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Iowa Football: Hawkeyes Open as Favorites vs Illinois Thanks to High-Powered Offense

The Iowa offense made progress against Rutgers. Now Vegas is calling for more.

Michigan State v Iowa
The dynamic duo has the over/under climbing in Iowa City.
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

The Iowa Hawkeyes did something remarkable on Saturday. After weeks and weeks of abysmal offensive performance, the Hawkeyes looked serviceable on the offensive side of the ball in a 22-0 win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. For the first time in 32 games, Iowa topped 400 yards in total offense and avoided a three-and-out for the entirety of the game.

It was... fun!

Obviously, 22 points and 400 yards are not setting the world on fire and there are dozens and dozens of schools across the country that do that regularly. But it was a massive improvement from the nation’s worst offense and in a season like this, it truly felt like a dominant performance.

Starting QB Deacon Hill finished the day 20 of 31 passing (65% completion percentage!) for a career-high 223 yards. Of course, he had a brutal goalline interception at the end of the first half to keep at least three points of the board, but we saw progress. Over the last two weeks, Hill has completed 65% of his passes and is averaging 6.3 yards per attempt. That’s up from an abysmal 38% and 4.4 yards per attempt through the first seven games of the season. His 54-yard completion to tight end Zach Ortwerth was the longest passing play by the Hawkeyes since Spencer Petras his Sam LaPorta for 58 yards in the first quarter against Minnesota a season ago.

Beyond Hill, we finally saw offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz find ways to get OSU transfer wide receiver Kaleb Brown involved in the offense. Brown, fresh off his huge catch to close out the win over Northwestern, hauled in three catches while totaling 57 yards from scrimmage and his first career touchdown. He brings speed and athleticism sorely missing from the position group and Brian made an effort to get him the ball in space.


Beyond that, the Iowa offense had three running backs carry the ball at least 10 times as the Hawkeyes rushed for 179 yards. The backs averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

Those are winning numbers.

Perhaps then, it shouldn’t be surprising that for the first time in three games, the Hawkeyes aren’t poised to set a new record for the lowest over/under point total in college football betting history. The folks in Vegas may not have a ton of faith in this offense just yet, but they at least believe the Hawkeye will score more than they expected a week ago.

Our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook opened with the Hawkeyes favored by 3.5 points over the Illinois Fighting Illini when they come to Kinnick on Saturday for senior day. The over/under is set at 30.5. Compare that to the absurd 27.5 the total finished at vs Rutgers (and of course they hit the under!) and this one is shaping up for a relative shootout.

As for the Illini, they’re fresh off a thrilling overtime win over the Indiana Hoosiers last week. While Illinois has boasted a high quality defense under former Hawkeye assistant and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, the Illini gave up a ridiculous 45 points to the Hoosiers last week. Perhaps that, too, could push some folks onto the over for this one.

Of course, the Big Ten West division title is on the line in this week’s matchup. A win clinches the West for the Hawkeyes, who secured a share of the title with their win a week ago. But if Iowa were to lose out, there is still a scenario for the Illini to emerge atop the West standings.

Below the Hawkeyes, only the Purdue Boilermakers have been eliminated from contention in the West. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern and Nebraska all sit tied at 3-4 in the division.

Iowa and Illinois are set to kick off at 2:30pm CT on Saturday. This week’s matchup will be broadcast on FS1.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.