Cyclones Disappoint But Hawkeyes Outperform Iowa Sportsbook Expectations

Posted on December 5, 2019 - Last Updated on December 11, 2019

With bowl season approaching, it’s time to review what sportsbooks got right and wrong about Iowa college football. Operators like DraftKings were a little too high on the Cyclones in 2019 while the opposite is true for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa slightly outperformed its preseason win expectancy while Iowa State fell just short. In both cases, the lines makers were almost spot on.

Preseason expectations for Iowa college football teams

Prior to the 2019 season, legal sportsbooks in Iowa set their win totals for the Cyclones and Hawkeyes. Those included operators like Fan Duel and William Hill.

On Iowa State, there was widespread agreement. DraftKings, FanDuel and PointsBet all expected the Cyclones to collect eight regular-season wins.

That expectation made Iowa State a dark horse Big 12 contender at most books. For example, FanDuel offered odds of +350 on the Cyclones winning their conference.

The odds were much longer on the Hawkeyes winning the Big Ten. DraftKings offered +2500 on that bet before the season began.

There was some discrepancy between books on a win total for Iowa. The difference wasn’t huge, however, set at either 7.5 or eight victories.

Regardless of which line Iowa bettors took, they are ready to collect if they took the over on the Hawkeyes’ 2019 win total. Although Iowa won’t be playing for the Big Ten title, the team surpassed expectations.

The final tally on Iowa’s and Iowa State’s regular seasons

Iowa won nine of its 12 regular-season games, with its three losses coming by a combined 14 points. A two-point loss at Wisconsin is ultimately what kept the Hawkeyes out of the Big Ten title game.

The game that might have swung the bets on Iowa’s win total was the game in Ames against the Cyclones. The Hawkeyes claimed a narrow 18-17 victory in that contest.

That was just one of several close losses for Iowa State. The Cyclones’ five losses came by an average of 4.2 points, and the margin of victory in four of the losses was a touchdown or less.

Iowa State’s two worst losses by point margin are probably also the two that oddsmakers may not have seen coming. A 34-27 home loss to Oklahoma State and a season-ending road loss to Kansas State forced the Cyclones to settle for seven wins.

Naturally, anyone who took the under on Iowa State’s win total was smiling last week. Those bettors are probably now waiting to place their bets on Iowa and Iowa State’s bowl games.

While neither university has yet announced the acceptance of an invitation, it’s possible to make some predictions about where both teams may play. Those projections include some potential opponents.

Potential bowl games for the Cyclones and the Hawkeyes

Iowa State’s bowl bid might be superior despite Iowa’s better regular-season record. That’s because games played closer to New Year’s Day offer better media coverage and more lucrative payouts for the appropriate conferences.

No New Year’s Day 2020 game will feature either team. Iowa State may have a shot at a New Year’s Eve 2019 bowl, however.

The Valero Alamo Bowl has a slot for a Big 12 school, and the Cyclones may be a fit. Another possibility is the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 27.

In what would be convenient for Iowans, that’s also the date of the expected bowl game for the Hawkeyes. The San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl will be played earlier on Dec. 27.

If both predictions prove true, Iowa and Iowa State will likely face foes from the Pac-12 conference. Potential opponents include Arizona State, Cal, Washington and USC.

In a matter of days, those arrangements will be finalized. For now, Cyclones and Hawkeyes fans are likely thinking of what could have been if their teams had been able to score a few more points in a handful of games.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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