Iowa Hawkeyes vs Iowa State Cyclones football: Should the Hawkeyes be favored?


August 31, 2013; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back James White (8) runs after a catch and avoids the tackle by Northern Iowa Panthers defensive back Tim Kilfoy (24) in the second half at Jack Trice Stadium. Northern Iowa beat Iowa State 28-20. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA Today Sports

The early line for “Iowa’s Super Bowl” opened up favoring the Iowa Hawkeyes on the road by 1.5 points over the Iowa State Cyclones. Bettors are currently hitting the Hawkeyes hard as the line has now moved up to make the Cyclones a 2.5-point underdog, but shouldn’t this line be the other way around with the rivalry’s history?

Since Vegas really doesn’t care about FCS opponents, as most sportsbooks don’t give a line on games that involve them, anything counted as a loss probably results in an ugly mark despite how good they are. Northern Iowa had one athlete (David Johnson), possibly two (Sawyer Kollmorgen), that were better than anybody the Cyclones were able to field two Saturdays ago.

UNI ran over Iowa State en route to a 28-20 victory, and then housed Drake 31-0 by halftime last Saturday. This was no Missouri State that the Cyclones faced, who went just 1 for 10 on third down and were held to 197 yards of offense.

That wasn’t just because the Iowa defense is great — they gave up 438 yards, 20 first downs, and 2 of 3 fourth down conversions to Northern Illinois in their season opener at Kinnick Stadium. Last year, MSU was just 93rd in total offense and an even worse 107 in scoring offense. For those curious, that’s out of 121 total teams.

Considering the talent the Cyclones faced in their loss, regardless of being in a lower division, why are they listed as underdogs when a few sports outlets (like Athlon) ranked ISU ahead of Iowa football before the season began?

The Cyclones have taken three of the last four battles in Ames, and have won nine of the last 15 in the series. The only plausible scenario that the Hawkeyes would be favored is if Vegas believes running back Mark Weisman will make an impact on ISU’s poor rush defense. But neither the Huskies or Bears were a steel wall when it came to stopping the run, ranking at 48th and 64th nationally in the category in their respective divisions.

Iowa State has control of the series and the defenses should be just a wash at this point. They should be favored with a better stable of running backs and a quarterback that hasn’t made almost two deadly mistakes.

Perhaps they’ll just have to prove it on Saturday.