgers 34-10 in a game the Illini easily covered the +6.5-point spread.

The Illini are 3-0 at home where they have beaten their opponents by a combined 84 points, winning by an average of 28 points per contest. Part of that is due to weak opponents but it’s also because Illinois has been great on defense this season, even better than the Hawkeyes. Illinois is ranked third overall in total defense and first in the entire Big 10, holding opponents to a slim 229.2 yards per game. It’s also hard to establish a ground game on the Illini as they only allow 70.2 rushing yards per contest not to mention they lead the Big 10 with 16 sacks.

That’s not to say the Illini can’t get it done on offense, either, because they can. Illinois loves to wear teams down the old-fashioned way: by running the ball down your throat. It helps when you have the nation’s leading rusher in Chase Brown who went for 129 yards on the ground against Wisconsin. Brown has racked up 733 yards through five games and averages a gaudy 6.1 yards per carry. Quarterback Tommy DeVito doesn’t throw for a ton of yards (224.2 per game) but his 69.9% accuracy is the reason he’s only thrown two interceptions. He’s also second in the Big 10 in touchdown passes behind Ohio State’s Marcus Stroud.

TakingVegas.com 1* Free Pick: Over 36.5

Yes, both defenses are great and tough to score on but don’t sleep on the Illini’s ability to score as they average 29.4 a contest. While Iowa’s offense seems dead, they have put up 27 points in two games and still managed to score two touchdowns last week against a tough Michigan defense. The total has gone over in four out of the last five times these teams have met. With the Illini’s running game and efficient passing offense, they should be able to put up points on Iowa’s stout defense. 36.5 points is too low despite two punishing defenses going at it. We like Under 36.5 in this matchup.

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