One of the Big 12’s best teams from last year, Iowa State, opens the season against non-conference, in-state rival Northern Iowa. The Cyclones are in completely uncharted territory, ranked No. 7. They somehow managed to retain star head coach Matt Campbell and are trying to build on last year’s outstanding season. The Northern Iowa Panthers are trying to rebound from a poor 2020 campaign under longtime coach Mark Farley. The Panthers are No. 16 in the FCS Preseason Coaches Poll but are a massive 34.5-point dog on the NCAA odds here.
|Game: Northern Iowa Panthers (0-0) at Iowa State Cyclones (0-0)
Location: Jack Trice Stadium
Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
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If this game plays out anything like the last time these teams met, college football fans are in for an incredible treat to start the year. When they last met in 2019, Northern Iowa pushed the Cyclones to triple overtime. It was a year in which the Panthers made the FCS quarterfinals and the Cyclones went 7-6. It was the start of the turnaround for Matt Campbell and a great run by Panther head coach Mark Farley, who is in his 21st season as head coach with the Panthers. That contest ended 29-26 in favor of Iowa State.
Northern Iowa Panthers
Next game: at Sacramento State
Last year was a downer for Farley. Northern Iowa finished 3-4 in a season that seemed promising. UNI won 10 games in 2019 and was trying to stack together consecutive strong seasons, but it didn’t happen, and the pandemic’s interruptions limited the Panthers to just seven games in 2020. While Farley has been with the program since 1986, Farley has achieved everything but an FCS title even though the Panthers did play for one under his leadership in 2005. Success has been hard to come by in recent years, however. The Panthers haven’t won a conference title since 2011.
This is the first game of the year and every player has cleared COVID-19 protocols. The Panthers are at full strength and will need every available player against the highly-ranked Cyclones.
Iowa State Cyclones
Next game: vs Iowa
The Iowa State Cyclones enter 2021 as a team which will be a solid-to-heavy betting favorite in many of their games. Their progress under Matt Campbell has been steady. The Cyclones were favored over Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl and won in a blowout over the Ducks.
The Cyclones are 16-4 in their last 20 games as favorites. They’re 9-11 in those same games against the spread. They’re also 8-9-3 in the over/under in those same games.
Last season, Iowa State was 8-3 in the regular season. ISU was 6-5 against the spread, hitting the over four times, the under six times, and getting an over-under push once.
This is the first game of the year and every player has cleared COVID-19 protocol. The Cyclones are at full strength for this contest and will be ready to kick off their 2021 season with high expectations.
Betting on the Game
Should you put down money on the Northern Iowa moneyline, you’re going to see a rather incredible return on your ticket if the Panthers somehow come out on top as a five-touchdown underdog. That doesn’t make this the right choice for your college football picks. Right now, the Cyclones sit around -50000 and the Panthers clock in at +9,500 on the moneyline. While the 2019 triple-OT contest may make some people tempted to take the Northern Iowa moneyline, it’s not a very strong bet. Iowa State has gotten a lot better in two years.
The Cyclones have a chance to be one of the best teams in the Big 12. They bring back quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Breece Hall, their two best offensive players.
The spread is probably fair, but it’s still a lot of points, and it makes sense t bet against it. A 34.5-point spread is a lot to ask of any team. With Iowa State returning all the talent it has, this should be as straightforward a game as you could ask to start the year. The reason it’s worth going against the spread in this game is history. The Cyclones have a hard time against the Panthers. Matt Campbell lost to Mark Farley in his first season with Iowa State. Since 2010, the Hawkeyes have beaten the Panthers by double digits a total of just three times in seven games. They tend to be close games and the largest margin of victory during that time frame is 18 points, a 42-24 2017 drubbing of the Panthers. So, take the spread at your own peril. The other key point: Iowa State plays archrival Iowa the following week. ISU wants to keep the playbook simple, and the Cyclone players are probably going to be looking ahead to that game. Iowa State is unlikely to max out in this game.
For those betting online, the over-under for this contest is set at 42.5. These teams have averaged 46.9 points per game in their last seven contests. Iowa St. has averaged 27 points per game in those seven contests. Northern Iowa is good for almost 20 points per game. Even if Iowa State has an outstanding game, the Panthers are usually a pretty decent team at their own level of competition. They will acquit themselves well in this contest. It would be smart to take the over in this game for a few reasons.
First, if Iowa State blows out Northern Iowa, the Cyclones are likely going to hit 42 points on their own. Second, even if it’s another close contest, it’s likely to be close in the high 20s or low 30s, as opposed to the teens. Northern Iowa will keep this game close (if it does keep it close) by scoring, not by defending. The over/under is the smartest way to bet on this game if we’re being honest.