College football: Is an Iowa total finally too low?

It’s a new week of college football, but the same story is on repeat: Iowa football playing low-scoring games. The Hawkeyes are 9-2 to the under this season, while being part of three of the lowest college football totals in history this season.

Iowa vs. Rutgers, 27.5. Result: Iowa 22-0

Iowa vs. Northwestern, 30.5. Result: Iowa 10-7

Iowa vs. Minnesota, 30.5 Result: Minnesota 12-10

The Hawkeyes have already clinched a spot in the Big Ten championship game and will face the winner of Ohio State at Michigan. Iowa hits the road this week to face Nebraska in its regular-season finale with a game total of 26.5. If that total stays below 27.5, it will be the lowest in college football history.

Is Iowa’s offense turning a corner?

The Hawkeyes’ offense jumped two spots in PFF’s rankings from No. 130 to No. 128. In his last two games, quarterback Deacon Hill has his most passing attempts (29 and 31) while producing his most passing yardage (167 and 223 respectively) after completing 11 passes or fewer in his first five starts. Iowa averages 246 yards per game, but in this two-game stretch has produced an average of 285. Don’t let the Hawkeyes get hot!

Iowa’s defense is the star

Phil Parker’s defense is ranked as the fifth best behind the likes of Ohio State, Michigan and Clemson. What contributes to low-scoring games? Limiting touchdowns allowed. Iowa has allowed the third-fewest touchdowns in the nation behind only Ohio State and Michigan and is one of two teams in the FBS that has allowed more field goals (17) than touchdowns (12).

The breakdown

This matchup has seen some major line movement, with Iowa opening as a 2-point favorite but now sitting as a 2-point underdog. The Hawkeyes were down 13-9 last week against Illinois. I remember thinking, “Oh no!” because how does an Iowa offense play catchup? With a Kaleb Johnson 30-yard touchdown run, one of the few explosive plays we’ve seen. That ability, although rare, is there.

Nebraska, on the other hand, changed quarterbacks for the third time this season, turning to sophomore Chubba Purdy, brother of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. In his first start, Chubba Purdy showcased his mobility, rushing for 105 yards on 14 carries in an overtime loss to Wisconsin. With regular starter Heinrich Haarberg dealing with an ankle injury, we could see Purdy get his second start.

Iowa would be a huge challenge for Purdy. The mobility he utilized in his first game will be taken away. Iowa is fourth in the nation against the run, holding five of the last six quarterbacks it’s faced to negative yards. Purdy was sacked twice last week against the Badgers. Purdy has totaled two interceptions the past two weeks, including against Maryland when he just had three passing attempts.

Iowa lost this matchup last year, but it also lost then-starting quarterback Spencer Petras in the first quarter because of injury. The offense is finally starting to “hum” while the defense should wreck Purdy. The total may finally be too low if Purdy turns over the ball for short-field positions or even defensive touchdowns. For that reason, the better option is backing Iowa at +2 to win and continue its momentum into the Big Ten title game.

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