Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Kentucky Wildcats
Saturday, January 01, 2022 – 01:00 PM EST at Camping World Stadium
What’s this? Another underdog in our college football bowl picks? That’s kind of what we do here at the ranch. But in this case, we’re a bit surprised that the No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes are the ones getting the points, and not the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats. Iowa (10-3 SU, 7-6 ATS) opened at +2.5 on the NCAAF odds board with Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review), then moved to +3 in early betting, despite the consensus reports showing 81 percent support for the Hawkeyes.
Very interesting indeed. On paper, the Wildcats (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS) had the better season, checking in at No. 18 overall (No. 18 offense, No. 33 defense) on the F+ ratings at Football Outsiders. That’s a fair bit ahead of Iowa at No. 33 overall (No. 94 offense, No. 5 defense). But nobody pays attention to Kentucky football, which is why they’re behind the Hawkeyes in the polls. Aren’t we supposed to put the ‘Cats in our NCAAF picks?
Stoops to Conquer
The projections suggest otherwise. Jeff Sagarin at The USA Today has Iowa winning the Citrus Bowl by 0.73 points, although his “recent” formula has it Kentucky –1.88, which is pretty close to the other numbers we’re monitoring. The Hawkeyes have indeed slipped a bit since the opening month of the 2021-22 season, going 4-3 SU and 2-5 ATS in their last seven – and getting drubbed 42-3 by Michigan (–11.5) in the Big Ten title game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Kentucky’s season has been even more of a rollercoaster ride. They may have peaked at just the right time, though, winning their last three games at 2-1 ATS; head coach Mark Stoops was signed to a tasty contract extension through 2027, and the ‘Cats have done very well with both their recruiting efforts and the transfer market. This is a program on the rise – no basketball jokes, please.
A Tyler Goodson Production
Having said all that, maybe it’s time to sell the top on Kentucky. The Big Ten outperformed the SEC this year, according to the conference rankings at Sports Reference, and the Wildcats played the softest schedule in the SEC by a wide margin. Their current three-game winning streak began at Vanderbilt (+21.5 at home) and continued with a victory at home over New Mexico State (+35.5 away), an independent team that’s joining Conference USA in 2023. The Aggies finished the year at 2-10.
There is one good reason to be pessimistic about Iowa: Top RB Tyler Goodson (4.5 yards per carry) has opted out of the Citrus Bowl to focus on the NFL Draft. However, running backs are eminently replaceable in football, and now the Hawkeyes are available at +3, in what should be a low-scoring grind with a 44-point total at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review). We’ll buy that for a dollar.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.