Iowa Football

At 10-1 to win Big Ten West, Iowa seems undervalued

Wisconsin is good again, but you'd rather have Iowa's schedule

Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa (94) sacks Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12) last Nov. 12 in Madison. It was one of the few things that went right for the Hawkeyes in their 38-14 loss, but Epenesa is back this season. So is Hornibrook. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa (94) sacks Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook (12) last Nov. 12 in Madison. It was one of the few things that went right for the Hawkeyes in their 38-14 loss, but Epenesa is back this season. So is Hornibrook. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop? Seems harsh, but this post may help answer the question.

I’m taking a few moments of idle time today to suggest something’s out of whack in college football. Namely, the preseason odds.

I get regular emails from someone who sends me (and a lot of other media mopes, I’m sure) the latest odds on this or that from the online betting company that employs him. Most are good for a laugh, or a yawn, but nearly all go to delete faster than Kendall Sheffield. He plays football for Ohio State. And he’s fast.

But the fellow from the wagering site sent me odds on college football conference titles and even division titles last week, and I had to see where Iowa stood.

Answer: The Hawkeyes are 40-to-1 picks to win the Big Ten. Twenty-five bucks will net you a thousand if Iowa cuts down the nets in Indianapolis in December, or the football equivalent. Is that a good investment? I don’t know, $25 to win $1,000? It sounds enticing.

But what surprised me was Iowa being 10-1 to win the Big Ten West. That sounds like a pretty good deal.

No, I’m not declaring the Hawkeyes the November champions of the West. But don’t they have a better chance than 10-1?

Consider that Nebraska (10-1), Northwestern (11-1), Purdue (14-1), Minnesota (14-1) and Illinois (100-1), don’t have the preseason look of monsters. That leaves Wisconsin, which is 4-9. Which means you bet $90 to win $40. Which isn’t great value.

Wisconsin is everyone’s pick to win the West. That’s no shock. The Badgers have 13 returning starters (including quarterback Alex Hornibrook and phenom running back Jonathan Taylor), and they’re 34-7 under coach Paul Chryst.

Favorite. Period.

But let’s compare schedules. The first Big Ten game for both is Wisconsin at Iowa on Sept. 22. What if the Hawkeyes win, and who’s to say they can’t? That means Iowa has a two-game lead on the Badgers because it would own the tiebreaker should they end the season tied for first place.

Now let’s look at the two teams’ road games. Both are at Penn State and Purdue. Iowa goes to Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois. Wisconsin visits Michigan and Northwestern. Advantage, Iowa.

Wisconsin avoided Penn State, and played Northwestern, Purdue and Iowa at home last year. Iowa trades Michigan State and Ohio State from last year for Maryland and Indiana this fall.

I’m not saying bet. I’m not saying Wisconsin won’t go 13-1 for a second-straight year. I’m just saying Iowa at 10-1 to win the West seems like good value right now.

Now that legalized sports betting has begun to creep across America, this is perfectly suitable subject material. Or it’s the devil’s workshop.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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