Howe: 10 Fearless Predictions for Hawkeye Football ’19

August 21, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The recent legalization of sports betting in Iowa should teach more people about jargon related to it. Not all wagers are made on straight-up winning and losing.

One can lay down money on such things as coin flips and the length of the national anthem. These are proposition (prop) bets.

Some of these actions are put down on individual players. They can be yard totals, touchdowns, turnovers and all sorts of outcomes related to football.

Iowans can not gamble on specific athlete outcomes here in the state. That’s the right thing to do for several reasons.

Regardless, I thought we could have some fun coming up with “prop-like” bets for the Hawkeyes in 2019, some individual and others for the team.

Here we go:

-Iowa produces a 1,000-yard rusher – I’m going to say no. I think the top two backs are capable of accomplishing it if given the bulk of the workload, but that’s probably not going to happen. I could see Mekhi Sargent and Toren Young each putting up about 800 with Ivory Kelly-Martin maybe adding 400 for a total around 2,000. If that happens, all will be well in Hawkeye Nation.

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Nate Stanley meets or exceeds the 26 touchdowns passes he’s tossed each of the last two seasons – Again, I’m taking the under. That’s not to say the senior signal caller will underperform or experience a bad year. I think he’ll enjoy his best campaign. I just don’t think Iowa will need him to throw as much, and it will score more on the ground with tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant gone to the NFL.

A.J. Epenesa will top Leroy Smith’s program record of 18.0 sacks in a season – With a Big-Ten best 10.5 sacks last season as a part-time player, one could reasonably project Epenesa to set a new mark. However, opponents sure know about him and will be doubling-teaming him regularly. Will it be enough to neutralize him? No. He establishes a new standard.

An Iowa wideout/tight end will exceed 800 yards receiving – I’ll take the under here. The Hawkeyes last saw someone reach the mark in ’11, when Marvin McNutt accomplished it for a second season in a row. Hockenson accumulated 760 in ’18, the most since McNutt’s school-record 1,315 in ’11.

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An Iowa wideout/tight end will exceed 55 yards receptions – It’s happened once since McNutt hauled in 82 balls in ’11. Matt VandeBerg delivered 65 in ’15. Nick Easley led the squad with 52 last season with eight catches coming the Outback Bowl against Mississippi State. I’m going to take the under.

A Hawkeye will total at least 100 tackles – Last season was the first one since ’10 that no one on Iowa reached the century mark. Free safety Jake Gervase led the way with 89, the fewest in Kirk Ferentz’s 20 years as head coach. It was just third time a Hawkeye has fallen short of 100 during the two decades. It happened in ’00 (LeVar Woods, 96) and ’10 (Jeremiha Hunter, 90). I’ll hit the over.

Does a cornerback, a safety or linebacker lead the team in interceptions? – Choosing one might not be as easy as you think. Since ’09, 10 seasons, a safety has led or tied for the team lead six times, the same as the cornerback position. Linebackers have pulled it off twice. Last season, safeties Jake Gervase and Geno Stone tied hybrid defensive back/linebacker (Cash) Amani Hooker for tops on the team with four. I’m going with safety, which includes D.J. Johnson, who is taking over for Hooker, who is in the NFL. And my pick is Stone.

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Iowa scores a touchdown on a kick or punt return – These deals are pretty rare. Only eighteen times in program history has a Hawkeye returned a kick for a touchdown. It last occurred in ’12 when Jordan Cotton pulled it off against Penn State. A punt has been brought back all the way 27 times, the last one being in ’18 when Kyle Groeneweg did it at Illinois. I think it happens. Ihmir Smith-Marsette is the reigning Big Ten return man of the year. Plus, he said he would do it. I trust him.

The starting punter averages more than 42.0 yards per attempt – It’s happened once in the last nine years. Ryan Donahue averaged 44.6 in ’10. Incumbent Colton Rastetter and graduate transfer Michael Sleep-Dalton are competing for the starting job this month. The latter averaged 43.8 last season at Arizona State. I’m going over!

At least seven true freshmen play more than four games this season, thus burning their redshirts – That would more than double the number of guys doing it last year, the first season that the new rule NCAA rule was put into place. Coordinators Phil Parker and Brian Ferentz indicated Tuesday that they see more first-year players contributing this year than in ’18. That said, I still think with a developmental program you preserve as many redshirts as possible. I’m going under seven.

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