Howe: Setting Up 10 Prop Bets for Iowa Football ’20

October 1, 2020

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Last season was the first in which Iowa residents could legally gamble on sports within the state’s borders. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic this year, the sports books have performed well.

In honor of the new law, I published fictional propositional (prop) bets last August. I shared my thoughts on how I saw things shaking out. I hit on six of 10.

I took the over on AJ Epenesa breaking Leroy Smith’s school record of 18 sacks in a season. He only ended up with 11.5. Michael Sleep-Dalton did me dirty by averaging 41.7 yards per punt when I predicted it to be over 42.0.

All and all, I can’t complain. Of course, when I’m setting the lines, there’s a bit of an advantage.

Regardless, I’m back with 10 more for 2020:

  • Spencer Petras will toss 14 touchdowns passes – The first-year starter would come in only two behind Nate Stanley’s 16 scoring passes in ’19. Stanley threw for 26 the previous season, however.

The plan is to play nine regular-season contests this fall. There might be a bowl game. I’m going on the basis of 10 games. Petras will be Fire on the Mountain in ’20.

Howe’s Play – OVER

  • An Iowa WR or TE catches 40 passes – My remedial math skills indicate it would require an average of four receptions a game to hit the number on the nose. Nico Ragaini led the Hawkeyes in catches last season with 46 in 13 contests. He could repeat. Or it could be Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who hauled in 44 balls in ’19. Brandon Smith finished with 37 in only nine games last autumn. Then there’s talented tight end Sam LaPorta or rising receiver Tyrone Tracy to consider.

Logic says take the under with so many weapons at Petras’ disposal. Chances are good the ball will be spread around. Oh, the heck with logic. I think two pass catchers exceed 40.

Howe’s Play – OVER

  • An Iowa RB averages 65 yards per game – Sight unseen, you may think it’s a low number. Averaging that number would put the back at 650 total in 10 games. Tyler Goodson ran for 638 last year despite not winning the starting job until November.

However, much like at receiver and tight end, there’s talented depth at this position.  Goodson, Mehki Sargent and Ivory Kelly-Martin all have started. They should share the workload in ’20. I’m going to go under the the 65 yards per game because of that.

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Howe’s Play – UNDER

  • An Iowa defender will total at least 80 tackles – Middle linebacker Kristian Welch, now on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad, averaged 8.7 tackles per game last season to lead the Hawkeyes. Adjusted to a 10-game slate, that comes out to 87.0 tackles. Our minds need to adjust to fewer games.

The Hawkeyes regularly featured defenders with 100 tackles in a season. At least one player reached that mark in 17 of Kirk Ferentz’s first 19 seasons as head coach. It hasn’t happened the last two campaigns when the CASH position came into play. I think defensive coordinator Phil Parker alternates packages frequently this season, thus putting his leading tackler in the 70-75 range.

Howe’s Play – UNDER

  • A Hawkeye will intercept three passes – Michael Ojemudia led Iowa in picks last season with three. Jake Gervase, Amani Hooker and Geno Stone shared top honors in ’18 with four apiece. Josh Jackson went crazy with eight the year before that.

The Hawkeyes historically spread the wealth in the back end with multiple players racking up interceptions. It makes sense to go under with this prop. I think someone gets three.

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Howe’s Play – PUSH

  • Iowa’s sack leader drops the opposing quarterback at least six times – Epenesa (22 sacks the last two seasons) was other-worldly when he came to the pass rush, so comparing anybody on the current roster with him is unfair. Parker likely will devise other ways to pressure the quarterback without that menacing presence, especially on obvious passing downs.

Jaleel Johnson (’16) and Anthony Nelson (’17) paced the Hawkeyes in sacks each with 7.5 the seasons prior to Epenesa breaking loose. Those numbers came in 13 games. Iowa has some sneaky good defensive linemen in ’20, including under-appreciated veteran Chauncey Golston. Still, smart money says, like interceptions, sacks will be by committee this fall.

Howe’s Play – UNDER

  • Petras throws for 230 yards per game – Stanley averaged 227.0 per contest last season and 219.4 the year before. The last Iowa signal caller to average at least 230 was James Vandenberg (232.5) in ’11. Ricky Stanzi averaged 231.1 the year before that.

Vandenberg and Stanzi enjoyed throwing to a talented groups of skill players. Petras may have the most gifted group of the Ferentz Era. That matters a lot. Expect him to be Truckin’ opponents this fall.

Howe’s Play – OVER

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  • The Hawkeyes win more than five regular-season games – Oddsmakers set Iowa’s number at five wins based on nine regular-season contests. Again, my remedial math skills have that at 5-4. I have the Hawkeyes at 5-3 with the eight known contests. The and-one likely will be a worthy opponent if my prediction plays out.

That said, if history is an indicator, Iowa should be playing its best football by Game 9 with Petras settled in. Bring on Michigan.

Howe’s Play – OVER

  • An Iowa Player scores eight touchdowns – Smith-Marsette led the ’19 Hawkeyes in finding the end zone 10 times. Two of those scores came via kick return. Smith and Goodson each scored five times.

Nine touchdowns in 10 games is a lofty goal with so many different weapons on the roster. I just have a hunch that someone is going to pull it off. Could be Goodson’s combined rushing and receiving scores or Smith-Marsette again via receiving and returns.

Howe’s Play – OVER

  • Keith Duncan kicks 20 field goals – Duncan set the Big Ten mark with 29 last season en route to consensus all-American honors. Eleven of those came from 29 yards or less.

Duncan certainly is more than capable of banging through the 85.3 percent of his attempts he delivered in ’19 but will he get those opportunities? I think Iowa’s offense will be better in the red zone resulting in fewer field goal tries and more touchdowns.

Howe’s Play – UNDER

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