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MIAO Miami (OH) vs UAB UAB Odds NCAAF Odds

NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET

MIAO Miami (OH) at UAB UAB
Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA

Our Pick: PSU Penn State at +725. Claim your $1000 risk-free bet when you sign up with BetMGM today!

What a year it has been for the Big Ten so far during the 2021 college football season. Five teams are ranked in the top 25, four inside the top ten, and two inside the top five. Four teams have 5-0 records; five are undefeated in conference play. But all of that is going to change for at least one team—either the No. 4 Penn State Nittany Lions or the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes.

With two top-five teams facing off, there is only one thing fans can count on. It will be a challenging, close, hard-fought game, one that either team could conceivably win. But who should you bet on in games like that?

Penn State Nittany Lions

It is not hard to figure out what the Nittany Lions will need to do to win this game—not mess up. They cannot afford to turn the ball over or make mistakes. Iowa does not have much of an offensive attack. They rank 118th in total offense with a run game and passing game ranked in the 90s. But somehow, they rank 44th in scoring and average more than Penn State per game (33.2 to 30.0) despite generating almost 100 fewer yards of offense a game (418.6 to 320).

How does that happen? Because the Hawkeyes are leading the nation in turnover margin (2.4 per/game). They had seven against Maryland last week, four against Iowa State, and three against Indiana. So, if Penn State does not turn the ball over, Iowa will need more out of its offense than it’s produced all season.

As luck would have it, Penn State ranks 12th in turnover margin (1.20). The defense has nine takeaways on the season while the offense has turned the ball over three times— interceptions by Sean Clifford. Of course, the issue Penn State will have is their reliance on the passing game. They have not done a great job of running the ball this season (132.6 yards/game), forcing them to throw the ball quite a bit.

But that is okay since they are pretty good at it (Sean Clifford ranks 28th in the nation in yards/attempt at 8.73). Can Penn State count on Clifford to get the passing game going against a solid Iowa defense? That will be the key to the game for Penn State.

Penn State vs Iowa Full Sportsbook Odds

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Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa is trying to win games the hard way this season– behind the strength of one of the best defenses in the country. With an offense that struggles to move the ball, the Hawkeyes need their defense to step up and make plays. In the first five games of the season, it has done just that with 16 turnovers, 13 sacks, and 30 tackles for a loss.

Iowa’s defense has chipped in three touchdowns (two interception returns and one fumble return). The defense has also made it easier for the offense by setting them up with a short field. The Iowa offense has had seven touchdown drives of less than 50 yards.

If not for the turnovers, it is hard to say whether the Hawkeyes would be undefeated. Yes, their defense appears to be great, but their offense has struggled to move the ball against lackluster defenses. Of the five they have faced, four allow over 20 points a game and two more than 28 per game. However, the one outlier, Iowa State, is allowing just 15.6 a game this season.

Turnovers certainly played a role in Iowa winning that game.

But against a team like Penn State that does not turn the ball over, can the offense move the ball enough to put some points on the board? Whether they can will likely play a significant role in the outcome of the game.

Betting Recommendation

This game looks like it will probably be a close one. Iowa plays stellar defense but has a lackluster offense. Penn State plays solid defense and has a good offense. Can Iowa score enough to win without getting a few turnovers? Can the Nittany Lions move the ball on one of the best defenses in the country?

As hard as it is to answer those questions, the safe bet is not hard to figure out— take the under. This is not going to be a high-scoring game by any means. However, it is unlikely Penn State gifts Iowa with a few turnovers (and short fields). But it is just as unlikely that the Nittany Lions score a lot against the Hawkeyes defense. Take the Nittany Lions against the spread and via the moneyline.

If you cannot bring yourself to bet on Penn State, take Iowa via the moneyline and not against the spread.

About the Author
Travis Pulver

Travis Pulver

Writer and Contributor
Travis Pulver is a Senior Writer for Gaming Today and a lifelong football fan, something he says comes naturally having been born in the football-crazy state of Texas. Through the years, his love of sports has extended into baseball, basketball, golf, and rugby. Life currently finds him in Indiana with his wife and two kids.

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