Sky's blue, water's wet, Iowa favored over ISU

For 13th-straight year, Vegas says Iowa over Cyclones

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Las Vegas tried to make Iowa State the favorite in its football game against Iowa Saturday, but bettors wouldn’t buy it.

Wynn Las Vegas posts its college football lines for the coming week on Sunday afternoons, ahead of the other casinos in Vegas. It installed the Cyclones as a 1-point favorite.

Iowa was listed as a 1-point pick just one minute after the line was posted. Six minutes later, the Hawkeyes had been bet up to a 2-point pick. As of Tuesday afternoon, Iowa hovered as a 1.5- to 2.5-point favorite depending on the casino.

So, this is the 13th-straight year in which Iowa was favored to beat the Cyclones.

“Pretty amazing,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday when told that. He wasn’t describing the oddsmakers’ accuracy.

See, Iowa and ISU have split their last 12 games. And the Cyclones were 9-3 against the point-spread in those games. In fact, Iowa State has covered the spread in 12 of its last 15 games against Iowa and has won nine of them.

This isn’t meant to be Gamblers Forum. If you bet on football at all, you either have disposable income to burn or a problem. No, this is just to illustrate this series is quirky.

Had Iowa State defeated UNI in its Aug. 31 season-opener, by the way, it surely would have been favored to beat the Hawkeyes. The Cyclones were a combined 7-26-1 in the last three seasons (1992, 1994, 2007) they lost to the Panthers.

But back to ISU-Iowa. There can’t be a series this even-steven in any sport in which one of the two teams has been the favorite every year for the last 13 years!

Maybe some things aren’t meant to be figured out. In the 14 years Ferentz has been the Hawkeyes’ coach, Iowa is 6-8 (. 429 winning percentage) against Iowa State. Yet, it is 59-53 (. 527) against Big Ten teams, and 56-40 in the league since 2001.

Meanwhile, ISU has been 37-77 (. 324) against its Big 12 foes in those 14 seasons while being 8-6 (. 571) against the Hawkeyes.

Do the Hawkeyes play worse than normal when they go against ISU? Does Iowa State play that much better against Iowa than it does against its conference rivals?

Has the Big 12 been that much better than the Big Ten in that time period? Would Iowa State’s record be better had it played a Big Ten schedule in those 14 years, and would Iowa’s be worse had it been in the Big 12?

That’s in the eye of the beholder. I think the Big 12 has had fewer weak-sisters than the Big Ten over the last several years. Look at Iowa State’s 9-game Big 12 schedule last year and you see no mediocre opponent aside from Kansas.

But in the final AP rankings over the previous 10 seasons, there were 39 teams from the Big Ten and 38 from the Big 12.

Ferentz has losing marks against just three of the other 10 Big Ten programs (Nebraska, Northwestern and Ohio State). His Hawkeyes have had better records against Michigan (5-5), Michigan State (7-5), Penn State (8-4) and Wisconsin (6-6) than against Iowa State.

The Hawkeyes went to bowls in each of the six years they’ve beaten the Cyclones under Ferentz, and have a 54-23 record over those seasons. In the eight years Ferentz’s teams lost to ISU, Iowa had a total mark of 46-51 and went to four bowls.

Conversely, since 1999 ISU has gone to bowls six times after defeating Iowa, but only twice after losing to the Hawkeyes.

Perhaps this all means the better team usually wins in this series. Even if, half the time, Las Vegas and its customers can’t identify the better team in advance.


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